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March 10 2011

via TP: 34313_1.jpg


Welche Regionen am stärksten vom Klimawandel betroffen sind

Florian Rötzer, TP 10.03.2011

Kanadische Wissenschaftler haben eine Weltkarte mit politischer Brisanz erstellt

Es gibt viele Vorhersagen, wie sich der erwartete Klimawandel auf die einzelnen Regionen der Welt auswirken wird. Klar ist, dass die Folgen sehr unterschiedlich sein werden, auch wenn Details der unzähligen Wechselwirkungen noch nicht ausreichend bekannt sein können.

Kanadische Wissenschaftler haben nun erstmals anhand der vorhandenen Vorhersagen für das Klima, für das Bevölkerungswachstum und die CO2-Emissionen pro Kopf eine Weltkarte erstellt, um im Überblick zu sehen, welche Regionen vom Klimawandel am stärksten betroffen sein werden. Grundlage der Berechnung sind Modelle, mit denen untersucht wird, wie Tier- und Pflanzenarten durch Migration auf den Klimawandel reagieren. Die Studie ist in der Zeitschrift Global Ecology and Biogeography online erschienen.


November 17 2010


September 07 2010

The state of mapping APIs

Guest blogger Adam DuVander is the author of "Map Scripting 101," an example-driven guide to building interactive maps on multiple platforms. He also serves as executive editor of ProgrammableWeb.

Maps took over the web in mid-2005, shortly after the first Where 2.0 conference. They quickly moved from fancy feature to necessary element of any site that contained even a trace of geographic content. Today we're amidst another location and mapping revolution, with mobile making its impact on the web. And with it, we're seeing even more geo services provided by both the old guard and innovative new mapping platforms.

Though the map itself continues to be important, other geographic data is having a larger impact. Providers are making this data, such as driving directions and business listings, available in increasingly open ways.

The old guard

This screen is from Marcelo Montagna's Custom Tile Layers with Opacity Google Maps demo.
A screenshot from Marcelo Montagna's "Custom Tile Layers with Opacity" Google Maps demo.
Google had the first mapping API and continues to keep its lead by adding useful new features. The company's Maps V3 was originally optimized for mobile, but in May Google made it the go-to platform for the web as well. With this move, Google showed that the mobile web is at least as important as the web we access from our homes and offices.

Another sign of mobile's influence on mobile appears in how Google is making some of its newest services available. Geocoding, driving directions and business listings are no longer confined to access via JavaScript. Instead, Google has made these all available via web services, giving developers the freedom to use the results in multiple ways, such as in a native smart phone application.

Yahoo has done little to expand its mapping platform in recent years, though it is almost as old as Google's. Due to Yahoo's more lenient terms, its auxiliary geo services, such as geocoding and static maps, get consistent interest from developers. And the company has made improvements, such as its next-generation geocoder, PlaceFinder, which it announced in June.

Yet, with Yahoo's tremendous potential, the mapping platform remains untouched. There's hope, given the recent deal with Nokia to provide maps on Yahoo proper. Both Yahoo and Nokia are mum on whether the deal will extend to Yahoo's developer platform, which makes me wonder if it will leave behind an industry it helped create.

MapQuest is oft-forgotten by developers, though it has made some of the largest strides with its mapping platform in the last year. A sixth version of its JavaScript API, written from the ground up, recently came out of beta. The new platform takes advantage of the web services that MapQuest has released. It's an attempt to make the thin client code even thinner.

One of these web services, Directions, made MapQuest a leader among mapping APIs. Launched a year ago, Directions marked the first time routing was available for free without being constricted with JavaScript-only access. Most recently MapQuest made the same service available built on top of OpenStreetMap data.

The newcomers

Bing may seem like a strange newcomer, since Microsoft has had a mapping API for some time. Previously called Virtual Earth, it was re-branded in 2009 along with the launch of Microsoft's new search engine. But it's not just surface-level changes. Microsoft has continued to launch new developer services with Bing.

In addition to the JavaScript SDK, Bing Maps can also be created with Silverlight, which makes for smoother transitions and animation. The Bing Maps site itself runs on Silverlight, and in June Microsoft launched the ability to create map apps, which can run on the main Bing Maps site.

CloudMade is a company built upon OpenStreetMap, the project creating a wiki-like map that anyone can edit. Using this open data, CloudMade's API gives you access to the Open Street Map tiles in a way that is more reliable -- and style-able -- than the project itself.

CloudMade's Map Style Editor lets you set colors for features, such as roads and parks. Then, make your own style available for embedding using the JavaScript API. CloudMade supplies much of the same power that super-users have when making map tiles server-side in a point-and-click interface.

Where have all the hackers gone?

With so many official mapping APIs available, it's easy to forget that the map mashup culture was founded upon hacking. Paul Rademacher created HousingMaps to show Craigslist rentals and homes for sale on a Google Map before Google had an API. Adrian Holovaty made Chicago Crime to show crime data (which he scraped from the police bureau's website) on a hacked and embedded Google Map.

Rademacher joined Google in 2005, created the Google Earth plugin and now is part of the team that makes Google Maps. Holovaty's Chicago Crime project became part of EveryBlock, a local news aggregator that sold to MSNBC last year. Ironically, EveryBlock doesn't use any mapping API, instead opting for using its own minimalist map tiles.

The mapping hackers of 2010 have also gone server-side, away from the APIs. Using tools like Mapnik, they're styling their own maps, almost always with OpenStreetMap data. Sometimes it's for fun, like Brett Camper's 8-Bit City. And when an earthquake struck Haiti, map hackers responded.

Mapping the future

Mapping providers will likely make it easier to create your own customized maps. Already Google Maps V3 has simple styling via CSS-like code. And the process of creating OpenStreetMap tiles is greatly simplified by Tile Drawer.

But it's not just making the map itself that needs simplification, but storing and accessing the data on top of it. For years developers have had to set up their own databases of locations, which raises the bar for the type of developer who can use maps. Now there are tools like SimpleGeo to make the process easier. However, it would be useful to see these tools baked into the mapping APIs and we likely will soon.

Similarly, we need easier ways of expressing data without just adding more markers. Graphic overlays, such as choropleths (regions shaded based on data) and heatmaps, are not accessible to most developers. The processes need to run on a server capable of geo-referencing the graphic it outputs. And services available to do this tend to charge. The open government movement is already tied closely to mapping. Hopefully projects for the greater good will fill in feature gaps where mapping providers don't see business opportunities.

Obviously, mobile will play a huge role in the future of mapping. Already we've seen an impact, yet there are far fewer sites taking advantage of the user's location than could. Expect the next generation of store locators, for example, to be much more exciting. But that's just the beginning.


July 27 2010

Redesigning the New York City subway map

Note: The field of data visualization is much broader than most people conceive of it, and exploring this breadth was one of our primary goals in compiling the projects described in "Beautiful Visualization." In the following excerpt, KickMap designer Eddie Jabbour explains the complexity he faced and the trade-offs he made while reinventing one of the most iconic maps in the world.

What follows is Eddie Jabbour's story, as told to Julie Steele:

Maps are one of the most basic data visualizations that we have; we've been making them for millennia. But we still haven't perfected them as a tool for understanding complex systems -- and with 26 lines and 468 stations across five boroughs, the New York City subway system certainly is complex. The KickMap is the result of my quest to design a more effective subway map, and ultimately to encourage increased ridership.

The need for a better tool

I was born in Queens and raised in Brooklyn. The first subway map I saw was my father's, circa 1960. It made a vivid impression on me because it intimidated me. I saw a gray New York with red, green, and black lines running all over it like a grid (see Figure 5-1), and hundreds of station names attached (1). It reminded me of a complex electrical diagram that I couldn't understand; it looked very "adult-serious" and even a little scary. I hoped I'd never have to deal with it.

The 1958 New York City Subway map designed by George Salomon
Figure 5-1. The 1958 New York City Subway map designed by George Salomon. 1958 New York City Subway Map © MTA New York City transit. Used with permission.

London calling

In college I majored in design, and I spent half a year studying at the University of London. I was all on my own in a huge city I had never been to before. I quickly learned that the London Underground was the way to get around and that the "Tube map" was the key to understanding it. That map (which of course is the acclaimed Beck map seen in Figure 5-2) was brilliantly friendly: simple, bright, functionally colorful, designed to help users easily understand connections between lines, and physically tiny. Folded, it fit easily into my pocket, to be whipped out at a second's notice for immediate reference (which I did often!).

Harry Beck's map of the London Underground
Figure 5-2. Harry Beck's map of the London Underground makes a complex system appear simple and elegant. 1933 London tube Map © TFL from the London transport Museum collection. Used with permission.

London was a medieval city, and therefore its street pattern is random. You cross a crooked intersection and the name of the street you're on changes. There's no numbered grid to provide a frame of reference (like in New York), and moving through the city can be a disorienting experience. The genius of the Beck map is that it makes order out of this random complexity, with the River Thames as the only visual (and geographic) point of reference to the aboveground world. And for that reason, the map's layout is iconic: when you think of London, you probably think of that Tube map. But even as a design student, I didn't think much about the form of it at the time -- it was just so simple and easy to use that travel felt effortless.

The combination of that effective little map and my unlimited monthly "Go As You Please" pass allowed me to use the Underground daily to explore London. I went anywhere and everywhere with ease and got the most that I could out of that great city. The Tube map imparted information so quickly and clearly that it became an indispensable tool and an integral part of my experience. It made me feel that London was "mine" after only a couple of weeks of living there. What a fantastic and empowering feeling!

In fact, I formed such a warm attachment to that valuable tool that at the end of my stay, just before I left the city, I went to my local Underground station and got a brand new Tube map, and when I returned home to New York I had it framed.

New York blues

When you come back to your own city after six months away, you look at everything with new eyes. When I got back to New York, I saw our subway map -- really saw it -- for the first time since I was a kid. And I thought, compared to London's, our subway map is poorly designed.

I remember thinking that the New York subway map was the opposite of the Beck map: huge in size, unruly in look, cluttered, and very nonintuitive. I realized that this map was in many ways a barrier to using our great subway system -- the opposite of the Tube map, whose simplicity was a key to understanding and using the Underground.

Even as a designer, however, if I ever thought of creating my own subway map I must have quickly dismissed the idea. This was in the late 1970s, and I'm not a T-square kind of guy. The amount of discipline and mechanical time it would have required for anyone but an experienced draftsman to undertake such an endeavor was unthinkable in that precomputer era.

The map's deficiencies left my mind as I pursued my design career. Like most New Yorkers, I used the subway map rarely and never carried it. This was in part because of its size: it was as large as a foldout road map. If I needed the map's information to get to a new location, I would tear out the relevant six-inch square portion from a free map in the station and throw the rest of it in the trash! I often saw tourists struggling with the physical map and felt bad for them, remembering my great experience as a student in London.

Better tools allow for better tools

Now, fast-forward to one night years later when I was taking an out-of-town client to dinner at a downtown restaurant. As we waited for the train, he confided to me that New York's subway intimidated him. I was surprised: the crime and grime of the 1970s-1990s were virtually gone from the system, and I was proud of our shiny new air-conditioned cars and clean stations. But in our conversation on the way downtown, I realized that his fear lay in not being able to decipher the complexity of the system: all the lines and connections. That's when I realized that the problem for him, too, was the map. My client was very well traveled and urbane; if he found the system intimidating, then there really was something wrong with the communicator of that system -- the map.

At that moment the subway map re-entered my consciousness, and it hasn't left since. It was 2002. I had my own design agency and my own staff, each of us with our own computer loaded with a copy of the greatest and most elegant graphic design tool available. I realized that now, just one person using a graphic design program like Adobe Illustrator had the power to create his own subway map! And I challenged myself to do something about the map.

Size is only one factor

When I decided to try making a new map as a weekend project (ha!), the first thing I considered was the size. Since the New York City subway system has about twice as many stations as London's, I decided to give myself twice as much space as the Tube map takes. (Even doubling the size of the Tube map, the result was about one-fifth the size of the existing New York subway map.)

First, I took a paper version of the official Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) map (a version of which is shown in Figure 5-3), cut it up with scissors, and put it back together in a more efficient way (literally with Scotch tape), just to see the possibilities. I was encouraged as I managed to reduce the area by more then half. Gone were the 56 bus pop-up boxes and other nonsubway information! Then came the laborious task of creating an actual map. I entered all the station names and lines into an Illustrator document, and in two months, voilá! I had my very own smaller map! I folded it and easily put it in my wallet, and I carried it around and showed it to all my friends. They liked its size, but of course nobody wanted to actually use it, because it still had many of the major design issues that made the MTA map difficult to use.

The 2004 version of the MTA New York City subway map, based on a design by Michael Hertz.
Figure 5-3. The 2004 version of the MTA New York City subway map, based on a design by Michael Hertz. Besides its visual complexity, incomplete information missing on the map itself forces the the user to rely on the complex charts in the lower right section -- right where sitting people block its view in the subway cars -- and in the stations where this information, displayed on large posters, is also difficult to read since it is often less than 18 inches off the ground. New York City Subway Map © Metropolitan transportation authority. Used with permission.

It was one thing to reduce the size, but another thing to realize that the way the data was presented was not the best way to present it. So I asked myself: how would I present all this data?

To answer this question, I had to ask a few more:

  • What maps came before this map?
  • Were there any previous conceptions that were discarded but perhaps still relevant?
  • What was it about New York City and its subway that historically made it so difficult to map clearly and efficiently?

Looking back to look forward

I did a research dive, and I started buying old transit maps on eBay. I studied subway maps, New York City street maps, and transit maps from all over the world that I had collected on my travels. I filtered through all the design approaches and eclectically took as much as I could from ideas that had already been implemented (some brilliantly).

Of course, in addition to the map designed by George Salomon that had been my father's subway map, I studied carefully the map designed by Massimo Vignelli (see Figure 5-4), which the MTA used from 1972 until 1979, when it was replaced by the Tauranac-Hertz MTA map (which, 30 years later, still prevails). Vignelli's map appealed to me immediately because, although big, it took obvious inspiration from Beck's Tube map, with its 90- and 45-degree angles, explicit station connections, and the use of color to denote individual lines. There were also some smart aspects of the current MTA map that I wanted to keep, despite finding it on the whole unwieldy because there is so much information crammed onto it. In addition, I borrowed liberally from other past efforts that had been discarded or forgotten.

The 1972 MTA New York City subway map designed by Massimo Vignelli.
Figure 5-4. The 1972 MTA New York City subway map designed by Massimo Vignelli. Confusingly distorted geography for style's sake -- yet a stunning design icon. 1972 New York City Subway Map © MTA New York City Transit. Used with permission.

New York's unique complexity

As I conducted my research, I started to realize that New York City had its own unique set of challenges that made its subway system impossible to accurately and clearly map using just a diagrammatic method, as other cities like London, Paris, and Tokyo had done. It was also clear that a pure topographic mapping approach wouldn't work, either; New York's unique geography and its gridiron street system both have an impact on mapping its subway system.

There are four significant and conflicting aspects of the New York City subway system that make it impossible to successfully map with either a strict diagrammatic or topographic format:

  • The narrow geography of the principal thoroughfare, Manhattan Island, which has 17 separate subway lines running up and down Midtown alone in a width of six city blocks.
  • The "cut and cover" method used to construct subway tunnels and elevated lines that follow the city's gridiron street patterns. Because New York City's subway generally follows its gridded street routes, there is a strong psychological link between the subway and the aboveground topography that is not found in a medieval city like London.
  • The unique system of many of the subway lines running local, then express, then local again along their routes.
  • Its formative history, with the current system evolving from three separate and competing subway systems (the IRT, BMT, and IND) that were poorly coordinated to work as a whole system. (The chaotic tangle of these three competing routes, as they meander and fight their way through the dense street plans of lower Manhattan, downtown Brooklyn, and Long Island City, is the most difficult part of the system to map clearly and accurately.)

The KickMap, shown in Figure 5-5, is based on a combination of ideas I selectively borrowed from many earlier maps (some dating back to the 19th century) and my own innovations. I believe that this unique combination makes my map easier to use than most of the preceding efforts. In the following sections, I'll discuss my inspirations and innovations in more detail.

The KickMap as it was released in 2007
Figure 5-5. The KickMap as it was released in 2007.

Geography is about relationships

Most of the boroughs -- Queens, Brooklyn, Manhattan, and to some extent, the Bronx -- already have a grid on top of the subway system because of the way the streets were planned. This makes the aboveground geography not only an intuitive starting point, but also an integral part of the user's experience. Knowing your location -- take 42nd Street and 7th Avenue as an example -- places you in the grid, which makes it easy to judge distances and locations. This is why the numerous geographical errors that appear in New York City subway maps (like the Vignelli map infamously placing the 50th Street and Broadway stop west of 8th Avenue instead of east) are so glaring and easy to spot.

One of the issues I have with some previous versions of the New York subway map is that I have a hard time believing that the designers ever actually rode the subway as an integral part of their lives in the city. There's a disconnect between many of the decisions they made and the reality of the subway. As part of my design process, I rode the lines and exited the stations at every major intersection with which I was unfamiliar. There is a strong relationship in New York between the aboveground and the belowground, and since subway riders don't cease to exist when they leave the subway, it's important for the map to express this relationship as clearly as possible. Otherwise, the result is an uncomfortable feeling of disorientation.

Include the essentials

Consider the L line in Brooklyn. As a passenger on the train, you're jostled around as you travel and you don't really notice that the line is curving or turning corners along major streets and intersections. But when you get out at the Graham Avenue station, for instance, it's obvious that Metropolitan Avenue and Bushwick Avenue are two major thoroughfares that intersect each other at a right angle. Why wouldn't that show up on the map? If you didn't know how the streets intersected and you just saw a sign for one or the other as you came out of the subway, it would be very difficult to figure out what was going on.

On the Vignelli map, this portion of the L is depicted as a straight line (see Figure 5-6[a]). The Hertz map (Figure 5-6[c]) shows both Metropolitan and Bushwick Avenues, but the line resembles nothing so much as a wet noodle as it half-heartedly depicts the route. I chose to carefully draw a stylized but accurate line describing the path as it runs along each major avenue there, believing this to be the best approach because it is the most helpful to riders (Figure 5-6[b]).

A portion of the L line in Brooklyn as depicted by (a) the Vignelli map, (b) the KickMap, and (c) the Tauranac-Hertz map.
Figure 5-6. A portion of the L line in Brooklyn as depicted by (a) the Vignelli map, (b) the KickMap, and (c) the Tauranac-Hertz map.

Conversely, I sometimes made stylistic simplifications to the geography in order to help riders. For example, Queens Boulevard, a major thoroughfare in Queens, was originally five different farm roads, and as a result it jigs and jogs a bit as it makes its way from the Queensboro Bridge east across the borough. Recent maps didn't capture its relationship to the subway because they either ignored it entirely (as in the Vignelli map, shown in Figure 5-7[a]) or obscured it (as in the current MTA map, shown in Figure 5-7[c]).

On my map, I styled Queens Boulevard as a straight line; see Figure 5-7(b). I chose to do this so that users could easily see its path and identify the "trade-off" subway lines that travel along it -- where one subway line runs along the road and then veers off and another line takes its place. In this case, the 7 line runs along Queens Boulevard until it veers off along Roosevelt Avenue, and the R/V/G/E/F lines come down from Broadway and pick up its path east. My stylized approach uses logic to better convey the subway's relationship to the streets of Queens, which is not clearly apparent on either the Vignelli map or the current MTA map.

The trade-off along Queens Boulevard as depicted by (a) the Vignelli map, (b) the KickMap, and (c) the current MTA map.
Figure 5-7. The trade-off along Queens Boulevard as depicted by (a) the Vignelli map, (b) the KickMap, and (c) the current MTA map.

Another "trade-off" I felt it was important to show clearly is at 42nd Street in Midtown Manhattan, where the 4/5/6 line jogs over from Park Avenue to Lexington Avenue (see Figure 5-8). A would-be rider walking along in Midtown or Murray Hill needs to know which street to go to for a subway entrance. The Vignelli map obscures the shift by treating it as a straight line, relying on text to convey the road switch, and once again the current MTA map is at best vague and noodley. In my map, it's clear which way the user should go.

A portion of the 4/5/6 line in Manhattan as depicted by (a) the Vignelli map, (b) the KickMap, and (c) the current MTA map.
Figure 5-8. A portion of the 4/5/6 line in Manhattan as depicted by (a) the Vignelli map, (b) the KickMap, and (c) the current MTA map.

Leave out the clutter

While I felt that it was important to show certain shapes aboveground, I also felt that it was important to leave out certain pieces of belowground information. There are several places where the subway tunnels cross and overlap each other beneath the surface. This may be important information for city workers or utility companies trying to make repairs, but for the average commuter, showing these interactions just creates visual noise. I tried to reduce that noise by cleanly separating the lines on the map so they don't overlap. Consider the different depictions of the 4 line and the 5 line in the Bronx (Figure 5-9); sure, the MTA's paths may be accurate, but they're also confusing, and riders don't really need to see those particular details to understand where they're going.

The 4 line and the 5 line as depicted by (a) the KickMap and (b) the current MTA map.
Figure 5-9. The 4 line and the 5 line as depicted by (a) the KickMap and (b) the current MTA map.

Coloring Inside the lines

The belowground geography is important, but it's more vital for the users to understand which belowground lines will take them where they want to go.

In 1967, the MTA moved past the tricolor theme used on the Salomon and earlier maps and began to use individual colors to illustrate individual lines. However, this shift didn't help simplify the system. It essentially had 26 lines assigned 26 random colors, which didn't really tell the user anything beyond illustrating the continuity of a given route. Vignelli's map (Figure 5-10[a]) continued with this color system.

The Tauranac-Hertz (current MTA) map attempted to simplify things by collapsing multiple subway lines onto one graphic line, but this actually made understanding the subway system more complicated, as now you had to read the text next to each and every station to learn whether a specific line stopped there or not; see Figure 5-10(c). What it did get right was that it color-coded sets of subway lines that use the same track -- for example, the A/C/E lines are all blue, and the 4/5/6 lines are all green. If you look at the "trunk" lines that run north and south through Manhattan, the colors move from blue to red to orange to yellow to green, creating a spectrum effect. These colors are memorable and help riders discern which lines will take them in the general direction they want to go.

In my map, I preserved the best elements of both approaches; see Figure 5-10(b). I reused the spectral colors on the trunk lines, highlighting an elegance and reality inherent in the system that Tauranac-Hertz understood, but kept it clear by representing each route with its own graphic line. Technically, I did what Vignelli did in that I used 26 distinct colors, but I grouped them in six or seven families of color and used different shades for each line in a given family: the A/C/E lines use shades of blue, the 4/5/6 lines use shades of green, and so on.

The Manhattan trunk lines as depicted by (a) the current MTA map, (b) the KickMap, and (c) the Vignelli map.

Figure 5-10. The Manhattan "trunk" lines as depicted by (a) the current MTA map, (b) the KickMap, and (c) the Vignelli map.

I also made use of line IDs and colors for the station dots (2). The crucial idea here was that the map should be quickly scannable, rather than just readable. At each station where a line stops, I placed the name of that line inside a dot: this way, users can easily see exactly which trains stop at which stations without having to read a list of lines next to each station name. Use of different colored dots enables users to tell at a glance whether the train always stops there or has special conditions, such as weekday/weekend or peak hour/off-peak hour restrictions.

Finally, there are about 80 stations in the city where, if you've missed your stop, you can't just get out and conveniently switch direction. I highlighted these locations by placing a small red square next to the station name, indicating to riders who need to turn around which stations to avoid if they don't want to have to leave the station, cross the street, and re-enter the station on the opposite side. The current MTA map shows all the heliports in the city but doesn't provide users with this simple but important piece of subway information -- a perfect example of its confused priorities.

I believe that taken together, these decisions highlight the innovations that make the KickMap more useable than those that came before it.

Sweat the small stuff

Those decisions were easy for me, but other choices were more difficult. Which geographic features did I really need to keep? What angles should I use? How much bus and ferry information should I include?

So, after creating my first comprehensive map that met my initial challenges (Figure 5-5), I decided to refine it and incorporate all of my learning. I was excited.

Try it on

In the car industry, it is common to build what is called a test mule, which is a prototype or preproduction car into which every possible experimental feature is crammed; that prototype then undergoes a series of drivability tests to determine what should be removed (because it's not essential or doesn't work quite right). I did the same thing with my map: I created a version (shown in Figure 5-11) into which I put every feature that I might possibly want. Illustrator's layers feature really came in handy here; I put a lot in this map that I ultimately turned off or toned down.

A test mule for the KickMap.
Figure 5-11. My version of a test mule for the map: I put lots of information in and then edited it down.

The mule map allowed me to evaluate a variety of trade-offs, such as:

The street grid -- I wanted to present the structure of the streets without interfering with the subway info wherever I could. You'll notice that the mule map includes a lot more streets and street names than the final design.

Beaches -- I thought green spaces were important, and that New Yorkers should be able to find their way to beaches by subway rather than by car. My mule map included municipal swimming pools as well, but ultimately I decided to remove them.

Coastline features -- It was important that real people -- like, say, my mom -- could easily use this map, and she couldn't care less about certain geographic details (like Steinway Creek or Wallabout Bay) that I included in the mule map. That was a reason to simplify and stylize. But I also wanted to make something any map geek or lover of New York City (like me!) could appreciate. So, there were instances where I let my passion take over. I decided to pay homage to certain subway feats, so I included features like the Gowanus Canal, which the Smith/9th Street station crosses and has to clear (at 91 feet, it's the highest elevated station in the system).

Angular design -- In the final design I standardized a lot of the angles, but I broke that standardization if I had to for clarity's sake. I wasn't a slave to the angles. Stylization is fine, but my goal was to take the stylization and make it work so that riders can always understand what's going on aboveground. I also decided to consistently place station names on the horizontal for easier reading, like on the London Tube map, instead of cramming them in at arbitrary angles.

Bridges and tunnels -- One of my goals for this project was to come up with a tool that would encourage people to take the subway instead of a car. For this reason, I decided to leave out all the car bridges and tunnels (except for the iconic Brooklyn Bridge). I wanted to keep the experience of navigating the subway as clean and easy as possible, without the temptation of using a car, to encourage users to keep riding.

Many of these choices were influenced by the following principle.

Users are only human

There are certain New York icons that help orient the rider and are reassuring. To the extent that they represent something familiar, maps can be quite emotional. So, I saw preserving such icons as a way to build friendliness into this tool. I did not design a geographically precise topographical map; I designed a map that is emotionally and geographically accurate in a relational sense -- Manhattan looks like Manhattan, Central Park is green, the Hudson River is blue, and the subway stations are positionally accurate in relation to one another and the streets (Delancey Street is shown east of the Bowery, etc.).

For the same humanistic reason, I included certain celebrated landmarks -- the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, and the Brooklyn Bridge. And I didn't just include them with nametags; I actually included their familiar shapes, as was done on subway maps back in the 1930s (3).

A city of neighborhoods

When I travel on the subway to see my mom, I'm not going to see her at the 95th Street subway station; I'm going to see her at her home, which is in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. This is an important aspect of New York: it is a city made up of neighborhoods, and native New Yorkers think of the city in those terms. That's our frame of reference: we travel from, say, Washington Heights to Bay Ridge.

The current MTA subway map includes some neighborhood names, but they are just dark blue words that compete with the station names and do little to describe the areas. There's no hierarchy of information. By color-coding the neighborhoods -- which has been done on maps of the city since at least the 1840s -- in an unobtrusive way (using pastel tones) and writing their labels in white text so they wouldn't visually interfere with the black text of the station names, I was able to provide layers of information without compromising the clarity and functionality of the subway map.

Again, these elements were literally created in separate digital layers in Illustrator. This allowed me to turn the neighborhoods on and off to determine what really needed to be there and to make several variations of the subway map with and without them.

One size does not fit all

I believe that separating functions is an important key to any useful visualization or tool.

Another benefit of the layered approach was that it allowed me to custom-tailor the map to the user interface later. The KickMap is available as iPhone and iPad applications, and in that context, the map's detail automatically changes as the user zooms in or out. Besides the apps, commuters still read subway maps in many different contexts: there is the foldout printed version, the huge ones they hang in the stations, the ones they post in the train cars (right behind the seats so that you have to peer past someone's ear to read them), and the one that is posted online. Currently, you get basically the same map in each place, but that shouldn't be the case: in each context, a slightly different version, optimized just for that specific environment, should be available.

Each version should have its own design, tailored to the context in which it appears. The big maps that hang in the stations, for instance, should show you the neighborhoods, but the one in the subway car that riders reference to make quick decisions, like whether to get off at the next station, need not. And why does the map in the subway car have to give you all that bus information?

Contexts aren't just physical, either. After 11:00 pm in New York, 26 routes reduce to 19. So, in addition to the main day/evening KickMap, I made the night map shown in Figure 5-12. Instead of relying on a text-heavy, hard-to-read chart at the bottom of a one-size-fits-all map to determine when a certain route is available, a night map should be available to riders (not only on their iPhones, but also in the subway cars).

The night version of the KickMap shows only the lines that run between 11:00 p.m. and 6:30 a.m.
Figure 5-12. The night version of the KickMap shows only the lines that run between 11:00 p.m. and 6:30 a.m.

When it came to making a night map, I simplified the day/evening version and took out most of the street and neighborhood information, as it seemed redundant.

Also, I do love the simple and elegant aesthetic of Beck's Underground map, and keeping the night map's form simple pays homage to it!


Ultimately, I do think the KickMap accomplished most of my goals: to make the subway lines and their connections as clear as possible for easier navigation, and to provide users with a clear representation of where they are once they exit a station so that the subway feels familiar and welcoming to all.

My main goal, however, was to get my map out there into the hands of subway riders. After the MTA rejected my design, I found an alternative way to distribute it, via Apple's iTunes -- two apps, one free and one paid, for the iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad.

All of the choices I made were aimed at trying to make the user experience as seamless and pleasant as possible. Clearly I'm striking a chord, as over 250,000 people (and counting) have now downloaded copies of the KickMap from iTunes. That's really great but I still want the KickMap -- or something superior -- to replace the current one in the subway system. I want people to be comfortable and even happy when using our unbeatable 24-hour subway system. It is a complex system, but if people know how easy it can be -- if the map becomes a friend (4) instead of an obstacle -- ridership will increase. Ultimately, that benefits not only the system itself, but also all of us who live, work, visit, and breathe here.



1. I now know that map was an early version of the Salomon map. Years later, when I was doing research for the creation of the KickMap, I got to appreciate the beauty of the design of this map.

2. This was a big aha moment in my process.

3. I wanted to put the Empire State Building in there, but it would have cluttered up Midtown, and my goal all along was that it really had to be a simple and functional subway map!

4. I think many people are passionate about the subway map as a great symbol of New York. The map shows the subway as kind of a dynamic capillary system nourishing the city. This is true not only conceptually but also historically: the subway was built to "nourish" new residential areas with cheap transportation to and from the central business districts so the City could continue to grow and thrive.

May 30 2010

India: Records Reached, Temperatures to Touch 50C -- Hundreds Dead

Paul Kedrosky's Infectious Greed

Appalling stuff from the Guardian:

india Record temperatures in northern India have claimed hundreds of lives in what is believed to be the hottest summer in the country since records began in the late 1800s.

The death toll is expected to rise with experts forecasting temperatures approaching 50C (122F) in coming weeks. More than 100 people are reported to have died in the state of Gujarat...

Reposted fromdave dave

May 11 2010

Power and politics

In pictures: A new exhibition at the British Library showcases 80 of the world's biggest and most beautiful maps, each with its own political message

Reposted bymaps maps

April 23 2010

Here be monsters

When the world was still being discovered, maps were not only images of power, but retained elements of the fabulous and the mythical. And – long before landscape paintings – they were displayed as works of art

Red arteries spread like roots over the paper – is this an anatomical sketch? A vision of vessels branching from the heart? Yet the page from Leonardo da Vinci's Codex Arundel notebook in the Treasures gallery of the British Library is not – or not directly – a study of human anatomy. It is a map: a geographical plan, a piece of the world reduced to a flat depiction. It shows the riverbed of the Arno near Florence and was made in about 1504 for a practical purpose. Florence, at war with its neighbour Pisa, had hatched a plan to divert the Arno and so deprive the enemy city of its lifeblood. Leonardo was surveying the river to work out how it could be turned from its course.

And yet, if it is practical in purpose, and scrupulous in method – Leonardo has walked the riverbed, surveyed it – this little sketch map is cosmic in scope. It is a vision of the world, touched into life in a few strokes of red chalk. It expresses, magically, an entire philosophy. For it is no coincidence, still less a poetic flourish, that all the bloody strands of the riverbed make you think of anatomy. Leonardo and his contemporaries conceived the earth as a living creature, a macrocosmic mirror of our own inner life. As he put it:

Man has been called by the ancients a little world, and certainly the name is well given, for if a man is made of earth, water, air and fire, so is this body of the earth; if man has in him a lake of blood, where the lungs increase and decrease in breathing, the body of the earth has its ocean which similarly rises and falls . . .

When Leonardo drew his map of the Arno, the shape of the entire earth was changing. Just three or so years later, the Lorraine map-maker Martin Waldseemüller would publish what is arguably the most influential map in history: not only does it accurately depict the shape of Africa, but a thin sliver of land in the western sea is named, for the first time, "America". The maps of the age of discovery boggle the mind with their intellectual conquest of space. In the mid-15th century, a state-of-the-art map created by the Venetian cartographer Fra Mauro had seen the world as a huge disc, with south at the top, Africa just a vague shape, and nothing to the west of the Fortunate Isles (the Canaries). Not just the knowledge of world geography but the very conceptualisation of space in this late medieval map looks to us remote and arcane. It seems an incredible leap that just over a century later maps of the world looked much as they do today – the same continents, their coastlines instantly recognisable, planned out on paper in a mathematically consistent manner.

The period from 1500 to 1700 is the golden age of maps. Scientific achievement is central to that story – or is it? For Leonardo's little sketch of the Arno reveals that maps still had something about them of the fabulous and the mythical. They were works of imagination as well as calculation. This is why the maps of these centuries still give us a warm glow of pleasure, why they are treasured by collectors and daydreamers – because this was still a time when monsters haunted the oceans, even on the most forward-looking charts. The world was being discovered, its shape analysed, but it was imagined – Leonardo shows us – as an organic and mysterious entity. Rivers were arteries, the seas lungs. Nature was a synthesis of the four elements, fire, earth, air and water: maps were records of its marvels.

Nothing could convey the wondrous and strange nature of geographical knowledge more spectacularly than the Klencke Atlas, which stars in an ambitious exhibition, Magnificent Maps, at the British Library, as well as in the accompanying BBC4 series The Beauty of Maps, featuring the exhibition's curator, Peter Barber. This book is taller than a man: bound in leather and closed with huge metal clasps, it opens to reveal a succession of printed maps each of which is more than 2m wide. This is the biggest atlas in the world, according to Guinness World Records – the macrocosm to the microcosm of Leonardo's Arno sketch. In November 1660 the diarist John Evelyn saw it in Charles II's cabinet of curiosities, together with portrait miniatures, precious stones and "a curious Ship model": it was a present fit for a king, presented to the new and restored monarch on his coronation by a group of Amsterdam merchants.

At that moment Amsterdam was the world centre of map-making. Maps were engraved and printed there not just for monarchs but for merchants and their families. The virtue of the atlas conceived by Johannes Klencke was, through sheer extravagance, to ennoble something that was actually increasingly universal. The maps in the great book are the same printed maps you see in Vermeer's paintings of Dutch merchant houses: in his Woman in Blue Reading a Letter, painted almost contemporaneously with the Klencke Atlas in the early 1660s, a young woman stands in the pale light from a window, her eyes fixed on the message she's reading. The light shines on her blue silken tunic and blue-upholstered chairs, which might suggest a lover far away across the blue sea. Behind her, dominating the whitewashed wall, is a printed map, mounted on wooden poles and hung like a painting to decorate the chamber. It is on the same big scale as the prints in the Klencke volume. It shows fractured peninsulas and islands separated by water, a Dutch geography of vulnerability that matches the woman's mood.

Big printed wall maps appear in many of Vermeer's paintings, as well as in such contemporary scenes as Pieter de Hooch's A Woman Drinking with Two Men (1658) in the National Gallery. These views of everyday life bear witness to an almost totemic cult of maps. What, exactly, was the appeal of a huge woodcut map hanging on your wall? As much as we want to read simple emotional messages into Vermeer's paintings, the wrinkled, breeze-touched, black and white paper maps he depicts also attest to a fascination with maps as such, with what they are – and this, for him, is enigmatic.

Magnificent Maps leads us deep into the mentality of awe and wonder his pictures of maps communicate. It tells the story of mural maps – geographical statements that were hung on walls or even painted into the very plaster of palaces as frescoes. It argues that maps in early-modern Europe were as likely to decorate a room as paintings or tapestries were – and so puts a new twist on the truth that maps can be works of art in their own right.

No one who has walked along the seemingly endless Galleria delle Carte Geografiche in the Vatican Museums would doubt this. This hypnotic corridor is today walked by streams of tourists heading for the Sistine Chapel, punctuated along its straight-as-a-ruler marble funnel by souvenir stalls. But it is a bizarrely memorable walk that grips your imagination and stays with you as one of the sights of Rome – for the entire corridor is frescoed with mammoth maps of Italy's regions and cities. Painted by Ignazio Danti in the mid-16th century, these epic cartographies create a terrestrial theatre that in its way rivals the heavenly theatre of the Sistine Chapel itself. The maps are realistic, detailed and on a colossal scale – but were they ever any use to anyone? It is hard to picture a Renaissance pope standing on a stepladder to study a detail of Volterra or Venice to decide some political move. There were manuscript maps in the Vatican Library that could be spread out on a table for real strategic meetings. These painted maps are images of power, designed to amaze and to stupefy. As you progress further along the corridor, the cavalcade of city plans becomes repetitive, narcotic and sublime. It is a spectacle as deliberately excessive as the Klencke Atlas, a majestic display of ownership and control of space. The architecture of the long gallery is itself a daunting demonstration of spatial majesty – an unfurling of absurdly generous proportions – and the maps mirror its grandeur.

The British Library exhibition can't, obviously, bring the Vatican frescoes to London – although it includes large-scale photographs of this and other cartographic interiors – but does have the Klencke Atlas and a range of maps made in the same spirit of daunting excess. Jacopo de' Barbari's bird's-eye view of Venice, created in 1500, is on a scale that would fit quite easily among the city plans in the Vatican: nearly 3m wide. But de' Barbari's map is a woodcut, black ink on paper, that sent the image of Venice around the world to hang in foreign palaces as evidence of the Most Serene Republic's power.

What a map. It seems for all the world to have been surveyed from the air. The incline of the earth as de' Barbari looks down on Venice, seeing the exact shape of its islands in the ethereal setting of the lagoon, uncannily resembles an aerial photograph. But obviously he did not have a flying machine. He projected this image in his imagination, tilted up towards us at just such an angle as to reveal the overall shape of Venice while also allowing the eye to zoom in and see, as in a topographic painting, the scene on St Mark's Square. Ships teem around the Arsenale while a colossal triton rides a sea monster at the mouth of the Grand Canal – the real marries the fabulous as Venice is wedded to the sea.

The artistic glory of Renaissance maps lies in the ambiguity of their nature, for it is impossible to decide if this a map in the modern sense or a landscape picture. It hovers magically between the two. A straightforward plan of Venice would reveal the contours of the city and the layout of the canals, but would not capture the living reality of city life; while a painting at street level, such as Carpaccio's Miracle at the Rialto, though it conveys the forest of chimneys and the intimacy of bridges, can give no sense of the city's overall design. There is a genius and a freedom to de' Barbari's bird's-eye view that gives him both perspectives simultaneously – near and far. In the 21st century, a user of Google Maps can explore similar variations in perspective – moving from a city plan to a more detailed map of a neighbourhood to photographs taken on the street. This masterpiece gives all of that in one rich image.

In fact, a map such as this is so close to landscape art that it urges us to ask – do early-modern maps ape landscape pictures, or is it the other way around? Mapping and landscape art evolved together in the Renaissance, and this exhibition reveals something quite shocking to conventional art history: that maps were displayed as works of art before landscape paintings were similarly valued.

One of the earliest exhibits in the show is a facsimile of the Hereford Mappa Mundi, created like other medieval maps to stand alone and be studied like a painting or a stained glass window. The curators also attempt to reconstruct the world map that is known to have hung in Henry III's bedchamber in Westminster Palace in the 1230s. That is centuries before landscape art was valued in its own right. The first dated landscape drawing in European history – meaning a landscape that is not a background, but a theme in itself – is currently on view in the British Museum's exhibition of Italian Renaissance drawings: it was done on 5 August 1473 by Leonardo da Vinci. While its mountainous foreground is a fantasia of landscape, the plain in the distance rolling away towards the sea resembles a map in its outlines of fields.

Just like Jacopo de' Barbari – but in a uniquely sustained and complex way – Leonardo saw landscape art and map-making as intimately related. His drawings and paintings navigate an intricate course between the viewpoint of a landscape artist and a geographer. Unlike de' Barbari he actually did try to build a flying machine and hoped to use it for skyborne observation – he writes in a notebook of "surveying" the land from his "great bird". But he probably never did get his machine off the ground. Instead his bird's-eye views are feats of imagination, like de' Barbari's woodcut of Venice. Leonardo experimented with every point of view for map-making: his maps range from views of mountains in deep relief, the earth tilted up for our pleasure, to straightforward plans, to unique hybrids of the two. The vertiginous landscape of his painting The Virgin and Child with St Anne in the Louvre is itself as satisfying as a geographic atlas: the detailed rocks in the foreground stretch away to a blue vista of alpine mountains that has the sweep and scope of a map.

Leonardo was a pioneer of landscape but his landscapes are legitimated, as artistic subjects, by religious narratives – there is no pure landscape painting by him. One of the first such paintings is by Albrecht Altdorfer and portrays a bridge and a castle in a forest (it's in the National Gallery): this is almost an anti-map, as it tells us nothing of where the place is, or its wider geographical context. But when painters started successfully to sell landscapes in the 17th century they took their cue from Leonardo's cartographic approach, and their paintings aspired to the status of maps.

In 17th-century Europe maps were honoured and admired. The fresco maps of the Vatican and of other Italian palaces – Danti, who painted the Vatican maps, cut his teeth creating a fabulous room of maps in the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence – were emulated across the continent. Printed maps, often hand-coloured, were designed to be displayed, as Dutch paintings show them to have been. If maps were hung like paintings, cartography also produced a new genre of sculpture – the globe. The exhibition has a pair of globes – terrestrial and celestial – created by Emery Molyneux in London at the end of the 16th century, that were the most renowned such objects in Elizabethan England.

Maps of this age provided extraordinary density of information. Jacques Callot's map of the siege of Breda (1628-29) is not just a geographical but a historical image. It shows the battle for the Dutch town of Breda in complex detail, bearing witness to atrocities as well as recording the victory of Spain, and combining the human detail of a history painting with the spatial information of a map. It is a work of art in its own right and its topographic details also feature in the eerie vista of Velázquez's masterpiece of history painting, The Surrender of Breda.

Landscape painters looked hard at such maps and their popularity. The landscapes of Ruysdael and Cuyp in the Netherlands, of Poussin and Claude in Italy and France, aspire to be maps. If you look at these paintings they all, in different ways, relate intensely to mapmaking. Dutch landscape artists go flat on the land, exploring its details: their paintings are like maps turned on their sides. In accuracy and detail they strongly resemble the printed maps streaming out of Amsterdam.

The French landscape artists who worked in 17th-century Rome may seem less obviously geographical, but to look at their paintings is to look at pictures that sum up the world as encyclopedically as Leonardo does: again and again these paintings aspire to include every kind of scenery in one view – woodlands, rocks, sea, mountains – so that a painting has the satisfying completeness of a map of the world. Not until the 19th century would painters rebel against this tendency for each landscape to be a kind of world map – a summary of the nature of landscape as such. A beguiling example of such paintings is Francisque Millet's Mountain Landscape with Lightning (1675). Here it is not just a variety of scenery that is encompassed: every one of the four elements is on view. The Leonardesque view of the Alps encloses a rich anthology of natural and human terrains, a world map in one glorious vista.

Even so, it is no more compelling, as a work of art, than the maps of the age. Only when geography became truly rationalist, when maps were purified into utilitarian tools, did landscape art rule the gallery alone – and that transformation around 1700 was a loss to the imagination. Art and science both lost blood when monsters vanished from the maps.

Magnificent Maps: Power, Propaganda and Art opens at the British Library, London (01937 546060) on 30 April. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010 | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

April 02 2010


March 31 2010

February 05 2010



Ebay-Fundstück: Eine gestickte Karte von Südkalifornien und Nevada, angefertigt in der Zeit zwischen 1900 und 1920.

(Gefunden bei I’m Revolting)

Reposted fromglaserei glaserei
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