It’s About Content!

Chris Sonneberg is an animator who has worked for Disney, and has been a member of the production team creating the animations there for many years now. He has worked on such films as Enchanted and Kung Fu Panda and when asked at a conference back in 2011 which method of animation he preferred – Hand Drawn or Digital, he responded that so long as the story told is engaging, then it shouldn’t matter the methodology used to convey it. It’s all about the content. Although animation isn’t the same as map making, both are used to display a succession of information and so the principles remain the same.

The Wolf Map tells a story in a much different form to those that i looked at previously which monitored a period of space over a set amount of time. This one marks the known and former territories that the grey wolves can be found in the upper states of America. The composition features a polyconic reference point in the top right hand corner to help users locate more clearly on the map just where these wolves can be found since their extermination back in the 1930’s. The key is very simple to use, showing information about the current wolf population and constantly comparing and referring to what it was like eighty years ago. It also shows through the use of this key where the wolves have been reintroduced from Canadian forests into the American states. The colours used are simple yet effective and don’t confuse the user by being too garish and over the top. This map was much more easy to decipher than The Maps That Tell Tales, even though the content could be construed as complex with the comparisons to two different time periods.


Physarum polycephalum is a type of slime mould that extends tendrils from food source to food source, finding the most efficient pathways whilst doing so. The mould has been tested extensively by the University of West England in Bristol and is used in the hope that it will revolutionize the way that our road and railway systems connect towns and cities together. During the tests it was found that the slime mould actually mimicked existing roads in it’s effort to find the next food source. Scientists simply set the food source where existing cities are located and in terms of the United States map this plan originated in the location of New York city.
The nutrients in the more rural areas are naturally eaten more quickly than those found in the bigger oat clusters (cities) and after a period of time when food becomes more scarce, the tendrils become more robust yet are still found to be adaptable to change.

Although the study of slime mould is interesting, especially in the way that it naturally mimics our roads and railways as the best route to get to the food, i don’t think that it is viable in terms of recreating our current networks to mimic those set out by the slime mould. It would cost far too much of tax payers money to recreate these systems in order for them to be seen as more productive and time effective, especially when there is nothing wrong with the current road systems we have in place.


Maps That Tell Tales

Looking into the Maps That Tell Tales I have found that these visual representations are not only a device in which to orientate oneself with the current geography or to illustrate the emotions that a participant will have with their surrounding environment, as with emotive maps. But these differing versions monitor a specific area over a set period of time to show the current trends and patterns of the participants involved. Although I think it would be interesting to have a comparison over a blind test in which the participants are oblivious to the recording of their movements and another in which they are well aware, to note how their behaviour changes with this knowledge.

When displayed as a static image I think that the map concerning the movements of people visiting the Worcester City Museum over a time period of 15 minutes is slightly confusing. The trends that are easy to pick out are the pathways that are used to move around the room, and that the majority of visitors were women as there is a lot of red displayed on the page. However I think that the overall display of the key in the centre of the page, is a poor move in terms of data visualisation. It seems obstructive of the information provided and it’s only on further inspection that the viewer realises that the middle space was waste regardless. The chart points were mapped every 30 seconds to give the impression of the participants and the actions they have made. These coordinates were taken over the course of an hour, but it was decided to eliminate the other 45 minutes as the map was seen to be too confusing.

Maps That Tell Tales: 15 Minutes at the Museum

The map concerning the charted movements of the family on Christmas day 2006 is a lot more clearer to understand as there is less information provided in terms of time management, as with the map above. Instead this purely records the movement of the three people and cat within the household. Each person was given a different colour and from the trends and patterns you can see who moved the most around the room. However I would have expected the Christmas tree to be the main focal point on Christmas day with the main bulk of activity being displayed around it, shockingly it is the door out of the living room that presents the most interest. The majority of interest points are located in the top three quarters of the display showing that during the course of Christmas day the television and surrounding area were ignored. I also find the movement of the cat interesting; it has clear destinations throughout the room and doesn’t deviate in getting from one to another. It moves in straight lines and is attracted to warm spaces.

Movement Map: 1hr in Front of the TV

I think it’s interesting to see the trends in data and information across these maps that tell tales. In regards to monitoring a till at the University of Worcester Cafeteria over a 10 minute period at lunch time it’s interesting to see the movements of the staff over such a small location. A grid was placed over the intended space which was then videoed and monitored with reference points for the passing participants being taken every 30 seconds.

Movement Map: 10 Minutes At The Lunch Counter



Denis Wood

Denis Wood is a cartographer who had been working on the atlas of the Boylan Heights, North Carolina since the mid 1970’s. The portions of completed atlas have never been published in their entirety, but it is known as Dancing and Singing: A Narrative Atlas of Boylan Heights.

However this atlas is not merely a display of geography but contains many differing unique examples of creative maps attuned to their surrounding area. They show maps of night, crime, fences, graffiti, textures, autumn leave, the underground and stars etc. They are diverse creations that take influence from anything and everything and were first created by Wood to try and encourage students to focus on location specifics and not the geography as a whole. The atlas of Boylan Heights takes all the aspects that make up the designers neighbourhood and illustrates them on separate maps. The reason that the maps are black and white copies is due to the fact that the atlas was intended to be given out freely to the residents of Boylan heights to help show them what built up their town. So the production costs had to be kept to a minimum. Screen Shot 2013-12-23 at 20.23.29

The pumpkin map illustrates the houses in the neighbourhood that saw fit to display a pumpkin on their front porch. Their composition relies on the layout of the street and they are shown as individuals through the many differing horror faces that the residents carved into them. This is a much more indicative approach of the street and works in this format more so than if the pumpkins had been represented using the same symbol or ‘scary face’.

Screen Shot 2013-12-23 at 20.30.45

The composition regarding the star map of Boylan heights is really interesting to me and is attractive through the use of framing. Tree’s and houses are silhouetted around the edges of the star map with a portioned piece of sky being located in the middle. Texture is a huge part of the piece, with the borders being stark black and the night sky itself being very tactile indeed.

‘What we were trying to do was a kind of fish-eye view, splashing up out of the neighborhood into the night sky. Using an atlas of star positions we improved our plotting of the night sky. This was not easy either because the projection we were making and the projection the star atlas used were very different. We pulled the rest of the stars from Galileo’s Sidereus Nuncius both because they are so beautiful and because I liked the way Galileo integrated text and image. Crawford did the drawing, laid out the spread, and did the photomechanical work.’ – Denis Wood.

Screen Shot 2013-12-23 at 20.34.19

I think the map that gives the most indicative representation of Boylan Heights in terms of Wayfinding is the Sign Map which composes every sign within the neighbourhood onto the canvas, displayed in a similar way as to how they would appear in the real world. The background is white, bringing all of the signs into focus more easily and the main street’s and roadways are instantly recognizable for the thicker mass of symbols that can be found there. The use of a blank background that has no streets displayed or underlying information gives a much more cleaner representation. Any other information would have been unnecessary as the impression of the place is easily conveyed as it is.


Wayfinding is a specialized area of art and design which combines the skills of science, psychology, semiotics and graphic design to produce a piece of information, designed to help the user locate their whereabouts. Drovers Trees are amongst the first examples of a conscious human effort to help direct people along the right path. The tree’s could only be found in the top regions of England and Scotland, yet were planted along the roads and on hills so that cattle farmers could use them as reference points when taking their stock to market in London. This goes back to the natural forms of Wayfinding i researched at the start of this module.

The considerations that have to be made when designing a wayfinding solution has to be first and foremost about it’s suitability geographically. This includes positioning away from the elements to preserve the design solution for as long a period as possible. They also have to fit in with the culture of the surrounding area.

Wayfinding solutions such as the public road signs designed by Margaret Calvert and Jock Kinnear in the 1950’s are designed to be interpreted in as short an amount of time as possible. Meaning clarity is above all the top concern. Writing is sans serif and mostly rendered in capital letters to aid those with accessibility issues such as the partially sighted members of society. Calvert and Kinnear were approached in the 1950’s to produce a house style for the entirety of England’s road signs. It started as an art college project of which Kinnear was the lecturer, and after the success of the commission to resolve the M6 Preston Bypass, their solutions were adopted all over the country.

m6scotlandDirectional signs were rendered green, making them instantly visible to travelers. Information is at a minimum and instead of the previous snippet that gave an impression of the area as a whole, the two designers produced the sign to have the location of the viewer at the bottom central point with their destination or possible routes they can take being at the top of the sign. This means attention only has to be paid to the top half.

Old-and-new-UK-school-street-signs-amissingham.com_The most noticeable change from the old system to the new in my opinion is the use of iconographic imagery. Everything was simplified down and colour and shape coding was introduced. From the sign on the right hand side i immediately known that there is a warning that children are about – due to the red border and triangular shape. Other information like school from the other example is unneeded, drivers will instinctively know that there is a school in the area and that they should be careful. The children on the older sign are in silhouette yes, but are much more complex and detailed. The introduction of colour on the modern approach instantly catches your attention, being of much more use than the previous suggestion.


The Map Shop

The Map Shop, 15 High St, Upton Upon Severn, Worcester, WR8 0HJ


Tony Atkinson has been passionate about maps since the age of six; currently he is semi-retired and runs a highly successful business in Upton-Upon-Severn known as The Map Shop. As expected the shop deals mainly in OS maps, yet on my visit and meeting with Tony, I was shown a variety of different organizations that map international regions as well as location specifics such as Scotland that don’t display marked footpaths, as free roaming and right of way is assumed for the full country outside of hunting season. I also met with John Baker whilst visiting Upton, who has worked with Tony for over twelve years and mainly deals in using large scale OS maps.

Large Scale OS Maps are highly detailed with information such as the shape of buildings being highly visible. These maps are rendered at 1:2500 and show both aerial views of the location and the standard map rendering, which differs slightly from the OS printed, typically 1:25000. These large-scale maps have more of a utilitarian use to them, and the map shop itself is approached by a variety of different clients up and down the country who use their service for plotting and planning permissions. Baker said that the majority of their clients tend to be Lawyers, Architects etc. and a repeat client known as Bayliss Design who work in renovating petrol stations. The Large Scale are linked directly to Google Earth, so street view can also be incorporated into the information to give the best impression possible of a given area. It is also an option to turn these very simple line drawings into basic 3D images by using the lines and information provided.

During our conversation Baker laughed at the prospect of the death of the printed map. Due to GPS systems being incorporated into mobile phone devices he said that the naivety of people makes them believe they no longer require a printed version. However aerial view, most commonly used by users to get an overall impression of a place doesn’t include all of the information required if making a trip out into the countryside. Location specifics such as rivers, streams and railway lines may be concealed, yet switching to standard view brings all of these into focus. He stated that this was the reason for the need of cartographers, although ‘everything may have already been found’, satellite photographs and pictures from space will always be in aerial view, thus naturally leaving those location specifics out. The satellites can’t see under trees, which would be a major flaw for hikers and ramblers.  In modern days a lot of the cartographers employed around the world are used mainly for updating the current maps with renovations to cities or main roads etc.

kendal-map-showing-footpathsOS Large Scale

it’s possible to scale the large scale maps to any size right down to 1:2500. I think they are a very clear and focused example of mapping and the changes in design from the printed map have been well thought out. The contour lines have been rendered in a different shade altogether so they don’t stand out too much yet the information is still clear and visible for those who require it. The main roads are clearly stated with the road numbers rendered in the same shade so it is absolutely clear which one they belong to. And as i mentioned earlier, the shapes of the buildings are brought into focus a lot more as there is the space to make this possible.


Institut Geographique National

1cm = 250m

Although the french maps are similar to English rendered ones in the sense that the key remains the same and the overall styling is very similar to promote ease of navigation through multiple countries, the visible differences that immediately jump out to me is the shading along the contour lines. In my opinion this highlights unnecessarily that the areas of green are mountains. Unnecessary due to the fact that contour lines are used anyway. Tony Atkinson, on showing me this French example, told me of a customer who approached him a few years ago who was looking into the possibility of having a map rendered which would be assembled purely out of contour lines in order to show his Duke Of Edinburgh expedition the importance of them. To an expert map reader everything bar the contour lines is irrelevant information.


Harvey Maps – Lakeland North


The colours used on the Harvey maps are garish in my opinion, subtler shades would be less offensive to the eye and so would result in making the map a more attractive piece of work. Traditionally contour lines are usually rendered in a much softer shade which results in not confusing the user but in this example the lines are almost as dark as the writing.


BMM – Yorkshire Dales

2.5cm = 1KM

I think this version of a mapping technique has been over complicated again by the many different shades and colours. Everything seems to have been crammed in together and as a piece of work designed to help you, at a glance it appears to be far too confusing.


Kompass – Brienzersee

1cm = 500m

The contrast of red footpaths and roads on the Swiss map really enable the routes to stand out in quite a striking way. the contour lines are visible though not in an overly offensive way and the text doesn’t have a single direction to run in, it’s crammed all over the design and has been fitted in wherever possible.