Maps and Mappers of the 2021 calendar: Barry Rowlingson, April

Q: Tell us about yourself.

A: I’m a Senior Research Fellow in the CHICAS group of Lancaster University’s Medical School. We’re a bunch of statisticians and data scientists who mostly work on spatial aspects of epidemics, so we are quite busy now. I’ve been doing spatial statistics and GIS for over thirty years. Outside of work I like to bike, hike, play music (bass, guitar, drums, keys), and drive my rattly old Land Rover around.

Q: Tell us the story behind your map (what inspired you to make it, what did you learn while making it, or any other aspects of the map or its creation you would like people to know).

A: As a bit of a puzzler and prankster I’ve always been fascinated by the island of San Serriffe – perhaps the greatest April Fool’s prank ever. The effort put into the original newspaper supplement amazes me – not just the maps but the articles, stories and adverts. There were a few digital versions of the map on the internet – some very different from the original publications – but I wanted to create something close to the original, in a vector format, and to release the data so we had an open-source digital San Serriffe. Everything on my map is derived from the original map published in the April 1977 Guardian newspaper. I’ve never really done polished cartography like this before, so I learnt a lot about QGIS, especially its fine control of labels. I think I lost more than a few hairs adjusting things to stop labels suddenly disappearing when they got just a tiny bit too close to another feature!

Q: Tell us about the tools, data, etc., you used to make the map.

A: First I took a few images from the original article and approximately geolocated the archipelago, and then digitised the borders, railways, roads etc all using QGIS. My original plan was to do a map in a modern OpenStreetMap style, but the hand-crafted style of the original drew me back, and I got to thinking about how that could be replicated in a modern GIS. Back in 1977 the maps look like they were made with old-school Letraset transfers, with icons hand-drawn and lettering cut up and pasted to fit curves – all things we take for granted in a modern GIS. Replicating that hand-made feel is much like trying to make synthesizer music sound human. Perfect beats sound cold and robotic, we need humans in the musical loop to add emotion and “feel”, and adding this kind of thing to a map using a GIS was an interesting challenge.

I’ve since created some elevation data for San Serriffe. Although there’s few explicit elevation points on the original map (two mountain elevations and a coastline at sea level) I used other cues to create an elevation surface. Rivers have to run downhill. Train lines can’t cover steep gradients. The Woj of Tipe is a flat swamp. Although this data didn’t make it into the calendar map it will find its way onto the Digital San Serriffe site at some point!

Maps and mappers of the 2020 calendar: Victoria Johnson, August

Q: Tell us about yourself.

A: My name is Vicky Johnson, I’m a cartographer in Washington DC. I work on a data analysis team in international development (not trying to be cagey about where I work! I just prefer to keep my professional and personal work separate. It’s probably overkill but I feel better about being sort of a goofball on twitter). I’ve been a geospatial professional for about 13 years, my career path has taken me everywhere from QA on the Census’ road network data to municipal government in New Zealand. Over this time I’ve discovered that I really like local mapping best. There’s nothing quite as rewarding as really getting to familiar with a place and translating that knowledge into geospatial data. In my free time I play drums and make a lot of ice cream.

 

Q: Tell us the story behind your map (what inspired you to make it, what did you learn while making it, or any other aspects of the map or its creation you would like people to know).

A: This map was created for a role playing game designed by a former coworker. He provided me with a few pages of background and I did the rest – essentially, it’s an alternate, speculative social and geologic history of the American Gulf Coast set in the 1920s. I had great fun both creating situationally cohesive terrain and replicating map styles of the time. One thing I learned while making it is how hard it is to create believable fake terrain! I spent ages messing around in various software programs before deciding to grab some SRTM data and massage it into the existing landscape. Much easier and more realistic-looking than the disasters I created in Blender.

 

Q: Tell us about the tools, data, etc., you used to make the map.

A: I used QGIS to get the STRM sized and oriented, ArcMap for the non-faked GIS tasks, Photoshop to blend the new terrain with the real stuff, and Illustrator for the aesthetics, plus a lot of research into how maps were designed and produced in the 1920s. There were two resources I relied on fairly heavily, a USGS Standards Manual available at Project Gutenberg and a Latvian design manual from 1928 posted at makingmaps.net. These sorts of guides are wonderful as reference and creative material, they’re fascinatingly rich documentation of cartographic history and it’s always enjoyable to consider how all of these careful, nuanced decisions were arrived upon by map-makers almost a century ago!

 

Maps and mappers of the 2020 calendar: Daniel Fourquet, July

fourqet

Q: Tell us about yourself

A: For most of my life I have been fascinated with maps, both studying them and making them myself. As a child I would fill folders with detailed maps of an imaginary country and would spend too many hours playing games like SimCity and Civilization on the computer (ok, I do that as an adult sometimes too!). These interests would eventually lead me to studying geography at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, VA and begin a career doing GIS work. Recently I’ve become interested in programming and am now enrolled in the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s online GIS and web map programming masters program. I’m currently a GIS Analyst at the Virginia Department of Transportation in Richmond.

Q: Tell us the story behind your map (what inspired you to make it, what did you learn while making it, or any other aspects of the map or its creation you would like people to know).

A: I became interested in using 3D rendering software in cartography when I stumbled on some of the beautiful maps created by Owen Powell (@owenjpowell) last Spring. While doing research to learn how to make 3D maps of my own, I discovered the work of Daniel Huffman (@pinakographos) and Scott Reinhard (@scottreinhard), both of which were also influential. I experimented with terrain maps for a couple months before deciding to try creating an urban map using lidar data. I chose the US Capitol because it’s such a well known landmark.

My decision to design this map in black and white was inspired by Daniel Huffman’s NACIS talk (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ptKDS1Z8Oro) about the challenges and advantages of mapping in monochrome. I initially planned on designing the map in color, but then I realized that removing color created a more formal tone that is fitting for a map of the buildings where such important decisions are made.

 

Q: Tell us about the tools, data, etc., you used to make the map

A: Data Used:

– The Lidar data was downloaded from the USGS National Map.

– I used land cover data from the Chesapeake Conservancy.

Tools Used:

– WhiteboxTools (https://jblindsay.github.io/ghrg/WhiteboxTools/index.html) is a collection of GIS tools that allowed me to process the lidar data via Python to prepare it for rendering in Blender.

– ArcMap was used to organize and prepare the data.

– Blender was the 3D software used to render the Lidar data.

– GIMP was used to add the land cover data. I also manually brushed in the trees, which was time-consuming, but resulted in a much better map than relying on the trees from the land cover data.

– Illustrator was used for labelling and finishing the map.