OS VectorMap® District v1.0 released

FigBLast night OS VectorMap® District v1.0 was officially released by Ordnance Survey. I have been involved in the VectorMap project since its conception many years ago and am still heavily involved today. I am very proud of this release and with what my colleagues and I have achieved with the cartography.

The improvement to the product since the alpha release has been very impressive and the new version, the first full release of OS VectorMap District, has been built from the very latest version of Ordnance Survey’s multi-resolution database. The product is available as vector (GML or shapefile) or raster (GeoTIFF). The vector offering is supported by stylesheets in the form of Layer files for esri ArcGIS and styled layer descriptor (SLD) files – coming Monday! – for web mapping and some GIS’. This means that users of any format can view the product in our contextual map styles, developed as part of a common styling project aimed at having cartographic consistency across our vector and raster-from-vector product portfolio.

Why two styles?

For increased consistency across our vector and raster-from-vector product range – which is all generated from the multi-resolution database, we developed a consistent map style to cover the whole scale range of our products. To provide for as many of our customer needs as possible we decided to create two versions. The full colour style is intended to be a complete map that works across all screen types and digital printers to provide context to geographic information. The backdrop style is intended to provide a base map for customers who wish to overlay their own geographic data onto the map. Both styles offer customers map hierarchy without using prime or pure colours, so even the full colour style will facilitate the addition of logos. Additionally the colour palette of the backdrop style offers a better context than practices such as converting raster to greyscale or applying a transparency.
The two colour palettes have been crafted by assigning colours to each feature, calculating their relative brightness and then repositioning each feature to the desired level within a hierarchy.

My own thoughts…

Yes we still have a few things to improve but something that often gets forgotten is where we have come from.
Although nearly all feedback was positive, some of my favourite feedback from the beta was actually the negative stuff: It’s not as detailed as an OS Explorer Map, where are the contours? The name of a river is badly positioned.

Well in answer to the first two of those, firstly the scale is arguably different to that of an Explorer Map as is the intended use. Secondly contours are available by adding Ordnance Survey’s height products (even in OS OpenData). However the third example comment is the kind of remark that pleases me the most!

The very fact that the odd badly-placed piece of text is the subject of comment tells me that we have done a very good job. OS VectorMap District is being compared in the same regard as any other Ordnance Survey map product that has gone before it. People like the accuracy and the cartography, and the very fact that the odd piece of text here and there is not perfectly cartograhically placed is in my opinion an absolute triumph. You see what people, especially here at OS, forget (or perhaps are not aware of) is that whereas an OS Explorer Map for example has many, many man hours of manual cartographic finishing, OS VectorMap District is almost entirely produced from both automated generalisation algorithms and automated cartography. This includes all of the text placement which is 100% controlled by Maplex. Even an esri sales rep would probably be wary of using such a complex dataset to showcase the ability of Maplex!

When we started this project, most of the data didn’t even exist! Sure we have 1:25 000 and 1:50 000 map products, but they are all raster-based systems. Furthermore, the automated cartography is about a lot more than just text. An mxd file is used to turn data from our database into the raster variant of the product. Beyond the cartographic development of that mxd, there is no cartographer in the actual production process. The raster simply makes itself! Although I should stress that we do have a team of experienced cartographers checking that output and to ensure we maintain cartograhic quality.

More information can be found in papers and posters being presented at the International Cartographic Conference in Dresden in August.

More information about the new release, OS VectorMap District v1.0, can be found here.

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