MapCarte 306/365: The Story Map of Scotland by Colortext Publications, 1935

MapCarte306_scotlandThere’s a saying about things that are old become new again and we see plenty of that in cartography. In fact, many cartographic techniques seem to come in and out of fashion regularly as new map-makers find the technique or try and work out ways of creating a particular map type using new software. A good example recently has been the use of tesselated hexagons as a container for summarizing another dataset. We might call it hex-binning and for the last few years it’s become a popular way of mapping thematic point data because it creates visually and cognitively equivalent areas and which overcomes the death by push-pin red dot fever mapping.

Another trend has been the use of new terminology to describe a particular type of map. To some of us a little older in the tooth a map is a map. We’d go so far as to categorize based on type (topographic, thematic for example) or scale (small, medium, multiscale) but the trend to create new brands and be seen as different is inevitable. A current fad is Map Stories or Story Maps. The idea that a map has a narrative and can tell a compelling story using a mixture of maps, graphics and textual components. As with most things, this idea isn’t new either. This map by the publishers Colortext was one of a series they labelled ‘Story Map’. It combines pictorial images, text and information that in this case tells the story of Scotland. It incorporates historical and cultural components in a place-based narrative.

MapCarte306_scotland_detailIt’s possibly the first of the genre of Story Maps. Ernest Dudley Chase also produced a number of his own maps in the mid-1900s that he titled Story Map too. This is a well composed Story Map or, as some of us might say, a map. It’s pictorial elements are well composed and the map has a good density of information. The decorative border of the tartans adds further interest and the map as a whole combines several integrated themes to tell the story of Scotland.


MapCarte 25/365: In Flight by Kiln, 2014


Click image to view the online web map

The first map of 2014 to be added to MapCarte is an impressive effort by Kiln, who have designed a multimedia app that celebrates 100 years of aviation history. Designed for The Guardian, the app shows how a story can be told through expertly integrating pictures, audio, commentary and animation with the map as a central character. The map holds the story together, providing a focal point that the story returns to at different points. The map itself is simple in design and allows you to explore historic flight data as well as real time patterns.

The background map is tastefully presented and the animated flight lines work well (with a nod to a number of other web maps that illustrate flow). The pace of the presentation is crucial and allows people an immersive experience. Controls are obvious and support, rather than interfere, with its use. Functionally, the app gives the user variation and holds the attention well. The commentary means that the map is supported by a story we can follow.