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Map Design Patterns?

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#1
Gretchen Peterson

Gretchen Peterson

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According to Wikipedia: In software engineering, a design pattern is a general reusable solution to a commonly occurring problem within a given context in software design. A design pattern is not a finished design that can be transformed directly into code. It is a description or template for how to solve a problem that can be used in many different situations.

I've been wondering if the concept of software design patterns can be applied to cartography. My first thought was that there is no pattern to cartography. Each map is too unique to discern any patterns. But then I thought that if the idea was approached from a solutions stand-point, that it might be feasible.

A list of common map design solutions might be something that can be readily researched and organized. I'm wondering if anyone has ever thought about doing this before - I do not want to reinvent the wheel. Or, if nobody has done it, what might be the objections to doing so?

#2
David Medeiros

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This sounds similar to the concept of a design standard summary, something I've been working on for a graduate seminar course over this past semester. I looked at a collection cartography texts (Map Making, Cartography an Introduction, and Designing Better Maps) and pulled out the major design topics that were more or less common to each or represented the best division of design advice. I then catalogued the various pieces of information on each topic form each author before aggregating them together into a design summary table. The goal was to create a succinct collection of design advice that would offer a cohesive set of best practices without setting up "rules' to follow.

It's not exactly a collection of "solutions" to common map design problems but similar perhaps. Do you have any examples of what you envision a design solution might look like?

For my part I think the idea of codifying best practices is a good idea, as long as they include the necessary wiggle room to handle the variety of design issues that any given map may face. Creating too specific a solution means having to create a greater number of solutions since there is so much flexibility in map design over all. Solutions would have to avoid being set up as rules for processing map design issues. If there is one thing this forum has taught me its that traditional map design rules can often be broken to great effect.

GIS Reference and Instruction Specialist, Stanford Geospatial Center.

 

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#3
Gretchen Peterson

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Interesting! You've asked for an example. Here's one that may work. Let's say the problem is "a lot of information, same geographic area" a solution could be "small multiples." This would be laid out with more details, of course, and would need examples to go with it.

Just as you brought up - the fear is that it becomes too much of a template approach whereas it should just be a starting point. One wouldn't want to stifle creative solutions that differ from standard approaches as there seems to be much room for invention, as you've also pointed out.

In this way it would be different than a list of commonly accepted tips and tricks. It would be a whole-map composition patterns that have been successful in the past.

The only thing I've found so far that seems to match this idea (and I can't access the actual paper) is this thesis here: , which I'm going to try and get a copy of.

Thanks for your thoughts!

#4
Matthew Hampton

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This thread reminds me of Christian Behrens's work on Information Design Patterns and his Masters Thesis The form of facts and figures. Highly recommended reading.

He created an interactive website for help in determining the appropriate way to visualize data (including some spatial representations), but my mind keeps referring to the image I saw of his Pattern Browser which I can't find anywhere with the exception of Kelso's blog post.

co-cartographic creator of boringmaps.com


#5
Gretchen Peterson

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Matthew-that's very similar to what I was talking about, except that Behren is applying it to non-spatial data while I'd like to apply the "pattern" concept to map layouts/types. What I'd like to see, and will probably start creating, is something that helps the novice decide what kind of map layout to make (or at least give them some ideas that they can take or leave). Whether or not it will be possible is yet to be seen, but the idea holds promise.

#6
cartdeco

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Hi Gretchen,

This is something I'm looking at in my own research. I'd like to discuss this further with you offline if that's OK.

Regards,
Craig Molyneux
Spatial Vision
www.spatialvision.com.au
www.svmaps.com.au
craig.molyneux@spatialvision.com.au




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