Small data

‘Big data’ is a current technology trend. It is a new industry in itself and concerns the capture, storage,search, sharing, transfer, analysis,and visualisation of large and complex datasets.

“90% of the data in the world today has been created in the last two years alone.” – IBM

One of the challenges with big data is visualisation – how do you visualise such vast amounts of data and make it legible and useful? The geospatial industry has an obvious role to play here and lots of companies have been set up to answer such questions with CartoDB being one good example.

Maps showing large datasets are getting a lot of publicity (I have posted quite a few in previous posts) so I wanted to just showcase a few great maps which depict either a single theme or  a small amount of data…

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You can see more maps that I pin here


Maptember is fast approaching

Maptember is fast approaching…

Consisting of 15 map-related events, September is crammed full of great geo and carto events all taking place in Great Britain. Geo professionals from every corner of the globe will converge to our shores to share knowledge about many map related topics.

I’ll be missing it all as baby Glynn number 2 is imminent but my CartoDesign colleagues are participating in 3 of the events, including 2 of the ‘headliners’  – AGI Geocommunity ’13, FOSS4G 2013 and the British Cartographic Society’s Annual Symposium.

We have entered a few maps of our own into the various galleries and awards. Here are a few of mine:

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If you are attending any of the Maptember events then I hope you have a fantastic time. It’s a really exciting time to be involved with mapping!

MapBox: Carto awesomeness

MapBox is awesome!

Since being founded in 2010 the company has quickly become a poster-boy for online mapping, especially where OpenStreetMap is concerned. With their tagline ‘Fast and beautiful maps’ and their dedication to using and developing open source software and open data, MapBox is now one of the most talked-about brands in the mapping industry.

I believe that a big reason for this rapid rise to awesomeness is their commitment to design. High quality design is at the forefront of everything they do – from their great website and slick, intuitive UX to their beautifully crafted maps including MapBox Streets as used by Foursquare.

All tools developed by MapBox fit their brand identity and are easy-to-use, including TileMill, their open source map design studio. TileMill is somewhat revolutionary in its approach to map-making and sharing. Although its styling language, CartoCSS, is not the first of its kind it, it is certainly the finest example of CSS-based cartography and makes creating cool maps relatively simple, allowing Photoshop-like effects.

Map-making was, for many many years a specialist craft, largely dominated by National Mapping Agencies and other large cartography houses. With the recent boom of open source geo tools and open geodata, mapping has become democratised to the point where anyone with a computer and internet access can now make maps and carry out basic analytics.

MapBox have really embraced these recent developments and are continually pushing the boundaries. As a cartographer it is great to see a company that values cartographic design as a core asset. (It amazes me that so much GIS and web mapping software ignores quality design!)

I will continue to follow MapBox keenly and also use and recommend their mapping tools to fellow mapmakers.

Dark maps trending

Have you noticed the amount of maps with black or dark backgrounds that you see online these days!? It is a common trend to use light-on-dark to create a striking visual hierarchy and most of the maps that go viral tend to have adopted this style. I’m sure that has something to do with the aesthetic appeal and the initial impact of these maps. Using a dark background leaves room for many light colours which can create great contrast for any overlays that immediately become the maps focal feature as they often appear to glow.

Here are some examples:

The majority of traditional maps use white (or similar) as the background colour and this can be largely attributed to the distribution mechanism which would usually be paper. The majority of paper is white and it also brings cost savings with regard to ink usage – it wouldn’t be wise to smother a sheet of white paper with dark ink!

With modern mapping technologies and the internet as the main method for sharing maps, any print concerns that restricted design decisions in the past are no longer an issue. Many maps these days will never be printed, just pored over on PC screens and mobile devices.

There is something cool, aesthetically pleasing and eye-catching about dark maps.

It may just be that this bold technique portrays a certain element of rebellion – a refreshing break from tradition.

London: All mapped out

Last week my brother and I went to London to see Neil Young & Crazy Horse at the O2 Arena. The doors opened at 18:30 and we arrived in the capital via Waterloo station at 15:00, giving us a few hours to fill. Filling time in London is never a problem – there is so much to see and do and you can lose hours just soaking up the culture and people-watching. We decided to take a casual stroll along the southside of the River Thames, east towards Bank – after stopping for a couple of beers we ended up as far as London Bridge.

As a carto geek I do always keep an eye out for maps when out and about, but during our walk I was constantly struck by how many maps there were. I expected tube maps to adorn almost every wall of the underground stations and the fantastic pedestrian way-finding system known as Legible London, but in addition to those I saw a new map round nearly every corner we turned, and each had a unique, eye-catching design.

Now it shouldn’t really be too surprising in such a dense tourist trap to find maps as ‘The Big Smoke’ does resemble an urban maze and would otherwise be impossible to navigate, but I didn’t expect to see so many. It really drove home to me how location aware we are nowadays and how maps are well and truly engrained in the public consciousness. Since the advent of web mapping and the growth of location-aware mobile devices, maps have become ubiquitous in our society.

As a cartographer it was really great to see so many diverse examples of cartographic design and to witness the power of mapping – the power to keep a bustling city on the right path!

I have made a simple map using ‘OS VectorMap District – Full Colour raster’ to highlight the route that my brother and I walked:

Walk in London
Walk in London – click to enlarge

Rewarding excellence in cartographic design

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.”

Enter HERE before the end of July.

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…

iCoast - Explore the Dorset coast
iCoast – Explore the Dorset coast

Sharing some great tutorials

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.

Using MapBox and TileMill with OS OpenData by my friend and colleague Jack Harrison (@jhrrsn)

Glowing Hot Maps – QGIS Meets GIMP by Anita Graser aka Underdark (@underdarkGIS)

Global Connectivity Revisited: mapping out 58,288 flight routes by Michael Markieta aka (@MichaelMarkieta)

Styling data in TileMill by MapBox (@MapBox) – this is just one section of the fantastic TileMill documentation

Point Stacker example by OpenGeo (@OpenGeo)

And here is a map I made by following Michael Markieta’s fantastic tutorial on mapping OpenFlights data…

A world connected
A world connected


maps, maps, maps

In essence this is a blog about maps…so here are some maps…

These are some of my favourite maps from fellow cartographers:

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…and these are some of my own maps:

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Hope you like these maps and if you have any great examples of cartography then please link to them in the comments section below, cheers.

My first post

So…this is the biggie – the first post!

I’ll start by introducing myself…my name is Charley and I live in Southampton, England. I am a son and brother to a great family, a husband to an incredible wife and a father to a gorgeous daughter and a bump due in 10 weeks! Basically I am one lucky guy enjoying life.

I am also a cartographer and have been for the best part of 10 years. I am currently working for Ordnance Survey as a Cartographic Design Consultant where me and my 2 teammates are responsible for all things of a cartographic nature. We work on a diverse range of projects from product design to custom, one-off maps for charity events, from web maps to map merchandise.

I love maps, I am a self-confessed map geek! I think cartography is a really powerful and relatable form of visual communication, a language that everyone can understand. I think everyone is interested in maps in one way or another, be that for helping them to better understand the world or simply just appreciating their aesthetic beauty. I find it frustrating that cartography is so often overlooked and undervalued, even by others in the geospatial industry. This has been the case for some time now, at least for the past decade…but things are beginning to change.

Cartography is enjoying a renaissance! Map making has been democratised by an influx of data, tools and resources that are readily (and often freely) available and advances in technology have brought maps to the forefront of the public consciousness. Cartography is now more important than ever!

I’ve been contemplating my own cartography blog for some time now but have been unsure as to what angle to take.

I’ve decided to stop thinking about blogging and to finally make a start.

My aim is to have a blog full of beautiful maps and helpful content to encourage great cartography. I want it to be a positive blog that celebrates a discipline that I have grown to love and appreciate.

To start the ball rolling I have put together a brief about me page which contains links to some of my own maps, and I have started to compile a list of helpful resources and a list of useful blogs on my other pages.