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Archive for August, 2012

How Cartographers Make Maps Easy To Read

 :: Posted by admin on 08-19-2012

Maps contain a huge amount of information, and as such they are a usability nightmare. Making maps easy to read is a challenge that cartographers struggle with constantly.
A lot of research has gone into making maps more readable. One area that gets a lot of attention is eye movement. Technology makes it pretty easy for usability scientists to track eye movement, but understanding the data that is gathered can be difficult. Eye movement tracking equipment can give a rough idea of where people are fixing their attention, but on a densely packed map the spot that is being stared at might not always be the spot which contains the symbol the reader is looking at.
When someone is searching for a location name, it appears that they simply read every single name they come across on the map. They aren’t looking for names that look similar to the name in question, just “reading” the map, although they did linger longer on places that looked similar to the place they were looking for. Maps with large fonts used for place names were found easier to scan than ones with smaller fonts.
Densely packed, detailed street maps were found to be harder to read than abstracted illustrated maps. This is a classic case of information overload, and is part of the reason that tourist offices offer both types of map. A day-tripper may want a simple map that will help them navigate the general area of the city. Someone that needs to get to a specific place that is more “off the beaten track” might find an illustrated map lacks the detail required to find that one specific location. It’s not practical to abstract every map, and detailed road maps do have value for specific needs, but illustrated maps are generally far more usable.

Illustrated Maps in History – Constantinople

 :: Posted by admin on 08-05-2012

In 1572, a group of cartographers unveiled the first volume in their collection of settlement plans. The cartographers; Georg Braun, Franz Hogenberg and Joris Hoefnagel put together six atlas volumes over the course of 46 years. These illustrated maps changed the way that we viewed the world.
In the volume called “Cities of The World” was a map of Constantinople. This illustrated map melds together geography and illustrations so that a casual viewer can more clearly understand what they are looking at.
Constantinople, as it is shown in this map, is a city that has just been reinvented by the Ottoman Empire. The evolution is clear in the picture, which shows the city and immediate surrounding area in its full glory.
The map features precise, clean lines, which were made possible by the copperplate printing process which had just recently become available. Colours were applied to the map after the printing process was done. This meant that cartography was still a labour intensive process, but it was quicker and easier than it had been in previous decades, and as such maps were far more affordable and were accessible to a much wider range of people.
This map, and the others in the “Cities of The World” volume took three people to produce – a cartographer, an artist, and an engraver. As far as historians are aware, none of those people actually been to Constantinople. All of the details in this particular illustration can be found in older maps, or old written accounts of visits to the city.
The idea of cartographers basing their maps on hearsay and old illustrations might seem alien to people today, but in the 16th century only a select few got to actually travel the world, so careful and meticulous research was the only option that most cartographers had.