Maybe it’s an age thing or a touch of deja vue but a blog post from my friend Andrew Turner (hope he is still a friend after this post) at Fortius One prompted a wry smile. The post announced the launch of “Acetate for better thematic mapping”
Acetate allows you (someone who is creating a thematic map on GeoCommons) to separate place names, road labels and roads into layers rather than one raster basemap. You can then set the order of the layers including your thematic layer for better clarity and communication. This example shows how it works (it doesn’t squeeze into these small columns very well but you should get the idea by opening and closing the Layer Control or look at a full size version here)
Hmmm, a “Layer Control” remember those things ESRI and MapInfo users from the last century? I think my old company GDC even had one of those in a browser based application with thematic maps and all of that paleo guff in 2001. It seems that some of that old stuff might be coming back into fashion (which can’t be bad for GeoDaddy’s and Field Marshalls like me).
That said, Acetate addresses a real problem with today’s flood of data and the ease of creating interactive maps, as Andrew says
Cartography has a long history in guiding proper design of maps so that data is interwoven with place – something that we’ve lost with our digital maps and numerous layers on top of generic and ubiquitous basemaps. Acetate is meant to address this by providing you with the tools to combine your data with muted but useful basemap information.
It is great to see cartography being discussed by a cutting edge mapping business like Fortius and even better that they are making some of their Acetate code available as Open Source. Deserves a big respect 🙂
And if this gets you thinking about cartography and visualising data then you might be interested in an event that I am running on behalf of the AGI in early April called Every Map Tells A Story (with apologies to Rod Stewart for those of you who get the reference). More details will be available soon but places are quite limited so watch here or on the AGI site for more details soon.