I’ve made a map! Okay I’m a cartographer, making maps is what I do, but like an artist it still excites me when a piece of work is finished.
After spending quite a few weeks at work creating code-based stylesheets for our web services, I wanted to do some more visual design and decided to design and create from scratch a printed map, something interesting that I could work on in my own time as well as at work.
I had various ideas, none of which I could find complete data for. With strong links to sections of the Eastern European community in Southampton, one such rejected idea was a map related to Eastern European culture – then it struck me, census data! The Office for National Statistics (ONS) released the 2011 Census data for England and Wales to data.gov.uk on 1st May 2013.
So I decided to take this data and produce a map of the residents born in EU accession countries – those EU member states that joined after March 2001 – as a percentage of district population. I would then add to this the most direct transport routes to and from these countries.
Immigration is a hot political topic at the moment but midway through the map’s creation I was buoyed by a Channel 4 news special filmed from one of the Polish Social Clubs in Southampton. It showed there to be great interest in not just immigration but in those from EU accession countries and their distribution around the country, i.e. my subject matter. Although I do confess I did start to fear that my exercise in cartographic design may be misconstrued as an alligence to UKIP!
I should start by admitting that I did have problems. I began, as I often do, mocking up what the data might look like, varying the class widths and break values in a GIS and choosing colours in an RGB colour space. I managed to pick a sequential colour palette of quite rich and bright lilacs which unfortunately was completely unmappable to a CMYK colour space. Not a single colour I had chosen had a vaguely equivalent CMYK representation.
Once working in CMYK, I did try manually to recreate something similar to my lilac colour palette but it lost its obvious hierarchical sequence. However the rest of the CartoDesign team seemed to like the palette of pastel pinks that I had ended up with so I decided to stick with these and just brighten them up a little.
So now we’re back in RGB for this post, my apologies if the map appears slightly duller and pinker than I had anticipated!
So as explained the choropleth uses 2011 Census data available from data.gov.uk. Airports are from Strategi® available from OS OpenData™ and manually filtered. Ferry routes have been manually added based loosely upon those in OpenStreetMap. Bathymetry has been created from GEBCO open data available from data.gov. Other countries’ land masses have come from polygons based upon the World Vector Shoreline, these have come from geocommons.com.
All of this has been brought together in ESRI ArcMap, the base map gradient created in Adobe Photoshop and then the combination exported to Adobe Illustrator.
In Illustrator I have modified colours, line weights and fonts, and added drop shadow. I have then added the infographic-like overlay of information based upon the census data which I pre-filtered in Microsoft Excel. The statistics and leaderlines were all added manually. The pie charts were created using Illustrator’s ‘Pie Graph Tool’.
The concept in summary has been to balance two ideas:
- To create a political-themed map with a neutral perspective, presenting the data without drawing any conclusions.
- To combine the best of small scale mapping techniques with those of currently in-fashion infographics.
I hope people like my work. I really wanted to do something with the census data and explore the two ideas above, but I guess most of all it has been an exercise in cartographic design.
I have submitted the map for entry into a few awards this Summer. Why don’t you test your cartographic design skills using freely available data and enter the OS OpenData Award in conjunction with the British Cartographic Society. The data is all available from the Ordnance Survey website, you don’t need to be a BCS member, you don’t necessarily need to be a cartographer (although it might help); you don’t even need to be British!