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kottke.org posts about maps

Typewriter Maps

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 13, 2018

Typewriter Map

Daniel Huffman dug his dad’s old typewriter out of the basement and used it to type out a map of the major rivers draining into Lake Michigan.

The final product has various interesting smudges where the paper accidentally contacted the ribbon. In particular, I noticed that typing in red always produced a faint black “shadow” a couple of lines above. When the slug hit the red part of the ribbon, a small portion of it would lightly hit the black portion of the ribbon, too. Later on, I started holding scrap paper over my map in order to prevent this, so that the black shadow would go on the scrap.

In sum: my typewriter is not a precision instrument. This makes it a somewhat uncomfortable-feeling tool for a detail-oriented designer like me. I like being able to zoom in to 64,000% in Illustrator and correct errors that are small enough that no human eye could possibly ever see them. But, there’s something attractive about the organic messiness of the typewriter.

He experimented with a couple of other maps as well: a shaded relief map of Africa and a contour relief map of the Great Lakes.

See also An Atlas for the Blind.

James Niehues: The Man Behind the Map

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 11, 2018

I’ve you’ve ever skied or snowboarded in the US, Canada, or many other spots around the world, chances are you’ve used a ski map painted by James Niehues. He’s hand-painted almost 200 trail maps for places like Alta, Vail, Big Sky, Okemo, and Mammoth.

Ski Magazine regularly ranks the Top 50 resorts in North America. Jim has hand painted 45 of them. His tools of choice are a camera, a notepad, a paintbrush and a canvas. Every painstaking detail — peaks, cliffs, trees and shadows — is painted by hand. Jim’s large and beautiful paintings have helped generations of skiers navigate and capture the unique character of each mountain. He has had more impact on the image and feel of skiing than almost anyone, yet few people know his name.

With the help of a small team, Niehues is publishing a hardcover coffee table book featuring all of his work along with a series of prints. Here are a couple of the maps that will be in the book:

Niehues Maps 01

Niehues Maps 02

These Are Barely Maps

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 27, 2018

Peter Gorman is creating dozens of minimalist maps that he’s rolling up into a book that will be ready late next year (hopefully).

One of my favorites is this map that shows the 5 largest cities in each US state as constellations.

Barely Maps

I also like how this map of Manhattan mostly keeps its shape only using subway stations.

Barely Maps

You can follow Gorman’s progress on Instagram.

An Infinite Icosahedral Puzzle of the Earth

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 13, 2018

Earth Puzzle

Nervous System designed this puzzle of Earth so that it can be put together in a variety of different ways.

This puzzle is based on an icosahedral map projection and has the topology of a sphere. This means it has no edges, no North and South, and no fixed shape. Try to get the landmasses together or see how the oceans are connected. Make your own maps of the earth!

A Song Map of the United States

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 12, 2018

Song Map

Song Map

Design studio Dorothy has produced a poster of a map of the United States where all the place names are song titles.

Some of our favourite song choices are the ones which require you to think a little harder about connections, such as Space Oddity (David Bowie) which signposts Cape Canaveral, After the Gold Rush (Neil Young) which references Sutter’s Mill, and Homecoming (Kanye West) which is placed near the rapper’s home town of Chicago.

The map is accompanied by a Spotify playlist of most of the songs used…over 61 hours of music in total.

Leave Land and Remain Land

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 05, 2018

These two maps by Esri UK show the parts of the UK that voted to leave the EU and which parts voted to remain.

Leave Land Remain Land

See also the NY Times’ maps of Trump’s & Clinton’s Americas from the 2016 election. (via @goodwinmj)

All Over the Map: A Cartographic Odyssey

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 01, 2018

The folks behind the National Geographic cartography blog All Over the Map have come out with a book of the same name that is a “guided tour through the world’s most incredible maps”.

Just to give you a taste of the kind of stuff they feature, recent entries include maps of the most extreme places on Earth and Heinrich Berann’s panoramic paintings of national parks.

All Over The Map

All Over The Map

All Over The Map

You can order a copy of All Over the Map here.

Haptic Labs now makes wearables

posted by Chrysanthe Tenentes   Oct 25, 2018

I’m a sucker for maps so I’ve been into Haptic Labs quilts since we found out about them nine years ago (thanks Kelsey!). Founder Emily Fischer is endlessly creative, but technical, and is one of the best layoff success stories I know. She originally programmed quilting machines to create to-scale neighborhood map quilts, though now they’re now all handmade.

haptic-constellation.jpg

It’s hard to pick a favorite between the city maps, coastal maps, and constellation quilts. She even does baby quilts (a great gift) and has three lines of kites.

nyc-haptic-quilt.jpg

And now Haptic Lab makes quilted coats, which look great but also feel like draping yourself in bedding. Kind of genius considering the stressful times we live in, no need to get out of bed.

haptic-cloak.jpg

The Wrong Color Subway Map

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 16, 2018

Wrong Color Subway Map

From the orange 123 line to the green ACE to the purple 456, the color designations on the NYC subway lines on the Wrong Color Subway Map will mess with your head. Get the print here. From the folks who brought us the One-Color Subway Map. (via @khoi)

How the Mercator Projection Distorts the True Sizes of Countries on Maps

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 15, 2018

Data scientist Neil Kaye made this map to show how much the popular Mercator projection distorts the sizes of many countries, particularly those in the Northern Hemisphere.

Mercator Adjusted

The distortion in the animated version is even clearer. Key takeaway: Africa is *enormous*.

See also the true size of things on world maps.

True Size Map

New York City Street Tree Map

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 02, 2018

Nyc Street Tree Map

The NYC Parks department maintains an online map of the city’s street trees — currently 678,674 mapped trees from 422 different species.

Our tree map includes every street tree in New York City as mapped by our TreesCount! 2015 volunteers, and is updated daily by our Forestry team. On the map, trees are represented by circles. The size of the circle represents the diameter of the tree, and the color of the circle reflects its species. You are welcome to browse our entire inventory of trees, or to select an individual tree for more information.

The map only shows trees that grow on land under the jurisdiction of NYC Parks. This includes trees planted along sidewalks or other public rights-of-way. You might not see trees that are planted on rights-of-way maintained by the NYC Department of Transportation, or by the state or federal government. You will also not see trees planted on private property.

Each tree on the map is clickable; when you do so, you can see the tree’s species, diameter, and the ecological benefits. (For example, this large oak tree along Central Park West provides $540 of ecological benefits each year…from capturing storm runoff to removing air pollutants.) You can also keep track of your favorite trees, join a tree care group to help take care of the city’s trees, or record activities you’ve done to care for trees in your neighborhood.

It’s easy to become a tree steward! We host volunteers all year long. We can train you in basic activities such as watering trees, adding mulch and soil, and removing weeds and litter; as well as advanced activities such as installing a tree guard, expanding tree beds, and installing or removing stone or brick pavers.

When Melbourne, Australia assigned each of their trees an email address to report problems, people started writing love letters to their favorite trees.

“My dearest Ulmus,” the message began.

“As I was leaving St. Mary’s College today I was struck, not by a branch, but by your radiant beauty. You must get these messages all the time. You’re such an attractive tree.”

This is an excerpt of a letter someone wrote to a green-leaf elm, one of thousands of messages in an ongoing correspondence between the people of Melbourne, Australia, and the city’s trees.

Each of NYC’s trees has a ID number too…let’s give them email addresses! (via @halobrien_wa)

The 2018 Fall Foliage Prediction Map

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 24, 2018

Foliage Map

Well, I really can’t ignore it any longer. Here in Vermont, we’ve paid our last visit to the swim hole, the heat is on in my house, and the leaves on the trees have started changing. Autumn has arrived. If you’re into peeping some leaves in your neck of the woods, SmokyMountains.com has the best foliage prediction map on the web.

The 2018 Fall Foliage Map is the ultimate visual planning guide to the annual progressive changing of the leaves. While no tool can be 100% accurate, this tool is meant to help travelers better time their trips to have the best opportunity of catching peak color each year.

Compared to the past two years, it looks like the leaves are changing a little later this year.

Shoreline Maps of the World

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 19, 2018

In a book called Atlas of the World with Geophysical Boundaries, scientist Athelstan Spilhaus published a series of world maps that emphasized the Earth’s oceans over the continents. The maps turn our familiar continental view of the world inside out. Check out this rendering of one of Spilhaus’ maps by Le Cartographe:

Spilhaus Map

Takes a second to get your bearings on that, right? One big ocean with Antarctica in the middle, surrounded by the stretched-out landmasses of Asia and the Americas. Jason Davies recreated some of the other Spilhaus maps and so did Mike Bostock.

Spilhaus Map

You can see a bunch of Spilhaus’ other shoreline maps by flipping through the pages of his book on Google Books.

Making useful three-dimensional maps

posted by Tim Carmody   Sep 14, 2018

I’ve often said that every two-dimensional map is a lie; a perfect map would be able to show a city in three dimensions. (Or four, to show how they’ve changed over time.)

Height tells you so much; the steepness of streets, where water tends to flood, even often class distinctions, at least traditional ones. Try walking around San Francisco sometime, or Gloucester, Massachusetts, following a map that tells you take a left turn, straight uphill. Better still, try this in a wheelchair.

Toby Eglesfield, a graphic designer working in New Zealand, took this challenge seriously. After some aborted attempts with arrows, he settled on a trimetric projection (it’s like isometric, but slightly different), with different colored wedges to indicate the relative steepness of a street. Here’s the basic idea:

DRCMap-WorkInProgress.jpg

And here’s the completed product:

Queenstown 3d Map (large).png

Created for the disAbilities Resource Centre in Queenstown, the map includes marks for accessible toilets, car parks, etc. I’d love to see a version for Manhattan, San Francisco — anywhere, really, but especially older cities with varied topography.

A Map of the World Where the Sizes of Countries Are Determined by Population

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 13, 2018

World Map Population

Max Roser has constructed a cartogram of the world where the size of the countries are determined by their populations (big version of the image here). He refers to it as “the map we need if we want to think about how global living conditions are changing”.

The cartogram is made up of squares, each of which represents half a million people of a country’s population. The 11.5 million Belgians are represented by 23 squares; the 49.5 million Colombians are represented by 99 squares; the 1.415 billion people in China are represented by 2830 squares; and this year’s entire world population of 7.633 billion people is represented by the total sum of 15,266 squares.

As the size of the population rather than the size of the territory is shown in this map you can see some big differences when you compare it to the standard geographical map we’re most familiar with. Small countries with a high population density increase in size in this cartogram relative to the world maps we are used to — look at Bangladesh, Taiwan, or the Netherlands. Large countries with a small population shrink in size — talking about you Canada, Mongolia, Australia, and Russia.

Some observations (Roser has many more if you click through):

1. Look at how teeny Russia is. (So is Canada.)

2. Seriously, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nigeria, Indonesia, and Brazil all have larger populations than Russia. Japan, Ethiopia, and Mexico are very close.

3. 60% of the world’s population lives in Asia.

4. 5 times as many people live in Madagascar as do Ireland. The populations of Ireland + the Scandinavian countries = the population of Peru.

5. Europe is tiny. Guns, Germs, and Steel, yo.

6. India and China. Damn.

I would love to see an animated version of this cartogram from like 1950 to 2100 (like this one of the US).

Update: Jakub Nowosad built an animated map of the world’s population changes from 1800-2100 and documented the steps so you can make your own variation.

An Ultra-High Resolution Map of Antarctica

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 11, 2018

Antarctica Detailed Map

Antarctica Detailed Map

Antarctica Detailed Map

Using years of satellite data and photography, researchers have constructed an extremely detailed terrain map called the Reference Elevation Model of Antarctica that maps 98% of the continent down to a resolution of 8 meters. That makes it the most detailed terrain map of any continent. The NY Times has the skinny on the new map.

Previous maps of the continent had a resolution similar to seeing the whole of Central Park from a satellite. With this new data, it is now possible to see down to the size of a car, and even smaller in some areas. The data is so complete that scientists now know the height of every feature on the continent down to a few feet.

“If you’re someone that needs glasses to see, it’s a bit like being almost blind and putting on glasses for the first time and seeing 20/20,” said Dr. Howat.

The team used 187,585 images collected over six years to create the map.

“Until now, we’ve had a better map of Mars than we’ve had of Antarctica,” said Dr. Howat.

The best designed maps from the past two years

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 28, 2018

Published by the North American Cartographic Information Society, the upcoming 2018 Atlas of Design showcases 32 of the best maps made over the past 2 years. Atlas Obscura has a selection of maps featured in the book.

2018 Atlas Of Design

2018 Atlas Of Design

You can preorder the book here or view a list of all the maps and their designers included in the book.

Territorial maps of indigenous nations in the Americas & Australia/NZ

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 06, 2018

Native Lands Map

Native Lands Map

The Native Land site is a collaborative effort to map the approximate boundaries of the territories and languages of the indigenous nations in the Americas, Australia, and New Zealand.

Cows, trees, corn, and golf - how America uses its land

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 31, 2018

US Land Use

Here’s How America Uses Its Land is a nice presentation by Bloomberg on land use in the US. The land and resources used for livestock makes a great case for Americans eating more vegetarian.

More than one-third of U.S. land is used for pasture — by far the largest land-use type in the contiguous 48 states. And nearly 25 percent of that land is administered by the federal government, with most occurring in the West. That land is open to grazing for a fee.

There’s a single, major occupant on all this land: cows. Between pastures and cropland used to produce feed, 41 percent of U.S. land in the contiguous states revolves around livestock.

Urban areas take up relatively less space but are growing the fastest. And only 100 people own a space the size of Florida? Wow.

On a percentage basis, urban creep outpaces growth in all other land-use categories. Another growth area: land owned by wealthy families. According to The Land Report magazine, since 2008 the amount of land owned by the 100 largest private landowners has grown from 28 million acres to 40 million, an area larger than the state of Florida.

It would be interesting to see this data sliced and diced in a few different ways. I’d love to see land use by state or area of the country or how much each category is growing or shrinking, with projections 5, 10, 20 years into the future.

Maps of the spread of the Agricultural & Industrial Revolutions

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 25, 2018

This is a map showing the spread of the cultivation of crops across Europe.

Map of the spread of the Agricultural Revolution

The legend is a bit hard to read, but the map indicates that it took ~2000-4000 years for farming to spread from Turkey to Britain. Several thousand years later, the Industrial Revolution boomeranged back out from Britain across Europe:

Map of the spread of the Industrial Revolution

The dates and areas on both of these maps are rough & approximate1 but the important thing to notice here is the acceleration of the pace of technology. The technology of farming (seeds, techniques, tools, etc.) took thousands of years to spread across Europe but the expansion of industrial technology happened on the order of decades in the mid 19th century. That’s an incredible quickening.

And now? Seconds.2 An app launched in China can be downloaded moments later in a cottage in England or a cabin in Quebec and cutting edge scientific papers published in Brazil can be accessed almost instantaneously in India or Kenya. That’s fast enough that plotting it on a map doesn’t make sense…charts like these tell the story of technology adoption much better:

Technology Adoption

Time To 50 Million Users

  1. Maps like these are necessarily approximate, interpretive, and can change due to new discoveries and such. I’m not gonna give you a full rundown on the current state of the research into the spread of farming and industrialization. Check out Wikipedia (farming, industrialization) and work your way elsewhere if you’re really interested.

  2. Acknowledging that just because something can be distributed worldwide in a couple seconds doesn’t mean everything is equally available in every part of the world. Even now, the William Gibson quote still holds: “The future is already here — it’s just not very evenly distributed.”

City street orientations from around the world

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 25, 2018

Urban data scientist Geoff Boeing graphed the orientation of the streets in 50 cities from around the world. Here are 10 cities from his analysis:

City Street Orientations

How to read the graphs:

Each of the cities above is represented by a polar histogram (aka rose diagram) depicting how its streets orient. Each bar’s direction represents the compass bearings of the streets (in that histogram bin) and its length represents the relative frequency of streets with those bearings.

Looking at these graphs, you get a real sense of just how planned American cities are compared to much of the rest of the world, where cities grew more organically over longer periods of time. (Although I’m curious to see what the graph for all of NYC would look like…a bit more like Boston perhaps.)

Update: Using Mapbox, you can generate street orientation charts for any map view. I used it to verify that north-south roads outnumber east-west roads in New England, which is why it takes so long to go 30 miles across VT compared to up or down.

NE Polar Chart

(via @dokas)

The geography of the US is weirder than you think

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 16, 2018

Americans generally have a skewed view of their country’s place in the world, both metaphorically and geographically speaking. For instance, the US state closest to Africa is… Maine? And Minneapolis is as far north as Venice, Italy.

They didn’t cover my favorite US geographical oddity though: what’s the northernmost state in the contiguous 48 states? Unless you know it by rote, the answer will probably be surprising to you.

Maps of love

posted by Tim Carmody   Jul 03, 2018

Land of Matrimony - 1772.jpg
The Land of Matrimony, 1772

The Public Domain Review has an interesting collection of allegorical maps of love, courtship, and marriage, in multiple languages and styles, from the 17th to the 19th century. I’m partial to this very early map, La Carte de tendre; “conceived by Madeleine de Scudéry for inclusion in her novel Clélie (1654-61) and engraved by François Chauveau.”

La Carte de Tendre - 1654.jpg

Here one can travel, by following the river of Inclination, from the town of Nouvelle Amitié (New Friendship) in the south to the town of Tendre (Love) in the north — that is if one can avoid the various pitfalls and obstacles which line the route, including the strangely inviting Lac D’Indiference (Lake of Indifference).

Maps were the memes of their time.

National Geographic’s Maps Archive

posted by Tim Carmody   Jul 02, 2018

Map of the Heavens.jpg

National Geographic is making digital copies of its century-plus archive of maps available to the public… with a twist. Immediate access to the full archive is subscriber-only. The rest of us get a new map a day, on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook.

So you might get this gorgeous 1961 panorama of London, with individual hand-painted buildings…

1961 London Panorama.jpg

… or you might get this 1894 sketch of Antarctica.

Antarctica.jpg

Which is not uninteresting, but it’s interesting for different reasons.

As a longtime advocate of digging in the crates, I have to applaud Nat Geo making creative use of its own archives. Even if the greedy part of me wants all the goodies at once.

How the Earth’s continents will look 250 million years from now

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 13, 2018

Speaking of Pangaea, this video shows how the present-day continents came to be formed from the Pangaea supercontinent about 240 million years ago, then shows what the Earth’s surface might look like 250 million years in the future, if the tectonic plates continue to move in predictable ways.

I hope this explanation is helpful. Of course all of this is scientific speculation, we will have to wait and see what happens, but this is my projection based on my understanding of the forces that drive plate motions and the history of past plate motions. Remember: “The past reveals patterns; Patterns inform process; Process permits prediction.”

Look at how quickly India slams into the Asian continent…no wonder the Himalayas are so high.1 And it’s interesting that we’re essentially bookended by two supercontinents, the ancient Pangaea and Pangaea Proxima in the future.

  1. Though they may not be able to grow much more. Erosion and gravity work to keep the maximum height in check.

Locate modern addresses on Earth 240 million years ago

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 12, 2018

Pangaea Addresses

Ian Webster built a tool to plot modern addresses on a map of the Earth from up to 750 million years ago. Just input an address and it’ll find where that spot of land was on the Earth at a given time. The tool defaults to a view from 240 million years ago, smack in the middle of the Pangaea supercontinent era, but you can select views from 750 million years ago right up to the present. Webster explained a bit about the project on Hacker News:

I built this by adapting GPlates (https://www.gplates.org), an academic project providing desktop software for geologists to investigate plate tectonic data. I’m amazed that geologists collected enough data to actually plot my home 750M years ago, so I thought you all would enjoy it too.

Even though plate tectonic models return precise results, you should consider the plots approximate (obviously we will never be able to prove correctness). In my tests I found that model results can vary significantly. I chose this particular model because it is widely cited and covers the greatest length of time.

The visualization is open source and Webster is working on integrating the plate techtonics and location data into that repo soon.

An 11-foot long ribbon map of the Mississippi River from 1866

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 07, 2018

Ribbon Map Mississippi

The Mississippi River runs for more than 2300 miles straight through the heartland of America, more or less straight from north to south. Representing the river in any detail presented a challenge for mapmakers wishing to provide maps to those wanting to travel along the river. In 1866, Coloney & Fairchild solved the problem by producing the Ribbon Map of the Father of Waters, a 2-inch wide & 11-foot long map that spooled up into a carrying case via a hand crank. From Nenette Luarca-Shoaf’s description of the map:

Coloney and Fairchild’s patented apparatus required that the single sheet be cut into strips, attached end-to-end, mounted on linen, and then rolled inside a wooden, metal, or paper spool (fig. 4). The resulting portability of the map was crucial because, as advertisements indicated, it was intended for business travelers, steamboat navigators, and tourists.

You can explore larger images of the ribbon map at the David Rumsey Map Collection or the American Antiquarian Society.

See also the meander maps of the Mississippi River. And I would love to see a satellite photo trip down the Mississippi like Best of Luck With the Wall, Josh Begley’s video journey along the 2000 miles of the US/Mexico border. (via open culture)

Update: In the 1840s, John Banvard painted a “moving panorama” of the Mississippi that measured 1300 feet in length. (via @mattbucher)

A map of Chicago’s Gangland circa 1931

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 06, 2018

Chicago Gangland Map

This is A Map of Chicago’s Gangland from Authentic Sources published in 1931 by Bruce-Roberts, Inc.

Map of Chicago gang locations showing Little Italy, Little Sicily, Cicero, Capone Territory, Westside O’Donnell Territory, Stickney, Saltis Territory, Southside O’Donnell Territory, and Little Africa. “Designed to inculcate the most important principles of piety and virtue in young persons, and graphically portray the evils and sin of large cities.” Numbers in red circles give the sequence of important events in Chicago’s gangland war. Insets include: Mrs. O’Leary’s cow, lawyer running to spring his client, an armored car, bootleggers stealing wheels from prohibition cars, machine gunners arriving from Detroit, World’s Fair grounds of 1933, police tipping over a speakeasy, and “gangland dictionary”.

Al Capone looms large over the map; he was arrested for tax evasion that year and sentenced to 11 years in federal prison. There’s also a zoomable reproduction you can explore at the David Rumsey Map Collection.

Update: See also these historic vice maps of Chicago depicting “all of the bars, dives, brothels, saloons, pool halls and gambling houses in the Levee and Little Cheyenne Districts of Chicago between 1870 and 1923”.

A map of Odysseus’ travels in The Odyssey

posted by Jason Kottke   May 15, 2018

Odyssey Map

I’m currently reading Emily Wilson’s recent translation of The Odyssey, but until I looked at this map of Odysseus’ journey, I had little idea how scenic his route home was.1 The gods were hella pissed! All this time, I’d been imagining him pinballing around amongst the Greek islands in the Aegean Sea, but the gods and fates blew Odysseus and his men to all corners of the Mediterranean Sea: Italy, Africa, and even Ibiza in Spain. That dude was LOST. (via open culture)

  1. The geography of The Odyssey is not quite as simple as this…you can read all about it here.

City DNA

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 12, 2018

City DNA

City DNA

City DNA

After Piet Mondrian moved to New York in 1940, his work became influenced by Manhattan’s grid system, particularly expressed in Broadway Boogie Woogie. Similarly, for his City DNA project, Xinjian Lu studied satellite maps of cities like Beijing, Athens, New York, and Los Angeles and then created these maze-like paintings that resemble the street layouts of each city. Mondrian++. Holy moly, I *love* these.

From top to bottom, Lu’s paintings depict Beijing, London, and Paris.