Jump to content

 
Photo

Subtractive/additive map design

- - - - -

  • Please log in to reply
26 replies to this topic

#16
mika

mika

    Master Contributor

  • Validated Member
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 120 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Warsaw
  • Poland

Now I am confused. Did I just give an additive or subtractive example? ;)


And that's the point :)
maps made easy - www.cartomatic.pl

#17
Derek Tonn

Derek Tonn

    Legendary Contributor

  • Validated Member
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 455 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Springfield, Minnesota, USA
  • United States

Doesn't all of this subtractive/additive talk related to map design though make anyone else (besides me) a bit sad? I come at maps from much-more of a design/art background, where exactness, lat/long and "north" takes a back seat to style, color and contrast, but sometimes it seems as though what GIS data has added to the map design community in MUCH greater efficiency it has also cost the greater mapping community its creativity or "soul" in an artistic sense. If one went to Pablo Picasso and gave him a canvas with lots of black outlines with numbers inside each shape (each number equals a certain color to paint or brush-stroke technique to use), what he creates might be very nice to look at...but it would very-likely be missing that "extra something" that makes it great. Heck, you could even tell Picasso to use the color "red" in a Gouache instead of other paints and his creative flair might be to choose any of the hundreds/thousands of shades of red with different brushes to fill the object! However, it just isn't the same.

Map design, in many ways (since the dawn of GIS data and applications), has seemed to become "paint by numbers" in the greater artistic sense. Maps are very accurate, very functional and incredibly efficient to produce. However, I think that we (collectively) have sold part of our soul in the name of efficiency in the process. That's not to say that GIS has not been a God-send to our collective industry! I'm just saying that the "art" in map design is steadily being squeezed out the door...to the point where maps are becoming less and less creative and fun/interesting to look at. It makes me sad, but it is the way our industry is heading, like it or not.
Derek Tonn
Founder and CEO
mapformation, LLC

datonn@mapformation.com
http://www.mapformation.com

#18
Dennis McClendon

Dennis McClendon

    Hall of Fame

  • Validated Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 1,084 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Chicago
  • Interests:map design, large-scale maps of cities
  • United States

I could either (1) draw the roads by tracing from other map, or (2) using GIS dataset, simplifying it in GIS and/or Illustrator as needed.


Surely we all realize that the look of our maps is shaped by the tools we use.

First, there's the psychological difference between the two approaches. I believe it is a fundamental principle of design for any useful object to have only the material necessary and no more. We would not think a dining table with half-meter-thick legs was a pleasing design. Sheer inertia will work against thinning out a populated drawing to the same spare minimalism you might have if you start from nothing.

Second, there are inevitably data artifacts. The most important is that the data is unlikely to have been digitized for the scale you plan to use it, so you'll have too many points and too much detail for your needs. Generalization algorithms cannot yet make the informed decisions about what irregularities are geographically important rather than geometrically important (the usual North American example is preserving Cape Cod even on very small scale maps of the US).

Third, humans have a sophisticated appreciation of design gestalt. Dozens of very small decisions--which seem inconsequential individually--add up to a pleasing whole. So a geometrically accurate street grid is more pleasing to the eye than one in which even 99.8% of TIGER's "intersection wander" has been removed. A true curve is more pleasing than a series of short tangents. A sinuous river line, even though not describable geometrically, pleases more than a bunch of blue lines strung together. I want Colorado to have four vertices, not 220--no matter how closely those extra 216 points come to falling on the line. More important, I think the eye can discern that difference.

Perhaps we get blinded by the fact that a map represents a random and disorderly world, and pay insufficient attention to the fact that it is a crafted, manmade object. The subtractive approach gets obsessed with showing the world's complexity, which is embodied in that existing data. The additive approach tries to make the world understandable by reducing its complexity. Join me in my fight to stamp out pointless accuracy.
Dennis McClendon, Chicago CartoGraphics
chicagocarto.com

#19
Derek Tonn

Derek Tonn

    Legendary Contributor

  • Validated Member
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 455 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Springfield, Minnesota, USA
  • United States

Dennis,

Wonderful post! I'll take your comments even one step further, from another direction:

Less information on a map (avoiding the unnecessary) quite-often will result in faster processing times (an understanding of the information that is being conveyed), and the economic and environmental benefits of less ink needing to be used to produce print versions of each graphic can be staggering!

Just imagine all of the ink I would be wasting if my long-winded CartoTalk posts had to be sent on paper to everyone! :P Seriously though, for how big of a wind-bag I can tend to be in forums, I try to be a "minimalist" when it comes to objects and ink in the maps our firm is producing for print...as every bit of any extraneous, unnecessary imagery and text is very wasteful from both an economical and an environmental standpoint. It all adds-up in the end.
Derek Tonn
Founder and CEO
mapformation, LLC

datonn@mapformation.com
http://www.mapformation.com

#20
Sky Schemer

Sky Schemer

    Master Contributor

  • Validated Member
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 119 posts
  • Location:Hillsboro, OR
  • United States

Third, humans have a sophisticated appreciation of design gestalt. Dozens of very small decisions--which seem inconsequential individually--add up to a pleasing whole. So a geometrically accurate street grid is more pleasing to the eye than one in which even 99.8% of TIGER's "intersection wander" has been removed. A true curve is more pleasing than a series of short tangents. A sinuous river line, even though not describable geometrically, pleases more than a bunch of blue lines strung together. I want Colorado to have four vertices, not 220--no matter how closely those extra 216 points come to falling on the line. More important, I think the eye can discern that difference.


This is what makes me think we're arguing semantics more than anything. If I start with a series of short tangents and spline-fit them to a nice, curvy line which I then adjust, I don't see that as a significantly different end state. The fact that I got that series of short tangents by selecting the lines I wanted (or deleting the stuff I didn't want...take your pick on the terminology) should have no bearing on the final result save that your curve will look different than mine. Of course, you might be able to draw from scratch faster, and I might be able to work from existing data faster. That doesn't make one approach more or less valid.

What you seem to be arguing against is the temptation to put all the data on the map and then start removing elements until the result is no longer cluttered. I agree that this is how you get sloppy maps with jerky lines, but I don't think the answer is to always draw from scratch, either. There's definitely a middle ground here, and our own skills, tools and natural talent will put as at different points between the extremes.

#21
CHART

CHART

    Chart

  • Validated Member
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 358 posts
  • No Country Selected

Seriously though, for how big of a wind-bag I can tend to be in forums, I try to be a "minimalist" when it comes to objects and ink in the maps our firm is producing for print...as every bit of any extraneous, unnecessary imagery and text is very wasteful from both an economical and an environmental standpoint. It all adds-up in the end.


I think highly of your approach but have you talked to the Cartographers at NG about this.... :P
Chart

#22
James Hines

James Hines

    James Anthony Hines

  • Validated Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 545 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Centreville, Nova Scotia
  • Interests:Cartography, Philosophy, Politics, Psychology, Economics, Occultism, Spiritualism
  • Canada

There maybe a difference in the style of mapping other then straight out subtractive additive metodology; we have to consider the way the data is digitized. We must look at the actual line & polygon features by simply looking at one node & checking it to view the next node, then the next one after that. The question we as Cartographers have to ask ourselves is the method of digitization a point & click method aiming for efficiency or is the line curved aiming to please & simplify the map? Students are told that it is ok to simply click in one spot then then another because the aim of the project is if you can simply produce a map that is presentable, although you do hear once in awhile that on some products you must chose to smooth out the lines.

"There is much beauty that we fail to see through our own eyes teeming with life forms that give us that perception of our reality.  Leaves on the trees blowing gently in the wind, or scarily, the waves pounding through high surf, or lightly on a warm summer’s day; that opportunity to sit or swim in the water on a white beach.   That comfort to shout, “The universal conscious do you hear me?  I am alive, guide me dear logos towards the path of rightnesses.”  Earned what has been kept, no longer to be absorbed into a life filled with cold damn winds and  that stubborn fog clouding  my vision with nothing but darkness."


#23
natcase

natcase

    Ultimate Contributor

  • Validated Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 572 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Minneapolis, Minnesota
  • Interests:cartography
    aeshetics
    cartographic design
    John Bartholomew
    road maps
    large-scale mapping
  • United States

When we started making maps in the early 1990s, everything we did was additive, because the raw data was either unabailable or butt-ugly at whatever scale we wanted to work at. I remember tracing by hand (on tracing paper) linework from 1:250,000 USGS sheets, and then tracing a scan of that in Freehand... this is back before DRGs, I think. The result was a map that worked fine, but ended up with visibly over generalized water features (for example), and linework which, when we wanted to interpolate new material, sometimes turned out to be generalized the wrong direction...

More and more we are judiciously using over-detailed bases and generalizing back. I think the important thing in this regard is differentiating data for content and data for texture. For example, I've used raw TIGER files for a street texture of New Orleans... at 1:200,000. It works fine at showing the exent of built-up (or formerly built-up) land, and really and truly you don't see the jaggies. I hand-drew major arteries on top of the raw base. And I do this all the time (1:100,000 data for a 1:1,000,000 base) for hydro — as long as what I'm showing doesn't have a dark shoreline applied to it, it nicely shows the texture of water features. A useful thing here in Minnesota or other places with a lot of scattered surface water.

The problem comes when the map has too much foreground (I think this is where Dennis and I agree). You are drawing a downtown map, so you show all the building footprints (good sense of texture). And name all the important ones (well, you want to orient people). And label the parking (that's important). And colorcode for building use (hey it'll help people suss out the shape of the city beyond the grid)... And you have overkill.

The superdetailed building shapes are OK I think. I like texture. Or you can leave them off, if that's your style (and Dennis has good style). I do think at that point it's a matter of taste. But especially in a map where you are selling/promoting/arguing one thing alone, it can really help to be very very clear about what you want to focus on, and let all the design decisions flow from that, not on "yes, but it would be a better map in general if we..." arguments. Let those building shapes fade to the bachground unless they are specifically supporting the point of the map.

There is a place for "less is more," and often I think people don't know how to handle "more" on the maps they are making. But I really wonder about minimalism in the cartographic aesthetic. I think one of the joys of looking at maps is the profuse complexity they can offer (probably my favorite map is the old hand-lettered Bartholomew's London map). See my further comments on Plain Mapping here.

Nat Case
INCase, LLC

Minneapolis, Minnesota USA
maphead.blogspot.com



#24
Jean-Louis

Jean-Louis

    Ultimate Contributor

  • Validated Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 545 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Montreal Quebec
  • Interests:In the vast ocean of my ignorance, I have a few bubbles of interests
  • Canada

What a great discussion! The adding or substracting thing touches pretty much everything in life.

Michelangelo said about his sculptures that the figures were already in the block of marble. His job was simply to chip away the excess stuff that prevented you from seeing it. The job of a map is often to make you see certain relationships that are buried behind other facts.

It is also interesting to note that the human brain seems to function that way too. As I understand it the brain's main function is a step-down transformer that learns to clear out and edit the clutter of a cahotic world to make it fit for human consumption.

Walter Lipmann ( I think) said that the mission of the journalist is to draw an understandable picture of reality that the citizen can act upon. I think that is a good definition for the art of mapmaking too.
Jean-Louis Rheault
Montreal


#25
MapMedia

MapMedia

    Hall of Fame

  • Validated Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 1,029 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Davis, California
  • United States

Walter Lipmann ( I think) said that the mission of the journalist is to draw an understandable picture of reality that the citizen can act upon. I think that is a good definition for the art of mapmaking too.


Thanks for sharing that little gem.

I totally agree with what Dennis said about design gestalt and how mapmakers can get lost in the weeds of data complexity and have to bush-wack their way back to the real message and higher purpose of the map. Whereas the reader's un-muddied design sense is the cartographer's point of reference. Often the two do not meet, and while the reader may eventually understand the map and its purpose, the efficacy is not where it could have nor should have been.

#26
DaveB

DaveB

    Hall of Fame

  • Validated Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 1,057 posts
  • Gender:Not Telling
  • Location:Redlands, CA
  • United States

Just to interject another note into the stream -
"It's a very thin line between simple and clean and powerful, and simple and clean and boring," says type-world bad boy David Carson (quoted from a review on the movie "Helvetica" .

Not to say anyone here is guilty of boring maps. :)
Dave Barnes
Esri
Product Engineer
Map Geek

#27
Derek Tonn

Derek Tonn

    Legendary Contributor

  • Validated Member
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 455 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Springfield, Minnesota, USA
  • United States

:)

Great post, Dave. I think we're ALL guilty of producing some "boring" maps...just like we're all guilty of producing some overly fussy and unnecessarily complex designs as well.

I think sometimes "we" (as a collective mapping community) unfortunately also have just a touch of a "God complex" when it comes to map design. WE are going to design maps the way WE KNOW they should be designed...user-centered design or "different strokes for different folks" be-darned! It always reminds me of that Alec Baldwin quote from the movie "Malice:"

(Paraphrasing) God complex? You think I have a God complex? I don't have a God complex....I AM God! :P


What I don't understand though is where that "God complex" comes from. I think if we are all honest with ourselves (myself included), we all have at least a touch/hint of the "GC" when it comes to our work...forcing others to see the world from OUR point of view. I'm not sure if part of that is due to ego, and/or if some of it relates to self-preservation and wanting to make sure that "our way" of doing things never becomes obsolete or of lesser importance?

I think differences are things to be celebrated, NOT feared or criticized, and are a fantastic opportunity to broaden everyone's horizons. Map design, for whatever reason, seems to want to be more homogeneous than many/most fields of professional study that I have encountered to-date. I don't understand that...although I would love it if people could help me to better understand it. Is it "fear," or is it simply a bit of ego/arrogance? My guess is probably a little of both...but that is pure speculation on my part.
Derek Tonn
Founder and CEO
mapformation, LLC

datonn@mapformation.com
http://www.mapformation.com




0 user(s) are reading this topic

0 members, 0 guests, 0 anonymous users

-->