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.

Map Evolution 2

Over the summer, a friend asked me to put together a map of Punta Gorda, a small coastal town in the country of Belize. He works for Hillside Health Care International, a non-profit organization providing medical care in that area. The map was needed to help orient and guide volunteer health care professionals visiting from the States while serving at the clinic. It was to be printed in color on a letter-sized page.

In talking with my friend, I knew right away that the biggest obstacle was going to be getting good local data for the map (and getting it for free, because there was no money set aside for the project). Most importantly, I needed data for local roads (locations and names) and point features (hotels, government buildings, grocery stores, banks, etc.), these being the two main pieces he wanted clinic volunteers to have at their disposal.


Indiemapper Launches April 12th, 2010

After months and months of non-stop design and development, the release of indiemapper is imminent. We're all palpably excited about this product and can't wait to get it in everyone's hands. Thanks to everyone who has provided their invaluable expertise and enthusiasm along the way.

We'll be spending the next 12 days fine-tuning indiemapper for launch. You can head over to for full details. Also, be sure to follow @axismaps on twitter as we start to introduce you to all the new stuff we've been working on.

Without further delay, I'd like to present to you an introduction to indiemapper:

Ed Parsons dislikes cartographers, "more than anyone in the world"

The title was one of the opening statements made by Google's "technology evangelist" Ed Parsons in a recent talk for the British Computer Society. In the talk he argues traditional street maps are bad (all of them) because they fail to engender a sense of place and because they abstract the world using map symbols. He goes on to say Streetview is good and doesn't suffer any of these problems. So is Google Earth. The take-home message is that 2D is bad! Maps symbols are bad! Photos are good! And paper is bad! [subtext: Google doesn't make paper, but if we did, we might soften our stance].

Here is my concern: I'm not aware of any research to support such simplistic claims. Merely saying them, repeatedly, doesn't make them true. The wayfinding research that I have seen shows that for some users, for some map reading tasks, yes, absolutely Streetview and Virtual Earths and geo-tagged photos can help. And for some users and some situations paper is better than pixels. And for some users, and some kinds of data, 2D is better than 3D. But none of those statements is a blanket truth and by outright rejecting all traditional maps in his talk--even if just for wayfinding on mobile devices--an otherwise solid argument is overshadowed by hyperbole.


Visualizing Indieprojector

In case you haven't seen it over on the indiemapper blog, this is a composite view of all the data loaded into indieprojector since it was launched earlier this summer.


[Cartogrammar] Simple shapefile drawing in ActionScript 3

Need a quick and easy way to get shapefiles into your AS3 project? Fear not! Over on his blog, Andy has posted a set of supplemental classes to Edwin van Rijkom's SHP code library. It's a simple solution that will help you get from data to interactive map faster than ever.

Link: Simple shapefile drawing in ActionScript 3 (via Cartogrammar)

Data Probing and Info Window Design on Web-based Maps

Info windows are the familiar pop-up balloons that often appear when interacting with features on a map. This activity is generally called data probing. For example, click on a Google Maps marker and up comes a little bubble with information about the place. The uses for data probing are seemingly limitless, ranging from the retrieval of map-based comments, annotations, and descriptions of 'what's here?', to map stats and info graphics, to map use instructions (e.g., "get directions"), explanations (e.g., "group of 3 markers"), and controls (e.g., "zoom here"), to alternate map views (e.g., an historical map). All of this, of course, can come through in the form of text, photos, audio, and video.

Data probing is essential. In one sense, its needed because we've got tons of data about the world, but just small, low-resolution computer screens to view it all on. Like a drop-down list or an accordion menu on a Web page, data probing is a design compromise that can save space on maps. In another sense, however, data probing is an important design decision that can help direct map readers' attention and understanding from the general to the specific by offering details on demand. Without data probing, we'd either have crazy-cluttered maps or watered-down maps not taking advantage of all of that rich data out there.

Of course, data probing is everywhere outside of mapping as well; on charts, graphs and all sorts of other info graphics. But here I focus on Web maps, specifically on info window design, and outline some major design considerations and provide a few examples that could help inspire your next effort.


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 ideas in terrain mapping for cyclists


I live with a couple of cyclists, who spend many of their summer days out on the trails west and south of Madison. A few months ago, one of them asked me to make a bike map for him, pointing out what he felt was a shortcoming of the ones available to him: it's hard to figure out where the hills are. This is particularly critical if you ride in places like the Driftless Area, as my roomates do. A map showing you where to turn and which roads have wide shoulders and low auto traffic is very useful, but it doesn't tell you how rough the next hill is going to be.

Figure 1: The above is a draft of one of my first attempts, in this case depicting a particular ride that one of my roommates hopes to participate in this summer. click to see fullsize Figure 1: The above is a draft of one of my first attempts, in this case depicting a particular ride that one of my roommates hopes to participate in this summer. click to see fullsize Read more...

[Cartogrammar] Accidental map projections

If you want to make an omelette, you're going to have to break some eggs, and if you want to code geographic projections, you're going to have to bend the world. Here's a look at the Axis Maps blooper reel courtesy of Cartogrammar developer Andy Woodruff's blog. Enjoy!

Link: Accidental map projections (via Cartogrammar)

Azimuthal Redux