Wednesday, December 16, 2015

The Atlas of Design II

Last year the North American Cartographic Information Society (NACIS) published Volume II of the Atlas of Design. I looked at some of the online content, was very impressed and then stupidly forgot about it. This year with the holidays coming, I hinted to my wife that I might know of a nice Hanukkah gift. She took the hint and this fantastic book landed in our doorway. There's too much awesome to do it all justice but here are a few samples of what's inside. Note - since these maps are copyrighted, I only reproduced pieces that are already available on the Atlas site.

1. "The Road from Madison..." by Andrew Umentum
This map chronicles a bicycle trip from Umentum's home in Madison, Wisconsin to New Orleans and then back again via Detroit. It is presented as a series of strips, inspired by Jon Ogilby's 1675 atlas of England and Wales - example here.

I love the details he brings out to give the map life. Also the way the lack of state boudaries and south(!) arrows force you to see these places from a different perspective. Rather than divide us, the states merge together into one continuous landscape.

2. "Map of the Beijing-Shanghai High-Speed Railway" by Dong Zheng
Inspired by pre-modern Chinese maps that were primarily intended to be paintings, the map uses a birds-eye view. The modern railroad and buildings blend harmoniously with the ancient landscape and built environment.

 3. "The Heart of Canyonlands National Park" by Tom Patterson
This was an exercise in using Terrain Texture Shader to generate improved hillshading. The author was inspired by Bradford Washburn's Grand Canyon map and by Swiss topo map techniques and shows that beauty can be found in cartographic algorithms.

4. "The Family Farm" by Alex Hotchin
I love a good hand drawn map and this one tells a story of a particular place. Where exactly this is is not clear. The stories have no personal meaning outside of the author's family, yet he still makes you care about this place.

5. "The Asheville Map" by Bruce and Nora Daniel
This fold-out paper map can also be found and purchased online. The base colors are unique (beige roads!) and were inspired by the colors of the nearby Blue Ridge Mountains. The map is artistic yet much more easily readable (and more accurate) than those touristy maps you often get when traveling.

There are many more maps here - 32 in total. Some are made by people I know. The range of techniques and styles is impressive. Most of them beautiful, all interesting in their own way. The previews don't do the maps justice and since in many cases they are not available online I guess you need to buy the atlas to see the full maps. If you're looking for a nice holiday gift for a map fanatic (or even casual map gawker) check it out.

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