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#1
electric angel

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hi, i'd welcome feedback on the map linked to below.

it's part of a wider project called CHART Scarborough (Culture Heritage and ARTs Scarborough) which aims to raise awareness of the cultural activity in the town for both residents and visitors.

the theory that's led us to drawing the map in this way lies largely in cognitive mapping - our intention is to provide a map that helps people build their own mental map but using cultural places as landmarks and nodes. therefore people start to navigate the town in a way that makes them more aware of the culture, heritage and art in the built environment and that takes places in public spaces. at least, that's the theory.

the map below doesn't have to do that alone - on the reverse side there's a 'map' comprised purely of images of the same area, places roughly by geographical location, many of them fairly arty/abstract combined with poetry and some explanatory text. i'll post that when it's complete.

in the meantime, i and my colleague james who has done most of the work on this while I researched the theory, would welcome feedback from you genuine cartographers (we're just humble graphic designers). this is pretty close to the final version - there are a few small tweaks we wish to do so it's not too late for us to make changes based on your comments.

thanks.

the link: http://chartscarboro...gh_v_140510.pdf

you can also read the project's blog here: http://www.chartscarborough.com

#2
David Medeiros

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At first glance I find it very hard to read clearly. Everything seems to be on the same visual plane, same density. The map is essentially plan but there some oblique street elements that end up looking out of place. The darn gray, light gray and are white are creating a 1 + 1 = 3 effect where I see more edges than I need to to determine the shape of lots and streets. And the region or neighborhood labels look a little like watermarks rather than labels, they are conflict with the map body because they are essential part of the same visual hierarchy as the streets and parcels. There's no indication of land shape or elevations anywhere except in the green areas so it looks disconnected from the rest of the map.

Basically I'm seeing what looks like raw parcel and right of way data that's been restyled and cleaned up but no generalization, or hierarchy has been given to them or the other features on the map. Is there a particular reason you need to show every parcel?

The simplest change I can suggest is to reorder the color scheme for your road/parcel/sidewalk scheme so that the sidewalks don't jump out at you so much. It's hard to make a recommendation without playing with the colors myself but you could try knock-out (white fill) roads with light gray side walk and darker gray street blocks/ footprints with no lot lines.

I don't know exactly what you idea is behind cognitive mapping so take this all with a grain of salt. HTH.

dave

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#3
BioGeoMan

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I agree with Dave on two points, I am not sure that you need to show all lot lines, it creates visual complexity without adding any additional informational value to the map and I also agree that there is a difficulty discerning what the visual hierarchy is (other than the pink cultural, heritage, and art elements). The transparent annotation of the different neighborhoods really detracts from most everything else on the map and in some areas makes the underlying information difficult to read.

I am seeing this as a walking map since it does contain good information for persons who are walking around the area, especially the walking distance scale and delineation of all the pedestrian walkways, which is usually an afterthought or altogether forgotten on many city/tourism maps, so kudos for that inclusion. I am assuming that is why you made the pedestrian areas white so they would stand out a bit more.

I think part of the fix may be to simplify the elements on the map in a number of possible ways:
  • Merge the lot lines
  • You could try to get rid of the gradient in the green areas and try some other, not as intrusive effect
  • The neighborhood names are very distracting, are they necessary at this scale, could you just include them on the inset map?
  • A slight increase in the size of the service symbols may make them easier to read (i.e. parking, etc)

As with most any map, the longer I look at it, the more readable it is, but at first glance this one seemed overly complex for the intended amount of information shown.

Hope this helps,
M.

Michael Scisco

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biogeocreations.com


#4
electric angel

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thanks dave. to answer your questions/comments:

The map is essentially plan but there some oblique street elements that end up looking out of place.

yes, this is a compromise but with reason. to quickly summarise the cognitive mapping theory, maps to need to be drawn in the same way that people build maps in their heads. so visual landmarks are important (we've done research to identify which are important in this locale). but if you draw the whole map oblique with buildings in place, it's usually a confusing map in which no landmarks can be identified and in which the buildings often overlap/cover important street detail. so our compromise is a plan that shows the street layout the clearest but with landmarks to aid the building of cognitive maps. we've drawn these from the most familiar view rather than the exact positioning to aid instant recognition. a bit unorthodox, but hey...

There's no indication of land shape or elevations anywhere except in the green areas so it looks disconnected from the rest of the map.

yeah, this has been a challenge.we've not found an example of a town centre map that attempts to show gradients, so without precedent or example of good practice we've experimented with different ideas such as contour lines. the gradated green areas seemed the best way of showing this but if we included them on streets as well it was very confusing (in a similar way to how you and michael are disliking the neighbourhood labels). but... it's a town with distinct hilly areas so we needed to show them somehow. we'll have another look at that problem and see if there's another solution. any ideas welcome.

Is there a particular reason you need to show every parcel?

we think it helps you recognise where you are when you're in the town eg. an area with a lot of smaller shops, or one with larger buildings.

thanks for the thoughts on colour scheme. we'll have a play. our aim is for the streets to jump out (motorists are of no concern as users of this map) , but if you're finding it confusing, that's valuable feedback. thank you.

a.

#5
electric angel

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thanks michael, appreciated.

[*]The neighborhood names are very distracting, are they necessary at this scale, could you just include them on the inset map?

hmm, this is a political decision. the aim of the map is to encourage people to understand and navigate the town from a cultural perspective so by naming/identifying areas we're prompting them to think about them. for example 'cultural quarter' doesn't formally exist, but as it includes a chunk of the town's cultural provision, we need to encourage people to recognise it as a place where you can have a cultural experience. it's also an area where very few people would normally walk except to visit those places, but in our research/reading we've discovered that people are much more likely to visit a place if they just know the name of it, even more so if they have a little info about it or know what it looks like (the other side of this publication will help with this). so i do think we need to label it, but we shall try something less obtrusive. it's helpful that you've both mentioned this straight off

[*]A slight increase in the size of the service symbols may make them easier to read (i.e. parking, etc)

thanks, we'll try this.

#6
David Medeiros

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The map is essentially plan but there some oblique street elements that end up looking out of place.

yes, this is a compromise but with reason. to quickly summarise the cognitive mapping theory, maps to need to be drawn in the same way that people build maps in their heads. so visual landmarks are important (we've done research to identify which are important in this locale). but if you draw the whole map oblique with buildings in place, it's usually a confusing map in which no landmarks can be identified and in which the buildings often overlap/cover important street detail. so our compromise is a plan that shows the street layout the clearest but with landmarks to aid the building of cognitive maps. we've drawn these from the most familiar view rather than the exact positioning to aid instant recognition. a bit unorthodox, but hey...


The issue I'm talking about here are not the oblique buildings that stand alone but the features like the Valley Bridge & Spa Bridge which blend an oblique structure with a plan road. This is a very confused looking intersection of styles that gives that map an Escher like feel at those spots.

There's no indication of land shape or elevations anywhere except in the green areas so it looks disconnected from the rest of the map.

yeah, this has been a challenge.we've not found an example of a town centre map that attempts to show gradients, so without precedent or example of good practice we've experimented with different ideas such as contour lines. the gradated green areas seemed the best way of showing this but if we included them on streets as well it was very confusing (in a similar way to how you and michael are disliking the neighbourhood labels). but... it's a town with distinct hilly areas so we needed to show them somehow. we'll have another look at that problem and see if there's another solution. any ideas welcome.


I would disagree that you "need" to show them, but if you really want to show them there must be a better way. What I see in the darker contour gradients is an overlay effect, it looks not like a hill shade but a polygon laid over the map and set to darken whats below it. The same effect I get from the Neighborhood labels and the grid squares.


Is there a particular reason you need to show every parcel?

we think it helps you recognise where you are when you're in the town eg. an area with a lot of smaller shops, or one with larger buildings.

thanks for the thoughts on colour scheme. we'll have a play. our aim is for the streets to jump out (motorists are of no concern as users of this map) , but if you're finding it confusing, that's valuable feedback. thank you.


This may be something you know more about than I if it was part of your research but I haven never needed to visualize the parcel landscape of an urban area to help me find my way around or make sense of the building facades. At any rate parcels are rarely the same as building footprints which can be more easily recognizable in a plan view.

Motorists may be of no concern but the streets are a major part of the landscape here and the street/parcel/side-walk color interaction should be easily read by whoever the target user is.

I have to wonder about the concept of applying a cognitive map approach to a real street map. Cognitive maps are mental maps that we construct in our minds eye and are assembled in relation to our own unique mental process and experiences as we move around a real space. No two individuals cognitive maps of the same place will be the same or likely even recognizable to each other. Cognitive maps "look" they way they do because they live in our minds, not on paper (or screen). Visual maps look the way they do because we have (over a long period of time) devised methods of generalizing and symbolizing our environment that makes that information understandable by a wider audience than one, as well as allowing the information to be transportable and exchangeable in a sense. I'll admit to a certain "stick in the mudness" about this and have no defense against accusations of being biased against experimental mapping, I think it can be very interesting academically but usually fails to serve a real world purpose as far as usable visual mapping is concerned. So that being said you'll probably disagree with any suggestion I have for changing the map because everything I'd do would be an effort to pull the map away from the cognitive experiment towards a more standard map design.

signed - old fuddy duddy :D

GIS Reference and Instruction Specialist, Stanford Geospatial Center.

 

www.mapbliss.com

 


#7
electric angel

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ah, i think i've misunderstood - what is a parcel?

#8
David Medeiros

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ah, i think i've misunderstood - what is a parcel?


Sorry, this may be a US land use term, a parcel is a lot or tract of land. The mid gray areas with thin dark gray lines on each city block of your map look like parcels to me. The building footprints, the exact physical shape of the building on the ground from above would not actually fill each parcel in most cases. Building footprints can sometimes serve the function of the oblique building images on your map, allowing the reader to make a connection to prominent built structures in the landscape. Parcels (althoug very specific features) are more abstract to map users on the gorund, they are not usually visaible in the real landscape and don't serve much purpose in map orientation unless you are doing real estate or survey work.

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#9
Charles Syrett

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I'm generally with David on this. I'm sure there's some kind of validity in theory that you glean from studies, but.....I've been making maps for real people for several decades now, and if there's one thing I've learned in that time, it's that almost everybody needs a lot of help in reading maps. That goes for even the simplest maps, with the usual "crutches" -- scalebars, north arrows, and legends. The simpler the better!

To be quite honest, I would never try the kind of experimental mapping that you're doing, unless it was for an academic publication. Have you actually shown your map to random people, and asked them to tell you what's on it? You know, point to a feature, "what's this"? (rinse and repeat) That would probably be more useful to you than reading the theories or asking us cartos! :) Good luck with it!

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#10
Jean-Louis

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Charles says it all!
Jean-Louis Rheault
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#11
electric angel

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Have you actually shown your map to random people, and asked them to tell you what's on it? You know, point to a feature, "what's this"? (rinse and repeat) That would probably be more useful to you than reading the theories or asking us cartos! :) Good luck with it!


hi charles. yeah we've formed a couple of focus groups for this purpose and worked with them before we started drawing the map to see how they would draw their own maps, how they use them, how they give verbal directions and plan routes across the town. the groups included older people who have an interest in the shape and culture of the town as well as young people, from primary school kids to teenagers who really couldn't care less! (but who got enthusiastic about maps and landmarks etc in the sessions)

we then drew various versions of the map based on these practical research findings combined with the other reading and particularly looking at the legible london project (we met with transport for london who were very helpful and quite candid about public reception of their pilot scheme).

we have presented the map at stages to the adult group for feedback and made significant changes as a result of their comments. we've also tested it out on random people we come into contact with as well as those who have a vested interest in the map due to their being involved in the cultural life of the town. it's maybe worth mentioning that the adult group tend to be fairly conservative in their views and certainly lean towards the traditional.

i confess that we were pretty convinced with the cognitive theory due to significant projects in bristol and elsehwere in the UK and that has led our research but we've also had our ideas of how we originally intended to draw the map challenged and have responded to our findings and comments from the groups.

as for me personally, i'm now full of admiration for cartographers but also somewhat bemused that the whole cognitive thing hasn't been embraced amongst map makers like it has by such as AIG in the UK. that said, it does make more sense when combined with complete legible cities thinking where you don;t just redraw the map, but re-plan the town. but for now, making the map is hard enough!

#12
electric angel

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Sorry, this may be a US land use term, a parcel is a lot or tract of land. The mid gray areas with thin dark gray lines on each city block of your map look like parcels to me. The building footprints, the exact physical shape of the building on the ground from above would not actually fill each parcel in most cases.


thanks for the explanation. no, they're building footprints. the buildings in the town are pretty densely packed, some parts still being mediaeval layouts although the area we've mapped is more recent - much of the built environment is victorian.

#13
David Medeiros

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You may be bemused by the lack of cognitive mapping in general but I note that although the Legible London map was informed by cognitive map processes it follows basic cartographic and information design principles (as far as I can see from samples available online). It's a very clear, simple, well designed map and not traditional in the sense of a typical cluttered reference map. But it is using style in much the same way I would to create a visual hierarchy to separate the various map elements and features. Visual hierarchy is precisely what's missing from your map.

And interestingly enough many of the changes recommended for your map are reflected in the LL design:

The lot lines have been replaced with building footprints.

The overlay regional labels are smaller, more distinct knock-out labels.

And the road/sidewalk/parcel color scheme reflects a more intelligible hierarchy (dark roads, medium sidewalks, light building footprints - the color density takes you from the bottom feature class to the top feature class in a clear, visually recognizable manner).

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#14
David Medeiros

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Sorry, this may be a US land use term, a parcel is a lot or tract of land. The mid gray areas with thin dark gray lines on each city block of your map look like parcels to me. The building footprints, the exact physical shape of the building on the ground from above would not actually fill each parcel in most cases.


thanks for the explanation. no, they're building footprints. the buildings in the town are pretty densely packed, some parts still being mediaeval layouts although the area we've mapped is more recent - much of the built environment is victorian.


hmm, have the footprints been simplified or generalized a lot? They seem to be missing a lot of the outer detail that might help separate them from the open spaces and sidewalks around them. I think this has a lot to do with the road/sidewalk/footprint colors I keep harping about.

On a related topic I notice that the LL map uses occasional oblique footprints as you do but theirs are actually placed on the building footprint and angled slightly from there. The obliques on your map appear disconnected form the landscape as they don't properly sit on their footprints and are drawn from a street level perspective rather than a slight oblique plan perspective.

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#15
electric angel

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hmm, have the footprints been simplified or generalized a lot? They seem to be missing a lot of the outer detail that might help separate them from the open spaces and sidewalks around them. I think this has a lot to do with the road/sidewalk/footprint colors I keep harping about.

yes, largely because we don't have any data for them. glad you picked up on that - we added all that kind of detail with the pavements, but somehow forgot the buildings. we'll go for a wander and draw them from the street. thanks.

On a related topic I notice that the LL map uses occasional oblique footprints as you do but theirs are actually placed on the building footprint and angled slightly from there. The obliques on your map appear disconnected form the landscape as they don't properly sit on their footprints and are drawn from a street level perspective rather than a slight oblique plan perspective.

yes, explanation of that one earlier in this thread - basically, a map can only be from one angle (not necessarily the angle the user is travelling) and that angle might not be the most (or only) recognisable face of the building, which doesn't help the cognitive/landmarks theory at all. so we've deliberately chosen to break with convention on those. in our user testing this has been well-received.

AIG's approach looks nicer and is the sensible option for having a repeatable format (i think their work is superb) but we've made a decision on our illustrations that we think is right for the purpose of our map and the place we're mapping.




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