Posts Tagged ‘axis maps’

Value-by-Alpha Maps, Cartograms, and More (Cartogrammer)

Thursday, June 17th, 2010


[Editor's note: Best practices on accounting for area-distortions normally present in conformal map projections by using cartograms and value-by-alpha alternatives. Check out the paper. Thanks ChartPorn!]

Republished from Cartogrammer.

The latest issue of the The Cartographic Journal (of the British Cartographic Society) contains a paper written by Robert Roth, me, and Zachary Johnson entitled “Value-by-alpha Maps: An Alternative Technique to the Cartogram.” The value-by-alpha map is something I have touched on here several times over the past year and a half (as has Zach on his blog), and about which I spoke at last year’s NACIS conference in Sacramento. With the publication of this paper, it’s high time I explained what it’s all about.

Value-by-alpha maps (hereafter shortened to VBA), like everything noble and good, have their roots in somebody complaining about something on the internet—me, about election cartograms. Seeking an alternative to what I think are ugly and unreadable election results cartograms, I worked with my Axis Maps dudes to create a 2008 U.S. election map that used transparency rather than size to vary the visual impact of map units, thinking that avoiding the distortion of these units into unrecognizable sizes and shapes would make the map easier to read.

Rob Roth, a stellar Ph.D. candidate and shameless county collector at Penn State (studying under The Beard himself, the illustrious Alan MacEachren) became interested in further developing the idea academically and enlisted my Axis Maps partner and radical raw milk zealot Zach Johnson (who wrote his master’s thesis on cartograms) and I to collaborate on the now-published Cartographic Journal article. We were all graduate students at Madison together once upon a time, and we make a good team—striking a perfect balance between study, practice, and chili-eating.

Enough backstory. I’ll summarize at moderate length the idea and what we wrote.

Continue reading at Cartogrammer . . .

IndieProjector for KML and Shapefiles (IndieMapper)

Monday, June 1st, 2009




[Editor's note: The brilliant folks at AxisMaps have done it again with this free online tool for reprojecting KML and shapefiles.]

Republished from Axis Maps / IndieMapper.

Indieprojector is a free web service that re-projects digital map files and converts them to SVG for use in vector graphics editing software. Map projections are an essential part of map making but we found the existing tools to be too expensive, inflexible or complicated. Indieprojector is the smarter, easier, more elegant way to reproject and convert geographic data. It’s a preview of our indiemapper technology that will bring map-making into the 21st century using web-services and a realtime visual approach to cartographic design.

Read more and watch demo screencast . . .

Go directly to IndieProjector to reproject your KML and shapefiles . . .

Announcing IndieMapper (Axis Maps)

Tuesday, March 17th, 2009

[Editor's note: The same folks at Axis Maps who brought us Finder! and Maker! from GeoCommons (blog post) announce IndieMapper, a new tool for cartographers by cartographers to make awesome maps. When released (summer 2009?), this online, Flash-based solution will fill a nitch between full bore GIS systems and manual compilation in Illustrator. I hope they'll add an "embed this map" option for people who want to publish their maps straight to the web for their 2.0 release. Screenshots below.]

Republished from the Axis Maps IndieMapper blog.
Add yourself to their email list to get the 411 on the first release.

Note: David Heyman of Axis Maps was at SXSW Interactive 2009 this weekend in the NeoCartography: Mapping Design and Usability Evolved session.

Welcome to! We’re very excited that you’ve taken the time to learn about our project. Put your email address in the subscription box below so we can tell you about indiemapper developments and most importantly… the launch!

A little about indiemapper:

  1. It’s big. We’re not satisfied with the current tools available for making maps. They’re too expensive and their cartographic functionality doesn’t always give us everything we need. We’re building indiemapper to replace those tools. It takes in shapefiles and spits out a vector file to Illustrator, just like GIS. It supports multiple projections, just like GIS. Labeling, map layout, data classification, just like GIS. If you need it to make a map, it’s in there.
  2. It’s focused. The problem with the existing tools for making maps is that they aren’t designed exclusively for making maps. You’re only using about 10% of the software to make your map (but paying for all 100%). We built indiemapper for only one purpose: making maps.
  3. It’s visual. If I want to reclassify my data, why do I need to go into the map properties dialog box, select the symbology tab, click on the data classification button that opens up a new window, move the tabs around in that new window, click OK in the new window, click OK in the first window I opened and then wait for my map to redraw to see if the classification looks good? With indiemapper, every update is live and every control is easily accessible. No more hunting. No more waiting.
  4. It’s online. Updates are available as soon as they’re released. No more waiting for service packs or paying for upgrades. And Mac users: Get ready… we are 100% platform independent. Use it on a Mac, use it on Windows, even try out Linux (you might like it!)

I could go on and on, and I will, right here on this blog. Check back here for a discussion on functionality, coding, design, cartography, all things indiemapper. We’ll be releasing some free tools along the way that we’ll want to tell you about too. Most importantly, we want your feedback so let us have it!

Top features:
  • Fast, visual editing.
  • Nothing more than 2 clicks away.
  • Rolling release with constant updates.
  • Choropleth mapping.
  • Dot density mapping.
  • Proportional symbol mapping.
  • Cartograms.
  • Unlimited undos.
  • Colors from ColorBrewer.
  • Type from TypeBrewer.
  • Basemaps from Natural Earth.
  • Map layout for print and screen.
  • Load data from shapefile and KML formats.
  • Export to vector SVG.
  • Export to JPG.
  • Visual selection process
  • Re-project vector data on-the-fly
  • Filter by projections that preserve area / shape / direction
  • Learn more about projection best practices
  • Create custom standard lines / centering
  • Manage multiple thematic data layers
  • Create new layers on-the-fly from attributes of existing datasets
  • Control editability / visibility
  • Instantly access style / label options for each data layer
  • Create both classed and unclassed choropleth maps
  • Select from built-in automatic classification routines or set your own breaks
  • Visually set manual class breaks using interactive live-updating histogram
  • Automatically select built-in ColorBrewer color ramps
  • Create your own custom color ramps
  • Every change is updated on the map instantly

Do you prefer KML or Shapefile format? Introducing Finder! and Maker! from

Monday, October 20th, 2008

Please note that I have updated Fortius One’s Off the Map blog to my blogroll at right. They have an interesting post that highlights the trends for their first month of operating Finder! and Maker! two exciting new tools for the (budding) cartographers for finding spatial datasets and making maps via their Flash based interface, devoped by Andy, Mark, Ben, and David at Axis Maps and shown off at last week’s NACIS mapping conference.

It turns out that most data uploads to their site are in shapefile (which makes sense since that’s the defacto standard for GIS data these days) but the vast majority of downloads are in KML format for people wishing to see the data in Google Earth and other more general audience mapping tools. See this post for more information.

Use Maker! to shorten your map creation process from hours to minutes. Maker! gives you the power to make stunning interactive maps with your own data, GeoCommons public data or both.

Here’s a demo for Finder a browser-based application for finding, organizing, and sharing GeoData in common formats. Search the world’s GeoData or upload your own.

GeoCommons Maker! Awesome or super awesome? (Cartogrammar)

Monday, October 20th, 2008

[Editor's note: Republished from Andy Woodward's Cartogrammer blog from Oct. 1st, 2008. See my related post here.]

Maker logo

After a summer of long hours and occasional vagarancy, [Andy is] happy to report that GeoCommons Maker! has launched today.  FortiusOne’s CEO Sean Gorman nicely sums up what Maker (I’m going to go ahead and drop the exclamation point henceforth) is all about:

Data that was once the sole providence of GIS professionals can now be mapped by anyone. Not only can they access the data but be guided through a process of creating a cartographically and statistically accurate map.

[Andy's] esteemed colleagues and I at Axis Maps teamed up with FortiusOne to build Maker, sharing the goal of bringing good cartography to a vast collection of geographic data.

Maker is integrated with the existing GeoCommons service Finder, where users can access thousands of geographic data sets in different formats and contribute their own data. Now with Maker, users can create and share some of the slightly sophisticated cartographic visualizations that were once reserved for expensive desktop GIS applications. We hope that this will encourage appreciation of cartographic design in web maps, or, to quote the FortiusOne blog’s former name, to “move past push pins.” For a good summary of the highlights and goals of Maker, check out Andrew Turner’s announcement.

[Andy's team's] role at Axis Maps was essentially to build the Flash front end for Maker, bringing our collected expertise in cartography to the discussions with the GeoCommons team. A good map in 5 minutes was the goal, so we tried to reduce the map-making process to a short series of decisions that produce a well-designed map allowing basic analysis that is insightful and appropriate to the data. To that end we have the “Map Brewer” that greets you in Maker when you load a data layer.

Map Brewer steps

A map in four clicks if you like. This is a slight variation on the concept of a tool put forth by Professor Cindy Brewer with our own Professor Mark Harrower in ColorBrewer. Professor Brewer has described what she sees as the “brewer” concept (see #8 here). In short, a brewer is a tool that guides a mapmaker through particular cartographic design decisions, presenting reasonable options and the information necessary to critically evaluate those options. It does not make the decisions for you; it helps you make decisions. We could have tried to have the system determine the best cartographic design for the data it’s given, but we think that guiding the user through a few decisions will lead to far better maps. The Map Brewer is the salient example of the principles we’ve tried to uphold throughout the interface and workflow: allowing decent design flexibility while keeping decisions simple and encouraging effective design.

Meanwhile, something I worked with a lot was actually rendering the data on the map. The Flash application builds on Modest Maps to display geometry (retrieved from the extensive back end), making map navigation easy and providing a variety of base map choices. There is continuing work to make the rendering methods more extensible by streamlining the integration with Modest Maps and allowing more flexibility of data formats. I must stress that the powerful back end to all this reflects a lot of hard work and ingenuity at FortiusOne, and they continue to work to make these data and maps as fast and easy to access and share as possible. It’s been a valuable experience to work with them and see everything they’ve put into GeoCommons.

It’ll be exciting to see how Maker evolves and expands. For some time now I’ve perceived a geoweb community emphasis on data, data, data, and I hope that Maker can cater to that while also introducing a stronger focus on presentation.

So please pardon the kinks that are still being worked out, and enjoy making some cool maps! Here’s my fist publicly shared map, a frivolous one of course: “Freshmen are Criminals”

Freshmen are Criminals