A Portuguese Translation

Sometimes you happen upon phrases that really stick with you. This one, a sketchy translation of some portuguese that I was working with at my job, puts me into a comfortable state of mind. So comfortable in fact, that I made it into a 'quote graphic' just to give it more visual character. It's a fun experiment with different typefaces and imagery. Photo is from my time spent in Cape Town, South Africa along the Western coast of the peninsula.

Typefaces in order of appearance: Ostrich Sans, Chunk, Lobster, Blackout
All available for free under the Open Font License


The Puget/Seattle Region

As this is my last week exploring my curiosities being unemployed, I've found myself perusing the beauty of Puget Sound. I recently moved to Seattle and have been incredibly happy with the region and wanted to explore the different ways of visualizing the area through multiple geographies. I've put together a map hybridizing the bythymetric and land elevation aspects of the region all overlayed with the regions municipalities as type.

I'll let the map do most of the talking, but for those curious about its conceptualization, please continue reading. The bathymetry and land elevation data sets are actually from the same stitched DEM - just with two different queries and color schemes. I was amazed to see how much of the Seattle area is at sea level, but is contrasted so quickly by high-rising hills and eventually mountain ranges. Therefore white represents land mass that is close to sea level - blue is Puget Sound and the greyscale is the rising land around the sound. These schema bring out the structure of the region as a geologic phenomena. The two DEM layers have been slightly blurred to give a more holistic feel. My extremely overgeneralized type-based municipalities are what rounds out the map. The sans-serif typeface (Open Sans) gives a modern, geometric touch to such a natural and free-flowing environment.

All in all, this map is built on curiosity. There's generalizations and municipalities missing due to space, but I find it mesmerizing to look at and once again, I find myself appreciating the new place in the world in which I live.

- Full version -


A Collaborative Cartographic Age

I recently attended the annual conference for the North American Cartographic Information Society (NACIS) down in Portland, Oregon. NACIS is a geographic community focused on the creation of maps, their beauty, and their influence on the greater informed world. The three days of meetings and discussion led to some high-quality, genuine connections that humbled my existence as a cartographer and curator of digital information.

People from around the globe partook in the conversation; the likes of Tom Patterson, the creators and workers of Mapbox, folks from ESRI, awesome dudes from Stamen, high-end users of other cartographic libraries, fellows from Code for America, professors and students from schools all over, and professionals everywhere in between. It was a casual hodgepodge of the big leagues and the farm teams all coming together under one roof: maps.

NACIS was founded on the principles of strong cartographic design, and continues to explore and feed the ever increasing world of beautiful maps. Of course with progress comes innovation, which can lead to competing philosophy and ideals - but more importantly, different ways of defining cartography. There's an obvious divide in the cartographic world found between the traditional cartographers (those strongly forged in aesthetic design of traditional maps on paper) and the new-age, digital conductors (those coding the web and applications for mass communication of spatial information). Traditional cartography is something that many new, code-head youngsters haven't been trained in - but they are finding ways of making maps and using many different computer languages to explore spatial interactions and relationships.

I've found myself straddling this divide, and would like to fully applaud NACIS for taking some major steps in building bridges between two entirely different minds. A computer scientist is a finder-of-solutions for seemingly simple things, through complex languages and mathematical concepts. A traditional cartographic designer is a communicator of information through holistic design. With an ever-increasing computer-based society, we find ourselves with incredible amounts of data that require complex mathematics and solutions in order to understand and be graphically represented. Both cartographic ideals are finding themselves playing key roles in this process. Without coders, the information isn't accessible through digital means. Without the cartographers, the information accessed isn't represented correctly and aesthetically according to spatial theory.

Of course this process doesn't run smoothly all the time. It brings me back to my previous post about the "Cartographer's Dilemma" and how this day and age requires a cartographer to understand concepts from so many different studies. Cartography is a specific node at the intersection of a diverse web, which becomes a burden for our work and understanding of spatial information. This idea is what creates the rift between the new and the old. It's frustrating not knowing a step in the process, because all work previously completed can be for not. My post ended abruptly, in a state of confused hope; that I'll either find a part in the process to understand fully, or cope with only knowing the necessary steps that help me complete a project.

After NACIS last week, I've found my answer. In a cartographic world of confusion and strife understanding, NACIS found a medium in which all ideas can exist. They brought (and continue to bring) together cartographers with diverse backgrounds and understandings of spatial literature under one common understanding: that we all strive to understand our world and the data it provides. It doesn't matter how you do it, it matters that you do it. There in itself is reason to listen to every single talk at NACIS. Albeit it was impossible considering how many there were, there was something of interest for everybody. Sure there's confusion and disagreement, but I do believe there is a mutual respect between cartographers, new and old. This respect is leading to collaboration. Collaboration between people who, until recently, were moving down different paths and careers, not knowing much about the other. With an understanding of how these intersecting interests can aid the other is producing some of the most beautiful and inspirational work the cartographic world has seen.

It's this collaborative effort that allows cartography to safely explore the countless number of underlying philosophies and concepts it is built upon. An effort that fills me with pure excitement – empowers me to continue learning the masses of information in hopes that I can work with others to produce the one thing we all love: maps.


Geographic Information: A Blessing or A Burden?

I was in an interview yesterday where I found myself answering questions about my resume. I've never had someone examine it so closely yet ask so many substantial questions. It was a good thing I knew what was on there and wasn't lying about what I've done, otherwise I would have looked-a-cheat. The interviewer pointed out one thing that has stuck with me since: "Your objective on your resume is quite vague" - I quickly thought to myself about how absolutely correct he was, and how much that didn't make sense considering people point out basically exactly what they want in a career in their "Objective" section. That's why it's an objective.

This is the word-for-word on my resume: "Objective - Continue to explore the interaction between creative design and objective communication within an open and positive work environment."

Through answering him, I've come to realize how vastly diverse the cartographic world is to me, and while it's a blessing to my interests, it becomes a burden to my objective. Cartography at one time – when I was just in the introductory class at Madison – was a linear concept to me. There was a geographic phenomena that could be represented in space. To do this, you brought it through some software and made it look pretty on Adobe Illustrator. That was it. Nothing more, nothing less.

From the second I put my toe further into the water, that linear path split apart quickly; found directions I didn't know existed. As I was learning the basics of cartography, I was learning graphic design. As I was learning how to compile the information and display it, I was beginning to manage my own personal database. I was learning GIS techniques. I unintentionally stumbled into a beginners computer programing class with Python. I was preparing myself to learn the harsh reality of static cartography, which led me to learn interactive cartography. Learning interactive cartography brought me through a jumble of HTML and CSS so I could understand javascript's relation to the map and web. And that is only the front-end of the rabbit hole. There's a whole world of database queries and storage management that belittles my confidence when I try to learn it.

This jumble of knowledge – pure confusion – finds itself in my daily activities. Daily. Each and every concept in what I've learned in the past year is grounds for a career. But I continue on this struggle towards total domination of geographic information. Understanding it from every angle; how to posses it; how to manipulate it; how to store it; and how to visualize it. Every step in the process is filled with a skill that requires incredible amounts of learning to fully understand its use and capabilities. This leads me to believe that geographic information is my burden. My scarlet letter.

Do cartographers strive to be more than is possible? Sure we can put together a map, but would our efforts be better suited learning a step in the process to a glorious extent and eventually collaborating with others in the chain? I've found myself stuck. Looking for the direction in which I find more appealing, while at the same time finding the direction that needs me the most. I can't continue to put myself down a countless number of paths – our brains are not meant for this.

Bringing you back to the beginning, I found myself answering the question to the interviewer with total honesty. I have no clue what I want to do. As I've learned in the past two years, I've stepped on many stones that deserve turning. Concepts that are fulfilling in themselves and are calling me to learn them in more depth. My career objective is – what I like to think – optimistically open. The past two years have been a dabbling of large concepts through cartography. Whether or not this was a good answer, it has made me consider my personal goals and if and how I reach them.

Geographic information is the largest dataset. To use it requires understanding from all parts of the world and all parts of the skilled workforce. It is our burden as Cartographers that we are stuck with molding all of these skills into one. Whether we learn them to their fullest extent or just enough to complete the task at hand, I find myself wanting more all the time. This continual desire to learn more, to understand more, is a blessing that many careers cannot offer because of strict niches and grains to follow. As it is a blessing, it's a burden for our livelihoods. For our careers. We find ourselves stretched too thin. Too far in too many directions. I can only wish to be able to cope with this thinning or choose a direction to completely turn and follow.



I recently redesigned my portfolio to match my programming knowledge at the HTML & CSS level. I've been learning quickly about user interaction and useability of websites. There's always room for improvements, but this is what I have up as of now. The new, improved version of mapsam.com