All posts by James Cheshire

OpenStreetMappers of London

info_cap_osm

This is a slightly edited cross post from Oliver O’Brien’s Suprageography blog. It offers a behind the scenes look at one of the graphics we created for the opening essay in London: The Information Capital.

From Ollie:

I contributed a number of graphics to LONDON: The Information Capital, a book co-written by Dr James Cheshire, also of UCL Geography. Two of my graphics that made it into the book were based on data from OpenStreetMap, a huge dataset of spatial data throughout the world. One of the graphics, featured in this post, forms one of the chapter intro pages, and colours all the roads, streets and paths in the Greater London Authority area (around 160,000 “ways” which are discrete sections of road/path) according to the person who most recently updated them. Over 1500 indivdual users helped create and refine the map, and all are featured here. I was pleased to discover I was the 21st most prolific, with 1695 ways most recently modified by myself at the time that the graphic was produced.

The more active users will typically have areas around home and work which they intensively map, plus other, smaller areas such as contributions made during a mapping party or other social event organised by/for the London OSM community. Here’s an example filtering for just one user:

osm_dan

Putting the users together reveals a patchwork of key authors and more minor contributors, together forming a comprehensive map of the city. Detail levels vary, partly as the fabric of the city varies from area to area, but also as some contributors will be careful to map every path and alleyway, while others will concentrate on the driveable road network.

osm_detail

The data was obtained from a local copy of the OpenStreetMap database, for Great Britain, that I maintain for various pieces of work including OpenOrienteeringMap. You can obtain the data files from GeoFabrik (this link is to their new London-only version). The data was captured in early February 2014.

I used QGIS to assemble the data and applied the temp-c colour ramp, classifying across all the contributors – I then changed the ones which were assigned a white colour, to green. The colours used in the book are slightly different as some additional editing took place after I handed the graphic over. The colour ramp is relatively coarse, so multiple users will have the same colour assigned to them. The very long tail of OSM contributions (where only a small number of people make the great majority of edits) mean that this still means that most major contributors have a unique colour assigned to them.

Download:

Note that these files actually are for an area that is slightly larger than the Greater London Authority extent – a buffer from Ordnance Survey Open Data Boundary-Line is used to mask out the non-GLA areas.

If you like this thing, it’s worth noting that Eric Fischer independently produced a similar graphic last year, for the whole world. (Interactive version).

London: The Open Data Capital

This has been cross-posted from a guest blog post I wrote on the London Datastore.

Throughout London’s history, its data have inspired innovative maps and visualisations from the likes of John Snow, William Farr, Charles Booth and Florence Nightingale, all of whom were truly pioneering in their communication of complex datasets throughout the 19th Century. A more recent and less well-known contribution to their legacy is the “Atlas of London and the London Region”, which takes pride of place in my office. Published in 1968 by Emrys Jones and Daniel Sinclair, it is a box containing 70 maps – each nearly a metre wide – that depict everything from London’s topography to the growth of the city and its overcrowded households. The atlas was six years in the making and the work required to produce it without widespread digital mapping tools must have been enormous.

Map 7 from the “Atlas of London and London Region” showing the growth of London since 1800.

Map 7 from the “Atlas of London and London Region” showing the growth of London since 1800.

Inspired by London’s visualisation pioneers London: The Information Capital is a new book that I produced with designer Oliver Uberti. Although it is more modest in terms of its physical dimensions, its 20 million data points are a reflection of a wealth of data that simply did not exist in Jones and Sinclair’s day. The variety of topics that Oliver and I were able to explore – from commuter flows to Londoners’ binge drinking habits – is the result of the volume of freely available data covering all aspects of London life. For example, we had easy access to everything from the UK’s 2011 Census to Transport for London performance data and Ambulance call-outs. London: The Information Capital benefitted not just from their existence but also from the easy-to-analyse format in which they are shared.

Open data initiatives now exist in other cities, but London continues to be a pioneer in the creation and dissemination of its data, to the advantage of those who live here. Indeed, the volume of data made freely available, supplemented by the likes of social media and those obtainable through Freedom of Information requests (FOIs), inspired the book’s title. By saying that London is the Information Capital we are challenging other cities to match the great work conducted by the likes of the London Datastore.

Commuter flows into London, taken from the 2011 Census.

Commuter flows into London, taken from the 2011 Census.

We are not suggesting London has done all it can to improve access to data. Many more datasets could be made open, while others could be made easier to find among the lists of files.

Moreover, datasets in their raw form require high-level skills to turn them into usable information: in this sense, increasing data provision is by no means the same as increasing data access. That said, moves to increased accessibility are already being made, with the likes of “dashboards” offering accessible snapshots to key trends in the data behind them and interactive maps that can show patterns without the need for number crunching. By offering a series of new data portraits, we hope that London: The Information Capital adds to these developments and offers some new perspectives on an old city.

Improving R Data Visualisations Through Design

When I start an R class, one of my opening lines is nearly always that the software is now used by the likes of the New York Times graphics department or Facebook to manipulate their data and produce great visualisations. After saying this, however, I have always struggled to give tangible examples of how an R output blossoms into a stunning and informative graphic. That is until now…

I spent the past year working hard with an amazing designer – Oliver Uberti – to create a book of 100+ maps and graphics about London. The majority of graphics we produced for London: The Information Capital required R code in some shape or form. This was used to do anything from simplifying millions of GPS tracks, to creating bubble charts or simply drawing a load of straight lines. We had to produce a graphic every three days to hit the publication deadline so without the efficiencies of copying and pasting old R code, or the flexibility to do almost any kind of plot, the book would not have been possible.  So for those of you out there interested in the process of creating great graphics with R, here are 5 graphics shown from the moment they came out of R to the moment they were printed.

commute_flows_before_after
This graphic shows the origin-destination flows of commuters in Southern England. In R I used the geom_segment() command from the brilliant ggplot2 package to draw slightly transparent white lines between the centroids of the origins and destinations. I thought my R export looked pretty good on black, but we then imported it into Adobe Illustrator and Oliver applied a series of additional transparency effects to the lines to make them glow against the dark blue background (a colour we use throughout the book).
day_night_before_after
This is a crop from a graphic we produced to show the differences between the daytime and nighttime population of London (we are showing nighttime here). It copies the code I used to produce my Population Lines print, but Oliver went to the effort of manually cleaning the edges of the plot (I couldn’t work out how to automatically clip the lines in ggplot2!) by following the red-line I over-plotted. Colours were tweaked and labels added, all in Illustrator.
treasures_before_after
One of my favourite graphics in the book shows the number if pieces of work by each artist in the Tate galleries.  We can only show a small section here, but full-sized it looks spectacular as it features a Turner painting at its centre. The graphic started life as a treemap that simply scaled the squares by the number of artists. R has a very easy to use treemap() function in the treemap package. Oliver then painstakingly broke the exported graphic to bits, converted the squares to picture frames and arranged them on “the wall”.
cycle_before_after
This map, showing cyclists in London by time of day, was created from code similar to this graphic. It is an example where very little needed to be done to plot once exported – we only really needed to add the River Thames (this could have been done in R), some labels and then optimise the colours for printing. Hundreds of thousands of line segments are plotted here and the graphic is an excellent illustration of R’s power to plot large volumes of data.
relationship_status_before_after
The graphic above (full size here) has been the most popular from the book so far. It takes 2011 Census data and maps people by marital status as well as showing the absolute numbers as a streamgraph. ggplot2 was used to create both the maps and the plot. We stuck to the exported colours for the maps and then manually edited the streamgraph colours. The streamgraph was created with the geom_ribbon() function in ggplot2.
london_inspired_before_after

All the graphics shown so far started life as databases containing, as a minimum, several thousand rows of data. In this final example we show a “small data” example – the lives of 100 Londoners who have earned a blue plaque on one of London’s buildings. The data were manually compiled with each person having 3 attributes against their name: the age they lived to, the age when they created their most significant work, the period of their life they lived in London. Thanks to ggplot2 I was able to use the code below to generate the coarse looking plot above. Oliver could then take this and flip it before restyling and adding labels in Illustrator. They key thing here was that a couple of lines of code in R saved a day of manually drawing lines.

#We order by age of when the person started living in London, this is the order field.

ggplot(Data,aes(order,origin))+geom_segment(aes(xend=order, yend=Age))+geom_segment(aes(x=order,y=st_age, xend=order, yend=end_age), col="red")+geom_segment(aes(x=order,y=st_age2, xend=order, yend=end_age2), col="yellow")+ coord_polar()

 

Purchase London: The Information Capital.

DataShine Update

Back in June Oliver O’Brien and I launched an interactive census map called DataShine. It has been hugely successful with a core of regular users in addition to many visitors passing who want to learn more about their area or a specific dataset. As we said back in June, the website is a work in progress so we are always looking to add new features. Two of these – local area rescaling of the colour key and data download – were launched recently at the UK Data Service‘s Census Research User Conference hosted by the Royal Statistical Society. Both are in response to people’s need to zoom in and look at particular patterns for their area without worrying about other parts of the country. Census data can also be tricky to find if you don’t know all the codes or table structures so we hope that offering simple access via the map will help users a lot. So next time you use DataShine look out for the buttons highlighted below…

datashine_new_features

To learn more about these features, in particular the local area rescaling see our blog post here.

London: The Information Capital

TheInformationCapital_cover_500px

TheInformationCapital_cover_500px

London has been home to many great cartographers and has been the subject of many stunning maps that depict all aspects of life in the city.  Drawing inspiration from these and capitalising on the huge volumes of data now available, I have spent the past year working with designer Oliver Uberti to create a collection of maps and graphics entitled London: The Information Capital. We asked ourselves questions such as

Which borough of London is the happiest? 

Where are the city’s tweeting hot spots?  

How many animals does the fire brigade save each year? 

Which London residents have left their mark on history?

Where are London’s most haunted houses (and pubs)?

What makes London the information capital?

and sought to answer them through data visualisation. The book contains over 100 full-colour spreads alongside some brief essays to introduce each of the 5 broad themes – Where we are, Who we are, Where we go, How we’re doing and What we like.

Oliver Uberti and I worked closely with our publisher Particular Books (part of Penguin) to create a book that was a beautiful as it could be. Inside you’ll find some graphics with transparent overlays for before/ after comparisons, binding that minimises the impact of the centre fold and page dimensions tailored to the shape of London. All this showcases everything from watercolours of London’s protected vistas, 24 hours of shipping in the Thames Estuary and London’s data DNA. You can find out more here or pick up a copy on Amazon now or in all good bookshops from the 30th.

There are also a couple events taking place to mark the launch of the book. Find out more here.

home_work_print

London’s Sites of Medical Interest 1913

V0012883_web

V0012883_webPublished in 1913 (and available to download from the Wellcome Library) this series of intriguing maps depict London’s “sites of medical interest”.  It looks like they have been marked on top of a Bacon & Co map of London and they provide a fascinating insight into the large numbers of medical museums and institutions that exist(ed) in the capital. I’d be interested to find out if these maps were available for purchase and who would be buying them – perhaps they were produced to encourage early medical tourism in London. The map above covers central London. But there are also maps for Paddington…V0012882_webKensington…

V0012881_web

…and Victoria/ Vauxhall.

V0012880_web

London: The Information Capital

printed_book

I am pleased announce that London: The Information Capital will be published on the 30th October. It is a book bursting with maps and graphics about the world’s greatest city and the result of a year of intense work with designer Oliver Uberti. Inspired by London’s design, mapping and visualisation pioneers (think Booth, Snow, Beck) we have sought to paint a contemporary portrait of the city through its abundance of open data. We asked ourselves questions such as

Which borough of London is the happiest? 

Where are the city’s tweeting hot spots?  

How many animals does the fire brigade save each year? 

Which London residents have left their mark on history?

Where are London’s most haunted houses (and pubs)?

What makes London the information capital?

and sought to answer them through data visualisation. The book contains over 100 full-colour spreads alongside some brief essays to introduce each of the 5 broad themes – Where we are, Who we are, Where we go, How we’re doing and What we like.

We worked closely with our publisher Particular Books (part of Penguin) to create a book that was a beautiful as it could be. Inside you’ll find some graphics with transparent overlays for before/ after comparisons, binding that minimises the impact of the centre fold and page dimensions tailored to the shape of London. All this showcases everything from water colours of London’s protected vistas, 24 hours of shipping in the Thames Estuary and London’s data DNA. You can find out more here or pick up a copy on Amazon.

home_work_print

Planning and the Great Fire

M0012069_web

M0012069_web

The Wellcome Image Library contains a number of interesting maps of London that are all free to use. I recently spotted a couple relating to the Great Fire of London. The map above is entitled “Map of London and Westminster before the Fire of London” and was created by P.S Walter and published in 1889. It shows the extent of London prior to the 1666 fire and remains recognisable to this day. If Christopher Wren, however, had been able to implement his plans for post-fire reconstruction of London the map above would not be at all familiar to present day Londoners. The map below, published in 1845 by John Haygarth, shows the “Wren plan” as dashed lines overlaid onto the Victorian street network for the City of London. M0003253_web

Mapped: Journeys to Work

journey_to_work_web

Today the Office for National Statistics released the long awaited journey to work data collected by the 2011 Census in England and Wales. Here it is in all its glory. En masse you can really see the dominance of London in the South East as well as the likes of Manchester, Liverpool and Birmingham further north. If you want to pick out specific flows between areas you can use our “Commute.DataShine” tool developed by Oliver O’Brien.

Welcome to DataShine!

Datashine

Last October I was fortunate enough to be awarded an ESRC “Future Research Leaders” grant. These run for up to 3 years and offer the opportunity for early career researchers to focus on their research interests and personal development activities. My area of interest is the analysis and visualisation of large-scale and open demographic datasets, so the project is called Big Open Data: Mining and Synthesis (BODMAS).

The first output from the project is now ready and was developed with Oliver O’Brien. It’s called DataShine: Census and is a mapping platform for the key 2011 Census variables in England and Wales. Oliver has implemented a number of technical innovations to produce maps that are slick and seamlessly switch between geographies as you zoom. You can have custom colour palettes and even export high-resolution PDFs (go easy on this though, as it is hard work for the server!).

For more details about the project see here. It is still a work in progress with more functionality on the way so please sign up for updates or get in touch if you have any suggestions.

Front Page of the British Medical Journal

bmj_cover

Oliver O’Brien and I have managed to sneak a map on the front page of this week’s issue of the British Medical Journal. The graphic shows the modelled flows of bikes between docking stations and accompanies a paper on the positive health effects of the Boris Bike cycle scheme in London. The trick it seems was to make the cycle flows look as much like veins as possible…

 

Front Page of the British Medical Journal

bmj_cover

Oliver O’Brien and I have managed to sneak a map on the front page of this week’s issue of the British Medical Journal. The graphic shows the modelled flows of bikes between docking stations and accompanies a paper on the positive health effects of the Boris Bike cycle scheme in London. The trick it seems was to make the cycle flows look as much like veins as possible…

 

Front Page of the British Medical Journal

bmj_cover

Oliver O’Brien and I have managed to sneak a map on the front page of this week’s issue of the British Medical Journal. The graphic shows the modelled flows of bikes between docking stations and accompanies a paper on the positive health effects of the Boris Bike cycle scheme in London. The trick it seems was to make the cycle flows look as much like veins as possible…

 

Stunning Maps of World Topography

world_bathy1

Robin Edwards, a researcher at UCL CASA, has created these stunning topographic maps using the high resolution elevation data provided by the British Oceanographic Data Centre. The transitions from black (high areas) to blue (low areas) give the maps a slightly ethereal appearance to dramatic effect.

europeAll but the highest areas of Europe appear to blend into the sea, and there is a loss in the sense of scale that makes the Pacific ranges look like small water channels in a shallow sea.

pacific-ranges

The best thing about these graphics (and the main reason I have featured them here) is that they were completely produced using the R software program with just a 3 lines of code! Click here to see how Robin did it.

 

 

Coxcomb Plots and Spiecharts in R

r_spiechart

I am not a great fan of pie charts since they are often used for the sake of it in circumstances where a chart is not needed at all! That said, I am willing to make an exception for “Coxcomb Plots” as pioneered by Florence Nightingale since they increase the data density on the plot and can enable comparisons across variables.  Robin Lovelace has written a neat tutorial on how to create them in R, I think it’s well worth a look. He and I also recently posted this ggplot2 and spatial data tutorial, and we have more on the way!

Introduction to Spatial Data and ggplot2

spatial_ggplot2

For those starting out with spatial data in R, Robin Lovelace and I have prepared this tutorial (funded as part of the University of Leeds and UCL Talisman project). Here we introduce a range of analysis skills before demonstrating how you can deploy the powerful graphics capabilities of ggplot2 to visualise your results. There is also some “bonus” material at the end to show how you can use ggplot2 for descriptive statistics and so on. The tutorial covers:

-Introduction to ggplot2

-Map projections

-Adding Google and Stamen basemaps

-Clipping and joining spatial data

-Aggregating spatial data

-ggplot2 for descriptive statistics

Download the data you need from here.

This is a work in progress so we may add improvements as time goes on. We also have a few more tutorials in the pipeline that will be posted here in due course.

 

The Ultimate Christmas List for Map Lovers

Santa-Flight-Plan-Map

It is about this time of year that I get asked if I want anything in particular for Christmas. So for others in the same position, or if you are searching for a gift for a map obsessed loved one, here is my ultimate Christmas wish list. Most of these items are things I have asked for in the past, or purchased myself, so I know they are must haves for map lovers!

Accessories

map_wrapping

Starting with the last job first, this Map wrapping paper and Subway map packing tape offer the perfect way of presenting your gifts. It is worth noting, the paper is really nice quality and comes in loads of different variations.

tube_map_packing

 

map_fridge

I was given these Map Fridge Magnets last year and they make for a nice stocking filler.

Prints

population_lines_sml

This Population Lines print is one I have produced showing world population density. Each A2 print is produced with vegetable-based inks on 170 gsm 100% recycled Cyclus Offset paper. This is slightly off-white and does a great job of producing crisp lines and giving the print a quality feel. I have signed and numbered each print for this first print run. If you would like to own a copy please click below.


londonmaroon1

This Typographic Tube map is produced for a range of cities, converting their transportation maps into beautiful text.

axis_san_fran

Keeping with the typographic theme, Axis Maps have created these detailed city maps using nothing but text. Like the prints above, they look great either framed or pinned to a wall.

original_animal-map-of-the-world-for-children

A love of maps should be instilled from an early age and this Animal Map is a great way to do it. It comes in a range of formats.

Books

aroundtheworld_side

Gestalten produce really high quality books and Around the World: The Atlas for Today is no exception. It comes in full colour and contains a wealth of interesting maps and graphics about our contemporary world.

cartographies_of_time

Cartographies of Time is probably the most technical book on this list but it is incredibly well produced and is packed full of the amazing ways that time has been portrayed in graphics. With the wealth of information graphics currently being produced it serves as a nice reminder of the ways advanced graphics could be produced with pen and paper.

onthemap

On the Map offers a nice run-through of the history of cartography and mapping. Its a good gift for someone who isn’t a mapping fanatic but has a general interest in such things.

cover_ju_information_graphics_1203151205_id_479916

Information Graphics is a giant book from Taschen and contains hundreds of great data visualisations- many of them maps. It’s size means that you can appreciate the detail of the graphics included, and the book is full of inspiration for cartographers/ designers.

Paula_Scher

Paula Scher: Maps collates the many hand-drawn maps created by Paula Scher. The maps cover many major cities and offer fresh perspectives on them and the book looks great on a coffee table.

Times_Atlas

 

Why not go seriously old-school with a Times Atlas. Full of classic cartography and great images, these aren’t yet ready to be forgotten at the hands of Google Earth!

Have I missed anything? Add your suggestions to the comments.

Climate Change and the State of Science

This is a really nice video funded by the UN Foundation and produced by the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme and Globaia. It combines a range of impressive data visualisations depicting the human impacts on our environment with a clear commentary. The result is a powerful communication of the most significant statements in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) recent Fifth Assessment Report, (Working Group I summary for policymakers, the Physical Science Basis). It is also an excellent example of the ways in which many of the developments in data visualisation are being harnessed to inform both the public and policy makers about significant issues.

Climate Change and the State of Science

This is a really nice video funded by the UN Foundation and produced by the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme and Globaia. It combines a range of impressive data visualisations depicting the human impacts on our environment with a clear commentary. The result is a powerful communication of the most significant statements in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) recent Fifth Assessment Report, (Working Group I summary for policymakers, the Physical Science Basis). It is also an excellent example of the ways in which many of the developments in data visualisation are being harnessed to inform both the public and policy makers about significant issues.

Cinematic Mapping

I recently posted a great visualisation showing 24 hours of shipping in the Baltic. I liked it for its cinematic appeal (was a bit less keen on the music though), and said that such work goes a long way to broaden the appeal of data visualisation. 422 are the masters of this art, producing a great number of innovative visualisations for TV programmes around the world. I first saw their work on the “Britain from Above” series shown on the BBC and have been amazed at what they have been able to produce ever since. The video above is a montage of some of their projects. Enjoy!

Cinematic Mapping

I recently posted a great visualisation showing 24 hours of shipping in the Baltic. I liked it for its cinematic appeal (was a bit less keen on the music though), and said that such work goes a long way to broaden the appeal of data visualisation. 422 are the masters of this art, producing a great number of innovative visualisations for TV programmes around the world. I first saw their work on the “Britain from Above” series shown on the BBC and have been amazed at what they have been able to produce ever since. The video above is a montage of some of their projects. Enjoy!

Mapping Where We Live

Showing where we live is, of course, one of the oldest and most useful reasons to create a map. As we bask in the “Big Data” era, the trend for mapping population is increasing simply because there are more data points out there, the bulk of which are generated by people. Population distribution is important because, as xkcd wittily illustrates, if you were to map these points without accounting for it you often just get a population density map. xkcd_heatmapOr worse still, you think you are creating a map that represents the whole world, but instead you only get the parts of  it where people are connected to the internet. Such maps are considered unsurprising by many (in spite of their hype) because simple maps of raw counts rarely offer surprising insights in the phenomena the map is trying to articulate. For examples of this there are some great maps (and data) of Wikipedia entries vs population density here.

For this post, however, I want to ignore the many new datasets out there to pick out some of my favourite maps that intentionally show where we live.  I equate mapping population to trying to take an original picture of the Taj Mahal or the Statue of Liberty – so many people have done it before that it is very hard to produce something that offers an unseen view or perspective. The maps below have done just that (for me at least) and offer an important reminder of where the bulk of the world’s population reside – many of whom are forgotten by the representations of “Big Data” we in the “West”  are now becoming accustomed to. population_lines_sml The first map (above) one I produced from NASA’s population grid. It shows population density by line of latitude. When I saw it plot for the first time I was amazed at how effectively it captured the key headlines of the world’s population distribution (most people live in cities, and there are lots of them in Asia). It was designed as a print for sale and also to be the front cover of this years Royal Geographical Society’s Annual Conference with the theme “Geographical Frontiers”. I felt the spikes on the map above represented the many new frontiers that exist within our growing cities – geography is no longer about exploring the natural environment.

The map below entitled Dencity was produced by Fathom Information Design and uses a similar gridded dataset to the one above. Instead of lines, they have used coloured circles of different sizes to show population density. Even though their use of the Mercator projection has expanded the northern areas where few people live and squashed the more densely populated areas nearer the equator, the map still offers a dramatic representation of world population. The use of different sized circles really adds to the “dens(c)ity” effect. dencity-640

An often quoted line from Jacques Bertin is that “great design tends towards simplicity” and this is a concept that has become fundamental to the principles of cartographic design. The map below captures this perfectly. It was produced by Derek Watkins but is an interactive recreation of “Islands of Mankind” by Bill Bunge. Its message is the same as the two above but it has only used black and white to communicate it. dwatkins_islands

 

This next map is not a cartographic masterpiece by any means but it is a great example of how a map can create a powerful headline that alters our perceptions of the world (it certainly did mine).half_humanity

And if you wondered how so many people can fit in such a small area, take a look at these maps of “residential urban density” produced by LSECities. They clearly show that cities, such as London, have a long way to go if they are to match the likes of Shanghai and Hong Kong in terms of high density living.

lse_cities_density

Mapping Where We Live

Showing where we live is, of course, one of the oldest and most useful reasons to create a map. As we bask in the “Big Data” era, the trend for mapping population is increasing simply because there are more data points out there, the bulk of which are generated by people. Population distribution is important because, as xkcd wittily illustrates, if you were to map these points without accounting for it you often just get a population density map. xkcd_heatmapOr worse still, you think you are creating a map that represents the whole world, but instead you only get the parts of  it where people are connected to the internet. Such maps are considered unsurprising by many (in spite of their hype) because simple maps of raw counts rarely offer surprising insights in the phenomena the map is trying to articulate. For examples of this there are some great maps (and data) of Wikipedia entries vs population density here.

For this post, however, I want to ignore the many new datasets out there to pick out some of my favourite maps that intentionally show where we live.  I equate mapping population to trying to take an original picture of the Taj Mahal or the Statue of Liberty – so many people have done it before that it is very hard to produce something that offers an unseen view or perspective. The maps below have done just that (for me at least) and offer an important reminder of where the bulk of the world’s population reside – many of whom are forgotten by the representations of “Big Data” we in the “West”  are now becoming accustomed to. population_lines_sml The first map (above) one I produced from NASA’s population grid. It shows population density by line of latitude. When I saw it plot for the first time I was amazed at how effectively it captured the key headlines of the world’s population distribution (most people live in cities, and there are lots of them in Asia). It was designed as a print for sale and also to be the front cover of this years Royal Geographical Society’s Annual Conference with the theme “Geographical Frontiers”. I felt the spikes on the map above represented the many new frontiers that exist within our growing cities – geography is no longer about exploring the natural environment.

The map below entitled Dencity was produced by Fathom Information Design and uses a similar gridded dataset to the one above. Instead of lines, they have used coloured circles of different sizes to show population density. Even though their use of the Mercator projection has expanded the northern areas where few people live and squashed the more densely populated areas nearer the equator, the map still offers a dramatic representation of world population. The use of different sized circles really adds to the “dens(c)ity” effect. dencity-640

An often quoted line from Jacques Bertin is that “great design tends towards simplicity” and this is a concept that has become fundamental to the principles of cartographic design. The map below captures this perfectly. It was produced by Derek Watkins but is an interactive recreation of “Islands of Mankind” by Bill Bunge. Its message is the same as the two above but it has only used black and white to communicate it. dwatkins_islands

 

This next map is not a cartographic masterpiece by any means but it is a great example of how a map can create a powerful headline that alters our perceptions of the world (it certainly did mine).half_humanity

And if you wondered how so many people can fit in such a small area, take a look at these maps of “residential urban density” produced by LSECities. They clearly show that cities, such as London, have a long way to go if they are to match the likes of Shanghai and Hong Kong in terms of high density living.

lse_cities_density

Open Data as Art: Data Windows

datawindows

Ollie O’Brien and I have just dropped off our invited artwork to the  10X10 “Drawing the City London” project run by the building design charity Article 25. We are amongst a number of (much higher profile) contributors who have donated works to be auctioned on behalf of the charity in November to raise funds for the charity’s projects. The works will also be exhibited beforehand (keep an eye here for details).

In spite of an increasing range of more abstract art and print projects on the go,  Ollie and I chose to play to our strengths by producing several maps from the 2011 Census. These covered East London since it was the project’s area of focus this year. The resulting artwork is completely based on open data (and was almost entirely produced with opensource software (QGIS)), licensed under the Open Government Licence.

 

A single physical copy was printed directly onto white canvas (thanks to Miles Irving at the Drawing Office in UCL Geography). Let’s hope it catches the bidders’ attention!

 

Open Data as Art: Data Windows

datawindows

Ollie O’Brien and I have just dropped off our invited artwork to the  10X10 “Drawing the City London” project run by the building design charity Article 25. We are amongst a number of (much higher profile) contributors who have donated works to be auctioned on behalf of the charity in November to raise funds for the charity’s projects. The works will also be exhibited beforehand (keep an eye here for details).

In spite of an increasing range of more abstract art and print projects on the go,  Ollie and I chose to play to our strengths by producing several maps from the 2011 Census. These covered East London since it was the project’s area of focus this year. The resulting artwork is completely based on open data (and was almost entirely produced with opensource software (QGIS)), licensed under the Open Government Licence.

 

A single physical copy was printed directly onto white canvas (thanks to Miles Irving at the Drawing Office in UCL Geography). Let’s hope it catches the bidders’ attention!

 

The Next Big Spill Animation

This stunning animation (complete with a dramatic soundtrack) shows one day of shipping in the Baltic Sea. It is a great example of the use of data visualisation to make a political (or in this case environmental) point. I think there are many more datasets out there worthy of being given a cinematic treatment in this way and these could stand to reach wider audiences than the more technical graphics we often produce from transportation data.

The Next Big Spill Animation

This stunning animation (complete with a dramatic soundtrack) shows one day of shipping in the Baltic Sea. It is a great example of the use of data visualisation to make a political (or in this case environmental) point. I think there are many more datasets out there worthy of being given a cinematic treatment in this way and these could stand to reach wider audiences than the more technical graphics we often produce from transportation data.