It’s important to fully understand the users requirements in terms of information hierarchy and match the visual hierarchy accordingly – that is to say that they will notice the MOST important information first and the LEAST, last. In cartography this is often referred to as figure/ground.
At work recently I was involved in the cartographic design of one of our latest apps – here is a blog post explaining our pie chart clustering solution that forms part of it.
The app displays point features on a map and groups them into four discrete categories. In this post I will explain my thought-processes and reasoning for choosing the colours that I did; matching the visual hierarchy to the information hierarchy.
The data could be categorised and styled in various different ways but the user in this instance is MOST interested in whether or not the features are A or B. They can also be either 1 or 2 but this information is of SECONDARY importance. It is also MORE important to highlight 1 before 2. Therefore the user’s information hierarchy looks like this:
Although A1 and B1 have equal importance they need to be distinguishable from each other and have more visual importance than A2 and B2.
Here are the colours that I chose:
My first consideration was choosing two colours that are easily distinguishable and for this purpose also accessible – meaning they are discernible to those with colour vision deficiencies (CVD). For this I used the preview modes in Adobe Illustrator which simulate different CVD but there are many tools available (QGIS has this function which is cool for map-makers). So, this gave me the colours for A and B.
I then used the saturation and brightness levels to separate the 1’s from the 2’s. This gave me the corresponding colours I required whilst making them appear LESS visually important.
In the app we then applied these colours to simple circle symbols and use an 15% transparency. We have also applied a thin outline to the circle symbols to subtly lift them from the basemap.
I would highly recommend Colorbrewer for grabbing colour palettes and I have personally found this resource very useful recently. The colours I have used above are from the Material palette.
This is just one example of the MANY thought processes that cartographic designers go through to ensure that our maps are successful in meeting their user requirements.
Ordnance Survey are proud members of The British Cartographic Society (BCS) and have been sponsoring the society’s annual symposium for many years. Every year the CartoDesign team ensure that OS has a strong presence at the event, from providing an exhibition stand to presenting and hosting workshops.
OS have also provided an award since 2005 which until last year was titled ‘The Ordnance Survey MasterMap Award for Better Mapping’ and aimed to “encourage innovative and stimulating map products derived from, and composed mainly of, Ordnance Survey’s MasterMap data.”
This award ran for 8 successful years in which time a diverse range of entries were rewarded.
This year welcomes a change to the format of the Ordnance Survey Award. 2013 is the debut year for ‘ The OS OpenData Award‘ that seeks “to encourage excellence in cartographic design and the innovative and exciting use of OS OpenData.”
This award is open to anyone, anywhere, whether or not you are a member of BCS. All you need to do is enter a map that is comprised of at least one OS OpenData product and there is an obvious focus on cartographic design.
As an extra incentive the winner will receive an Apple iPad! So…what are you waiting for? Go HERE to grab your free-to-use data and make a cool mapsterpiece!
To see examples of OS OpenData in use take a look at the showcase HERE
I am a big fan of the iCoast basemap which is made using OS VectorMap District and a unique colour palette…
I work for Ordnance Survey as a Cartographic Design Consultant in a small team called Cartographic Design & Development (or CartoDesign for short!) I work with 2 other guys, Chris and Paul. Here we are…
We get the opportunity to work on a broad range of mapping projects.
I want to share some of the great tutorials that I have come across from fellow map makers on the web. I haven’t necessarily worked through all of these but from just reading them have either learnt new tips and tricks or just been really impressed and inspired.