Help Wanted

Want to make some maps with us? We need some help with:

  1. Data production (GIS work, spreadsheet wrangling, etc)
  2. Back-end development (database production, PHP / node development)
  3. UI design
  4. Cartographic design
  5. Front-end development
  6. Non-mapping stuff (writing, testing, etc)

What we need

We’re looking for someone who can come and work with us (remotely) for the next month and help us with some of the things on that list. You tell us what you’re good at and we’ll figure out where you can help us the most. We’ve got lots of great projects going on right now and even more waiting in the wings so there’s lots of places you can fit in.

Ideally you’d be full time with us but we could work with as little as 20 hours a week as long as it’s scheduled. You’ll be working remotely and remote work experience is preferred. When it’s done, there’s the chance to extend the contract or come on with us permanently.


$3,000 for the month but that’s negotiable based on experience

How to apply

Send a cover letter and a link to your online portfolio to before 5pm on Friday, February 20th. Applications without an online portfolio won’t be considered. Any questions, please post in the comments below (so everyone can see the answers).

FatFonts World Population Map

We’re excited to announce that we’re bringing the work of some of our friends to the Axis Maps Store. We’ve always been interested in new ways to encode and represent data. Also, typography. We ♡ typography big time. It was both of these interests that lead us to the work of Miguel NacentaUta Hinrichs, and Sheelagh Carpendale and the FatFonts project. From their site:

Fatfonts are designed so that the amount of dark pixels in a numeral character is proportional to the number it represents. For example, “2″ has twice the ink than “1″, “8″ has two times the amount of dark ink than “4″ etc. You can see this easily in the set of characters below:

Blockfont onelevel cut1

This proportionality of ink is the main property of FatFonts. It allows us to create images of data where you can read the numbers, and represent tables that can be read as images (like the example below).


It’s a fantastic technique for cartographers (especially when making static maps) because the ink density allows you to see geographic patterns while the digits give you the exact values for each grid cells. This bi-visual technique essentially replicates an interactive data probe on a static map.

If you’re interested in using FatFonts in your own maps, you can download the font faces from the project home page.

The FatFonts World Map

If you want to get your hands on your very own FatFonts map, the World Population map is now available at the Axis Maps store. They were a natural fit and quantitative cousin to our typographic maps. Like the typographic maps, the FatFonts maps show the big picture from afar, but reveal their extensive detail as you move closer. From Miguel’s blog:

The poster is made using an equal area projection of the world, and it represents data collected by CIESIN and others. Each grid in the main map, which represents an area equivalent to 200 by 200 km has a 2-level digit FatFont digit in it. That way we can know, with a precision of 100,000 people, how many humans live there.

Since the number of dark pixels of a FatFont digit is proportional to the number that we are representing, we can calculate how many people each black pixel represents. For an A1 poster in the main area of the map at 600 pixels per inch, each pixel represents approximately 1880 people! FatFonts with the orange background are up by an order of magnitude, so there the ink of a pixel represents approx 18,000 people.

It’s a fascinating map that clearly illustrates how unevenly population is distributed across the globe. Particular areas of interest are highlighted and given higher-resolution treatment:


The FatFonts World Population map is now available from the Axis Maps store. All profits will be re-invested to fund more FatFonts research.

2nd edition of the Boston typographic map

It’s been five years since we first introduced our map of Boston. The popularity of that map started us down a course of typographic mapping that has since expanded to 11 cities. Given the special place that Boston has in our hearts, we felt it was well deserving of a redesign. And to prove just how much we love this city, we started from scratch. In other words, we started at the beginning with a blank canvas, imported a fresh copy of Open Street Map geography and place names, determined a new map extent and layout, and chose new fonts, colors, and character styles. The new Boston, 2nd edition poster is still 24 inches wide by 36 inches tall, but looks and feels dramatically different.

Boston 2nd ed. typographic map

Here are some of the most notable changes:

Extent and Map Scale

The 2nd edition covers a much larger area than the original version. We now include the entire city of Boston, plus a number of surrounding towns. Cambridge and Somerville are still present, of course, but we now extend farther north into Medford and Malden. The extension southward is even greater, covering the area all the way down to Dedham, Milton, and the Blue Hills Reservation.

Fitting more territory on the same-sized poster meant a smaller scale map, which in turn called for some design modifications. For example, because streets were crunched closer together at the new scale we reduced font sizes. The smallest text on the map is that of residential streets — now just 6pt in size. It’s still readable yet small enough to prevent excessive overlap in the denser parts of the city. We also removed the underlying neighborhoods layer that existed in the original version. Again, due to the smaller scale, it cluttered the map and was mostly buried by streets anyway.

Area Features

One of the most visually striking design changes was to the area features on the map, including water, parks and “institutions” (a catch all for universities, airports, or other important not-green areas). Solid color fills behind reversed-out white text gives them a bolder look, compared to the original map. Also, the high contrast between these areas and the white map background gives the map more definition overall and makes some features like small parks, narrow rivers, and jetties, easier to see. Achieving strong figure-ground contrast between land and other area features has always been a challenge with typographic mapping because there is only so much ink that a letter can hold. This method of treating areas with solid background fills seems to help the map visually and functionally while staying true to our aim of covering everything with text.

There are a couple of smaller changes worth noting, too:

Wavy water text

We’ve liked the wavy water text style ever since we first applied it to the Chicago map. Variation in text size, placement along curving paths that parallel one another, and the use of opacity masking to give the appearance of overlapping waves all come together to represent the flow and movement of water better than any other technique we know. We hope the redesigned water text in the 2nd edition map does the same.


Boston is famous for its major underground and underwater tunnels. The 2nd edition Boston map is the first to employ a text style specifically for tunnels. Where highway text goes subsurface, we simply reverse its fill and stroke color. For example, Interstate 90 is represented by purple text with a white stroke but where it becomes Ted Williams Tunnel it is reversed and becomes white text with a purple stroke. I can’t help but compare the bright white tunnel text to the bright lights of cars being turned on as they go beneath the surface.

Below are images of the two maps side by side, each covering an area that is approximately 13 by 13 inches on the printed poster. The 2nd ed. covers a lot more ground in the same amount of space, has a bolder look due in part to its color-filled areas, has wavy water text, and a couple of new headlight-style tunnels. Let’s say goodbye to the original Boston map and hello to the 2nd edition!

Boston 2nd ed. typographic map detail
Boston 2nd ed. typographic map detail
Original Boston typographic map detail
Original Boston typographic map detail

Four new typographic maps for summer 2012

Our typographic maps store took a little summer vacation last month and has now returned with some big postcards of the four cities it visited: London, Philadelphia, Seattle, and Minneapolis. Perhaps you’ll enjoy them yourself!


Our maps have ventured outside the US for the first time, to everyone’s favo(u)rite summer 2012 city. With that, we’ve launched a UK store for orders (pre-orders for the moment) there and internationally at The map is also available on the American side of the pond, of course.

London typographic map

London typographic map


Or celebrate American independence from London in the Cradle of Liberty. We’ve got Philly’s astoundingly dense network of streets and, of course, a nod to Rocky.

Philadelphia typographic map

Philadelphia typographic map


Grab your coffee and your 90s grunge music and head to the west coast. This watery Seattle map will show you where to hang out.

Seattle typographic map

Seattle typographic map


In the summer, enjoy the parks and lakes in this city on the upper reaches of the Mississippi River. In the harsh Minnesotan winter, wrap yourself in this map for warmth.

Minneapolis typographic map

Minneapolis typographic map

More maps are coming soon. Stay tuned!

New letterpress maps of San Francisco and Manhattan

San Francisco letterpress

Just a quick note to say that we’ve released several new limited edition letterpress prints in our typographic maps store. Check them out, and as always thanks to everyone for the feedback and encouragement in recent months!

San Francisco 2nd edition: This is a new design of the San Francisco letterpress map we made earlier this year, featuring waterlines for a new coastal style. Available in blue or black ink.

Manhattan: This is divided into two maps. A Lower and Midtown Manhattan shows the island from its southern end to 61st St, and Upper Manhattan features Central Park in an extent from 57th to 159th Street. Available in blue or black ink, and individually or paired together.

New typographic maps of Washington DC and New York

DC and NYC typographic maps

Earlier this month we launched our new store with two new typographic maps we had been working on since last autumn: Washington, DC and New York City (Manhattan). These 24×36 inch posters, along with the existing line of cities, are now done in super sharp detail as offset prints, and all are now found at the new store.

In addition to the new cities, we also released limited edition letterpress prints of San Francisco, which managed to sell out almost immediately. We’re now looking into future letterpress editions of this and other cities.

So if you haven’t checked it out yet, have a look at our typographic maps store and all five cities for sale:

As always, thanks to everyone for all the encouragement and support we’ve received for this project!

ColorBrewer 2.0 gets permalinks

Good news, we’ve improved the export options from ColorBrewer2.0. Starting today you’ll notice a new export option: permalink. This allows you to bookmark and share specific color schemes + number of classes without having to hunt around for them. For example, this will automatically open an 8-class red sequential scheme. Neat, huh?

If you have other ideas for ColorBrewer, drop us a note.

I’m pleased to announce we’ve launched! After 8 years, which is about 80 in web years, it was time to update and overhaul the much-loved ColorBrewer. I was lucky to be a co-designer on the original and with the Flex development talents of Andy Woodruff we were finally able to implement ideas that had been kicking around. This remains totally free and adds some new features that’ll make using this easier and faster.


New Features include:

1. EXPORT: We never really had this before and now you have four ways to get colors out of ColorBrewer: export Adobe ASE color swatches directly into Illustrator or Photoshop, copy and paste color specs, download an Excel file of specs, or even run ColorBrewer right inside ArcGIS (thanks to the folks at the NCS).

2. MILLIONS OF SPOT/ACCENT COLORS: You can now check any spot color against the schemes, not just the pre-defined 8 we use to include. For example, you can now see how well your specific company colors work against any scheme – just type in the hex/rgb/cmyk values and take them for a test drive.

3. FILTERING: You can now narrow your search and find what you’re looking for much faster using filtering by colorblind-safe, print friendly, and photocopy-able check boxes.

4. TRANSPARENCY: This one was much requested, especially by folks who wanted to preview how well the color schemes worked on mash-up tiles and terrain/hillshading. This one was tough becuase the quality guarantee (and testing) behind the schemes was done with fully opaque colors and white backgrounds. So be carefully not to assume that the schemes will work as well once you start changing their opacity and merge them with other map layers, but if you are cautious (e.g., 3 or 4 colors) it may work for your needs.

One of our core ideas of our company is that we can and should donate some a portion of our time to fun side projects. Updating ColorBrewer was just such a labor of love and we believe, deeply, in the need for tools to support the on-going democratization of cartography and also the need for good design in the world. Cheers!

[Indiemapper] Announcing: indieprojector

Today, we are pleased to announce the release of our free geographic projection and data conversion tool: indieprojector.

For indieprojector, we took three core indiemapper features:

  1. SHP / KML import
  2. Geographic projections
  3. SVG export

… and combined them into a single stand-alone web application. Indieprojector lets you load multiple SHP or KML files, reproject them to one of 11 geographic projections and export them to SVG for use in a vector graphics editing program. We’ve also included lots of information on each projection plus filtering tools to help you select the best projection for your individual project.

We’re very excited to be offering a preview of indiemapper before it’s release at the end of the summer and we hope indieprojector is useful for your day-to-day mapping work. Check out the indieprojector screencast and please take some time to give us some feedback and let us know what you think. We look forward to hearing from you.

Enjoy indieprojector!

UPDATE: A new version of indieprojector has been released which includes support for NetworkLink tags in KML, layer re-ordering and various minor UI and bug fixes.



Dear Map-Enthusiast,

We are very pleased to announce the launch of Indiemapper is a project that is very near and dear to our hearts. When we were starting as a company or even before that at the University of Wisconsin, we constantly talking about the tools available to us as cartographers. Talking might be putting it lightly… we were complaining.

The same things were coming up time and time again. Why is it so hard to make a simple map from digital data? Why did we need to keep PC’s around when all of our design work was done on Macs? Why was all the current software so expensive when we were only using 10% of its total functionality?

At the same time, we were building some great online tools built for cartography. Ben was building TypeBrewer to help map-makers understand and make better choices with typography. Mark had built ColorBrewer a few years earlier when he was back at Penn State. Dave was working on bringing usable UI controls to temporal and geographic visualization in BallotBank. These programs were built on expert content, usability and accessibility.  Why weren’t web-based tools like this available within a the map-making environment?

Flash forward to the spring of 2008. Indiemapper began as a proof-of-concept built by Andy and Zach Johnson during their free time. They wanted to see just how much of the cartographic capabilities of GIS could be moved online using Flash. As it turns out, quite a lot. Originally, we thought that this would be a great code repository from which we could draw ideas and code to build into maps we were making for clients. Then it all came together. Indiemapper was so close! Andy’s original work proved it could be done. We could finally build the application that we ourselves had been wanting for all these years!

Indiemapper is still in development and there’s a lot we’re still learning about the final product. We’re re-coding that original prototype from the ground up to make it robust enough for professional cartographers in a production environment. We’ve redesigned the UI and built in expert choices (colors from ColorBrewer, type from TypeBrewer, data classification, etc) to make it easy for novice map-makers to produce great looking maps quickly.

We know that there are lots of people like us who are frustrated by the current available tools because of their price or their functionality. We’re confident indiemapper is for you and will find a place in your mapping workflow.

Looking forward to making maps with you,

Axis Maps LLC