Posts Tagged ‘reference cartography’

VPRO: Custom Cartography and The Netherlands From Above (Stamen)

Thursday, December 1st, 2011

[Editor's note: My first big project at Stamen is live! Team includes: Geraldine, Eric, Mike, Shawn, Sean, and Zach with Jasper and Frederik at VPRO providing the data. Pretty labels powered by Dymo in zooms 7 to 10, open source auto label power!]

Republished from Stamen.

Working closely with Dutch broadcasting heavies VPRO, yesterday we launched Nederland van Boven (“Netherlands from Above”), an interactive map of the Netherlands to accompany the forthcoming broadcast of a series of shows about this fascinating tiny country. As my friend Ben Cerveny is known to say: “New York started gentrifying in the 1970s, but Amsterdam started gentrifying in the 1790s,” and the opportunity to design custom maps for a country that’s essentially all infrastructure was one that we leapt at gladly.

The show runs in a series of episodes starting later this month, each addressing a different aspect of life in Holland. It starts with mobility, answering questions like “where can I live, if I work in Amsterdam and want to be able to finish the newspaper by the time I get to work on the train?” or “How far can I travel in two hours by public transport from Vlissingen?”

Upcoming episodes will deal with other ways of looking at the environment around you: examining the natural environment by comparing distances from buildings, open space, and the density of wild animals, the landscape of danger by examining rates of lightning strikes, flammable locations and the arrival times of ambulances, and the contours of the air around the country, looking at the density of birds, flght paths of planes and the highest places in the Netherlands.

The cartography for the project is custom-made for VPRO, designed to complement the channel’s rich visual branding. Cities fill in based on a custom compilation we derived using a combination of NaturalEarthData and GeoNames sources, and and at lower zoom levels roads become visible and are drawn using data sourced from OpenStreetMap. On the most detailed zoom all roads are drawn and the arterial streets receive names. With roads come more place labels, now from OpenStreetMap and sized by population. Water bodies (black) are drawn using data from VPRO, as are park lands (black stipple pattern), airports, farm locations, pancake restaurants, neighborhood names, and zipcode shapes (the locations of pancake restaurants being as important to the Dutch as the locations of airports and farms, apparently).

The highlight layers are orange, because that’s the national color of the Netherlands. Also, did you know that carrots are orange because that’s the national color of the Netherlands; “in the 17th century, Dutch growers are thought to have cultivated orange carrots as a tribute to William of Orange – who led the the struggle for Dutch independence.” So: orange maps over custom OpenStreetMap cartography, a client who wanted to tell a story and was willing to stretch what it means to design a map, and a country made of canals and land claimed from the sea. Hoera!

Technical bits:

We used open source software, some authored by Stamen, to draw the reference cartography and cache the data files. Web maps are made of small, 256 px by 256 px images, stacked next to each other in a grid and displayed in the browser as a slippy map, allowing the user to pan and zoom. The application logic in Flash allows us to speedily update the map (using the GPU) when the data filters are adjusted. Software utilized includes TileStache, Cascadenik, Dymo, ModestMaps, Mapnik, QGIS, OGR, and GDAL. Much of the data provided by VPRO was generated in ArcGIS in-house and and partners. The place search is powered by the Yahoo! geocoder.

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