June 2010


Do you want to know a secret? Online cartography is evolving.  Why do you have to be so fancy? Can’t you just say maps have gotten better? Big changes deserve big words. While Techlife has shared hidden map gameshow to make your own maps and why street level details are so valuable; we now want to share the value of immersive photographic cartography.

Cartography is the study and practice of making maps (also can be called mapping). Combining science, aesthetics, and technique, cartography builds on the premise that reality can be modeled in ways that communicate spatial information effectively.  -Wikipedia

Using Google Maps and Bing Maps advanced features I focused on exploring a single famous monument; The Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.  Both offer top down satellite views of this famous location.

Google has clearer images than Bing for satellite maps, which comes from a combination of time of day, season and hardware used to take these shots.  Google also has continuous street views for many places around the world, including the Lincoln Memorial. Finally Google has a nice ability to integrate their own street view with user generated photos from all angles of the Lincoln Memorial, with the photo set locations mapped as shown.

Bing’s satellite maps are good enough to get you to move past them quickly to what I think is the best feature of these new digital maps, a bird’s eye multi-rotational view. As you can see the ability to rotate around a building at multiple angles gives a much clearer understanding of the structure than satellite only.  Bird’s eye view, like Street View isn’t available everywhere yet but try out your home or favorite museum and see how amazing it feels to be immersed.

Bing Maps adds one more feature that Techlife drooled over in 2007, PhotoSynth. A Photosynth is a group of photos of a specific object or place that get stitched together to create highly detailed and visually stunning photographic experiences in 3D space. By geotagging user’s Photosynth’s into the Bing maps,  you don’t just see some random snapshots of the outside and inside of the Lincoln Memorial but can take a journey from the outside into the inside and look up and down with amazing detail and spatial understanding.

While I have used Google Maps to get me places and build collaborative maps (something I love). I have used Bing Maps to investigate rental property, research vacations collaboratively, and see quite a few friend’s new home purchases. Knowing how each tool can be used is the key to your own immersive photographic cartography. Share your story with me.

Loyal Techlife reader Dan contacted me again. (Other readers feel free to follow his lead.) Dan’s company wanted to convey “some information” and he was brainstorming with me and said, “What about a graph?” Now rule 1 of brainstorming is there are no bad ideas. And as I like to add, only bad people who rip on ideas that scare them.

So I listened. You could hear in his voice that this was an idea he was really loving.  He started really getting focused on this one idea.  About this time I said “info ick.”  ”Huh?” he replied.  I said take your idea one step further, Info-graph-ic.  Silence. Then even more silence. “What do you mean?”

“An infographic is a way of displaying more than data in a simple pie chart or a bar graph,” I explained.  Now fellow readers, you have the advantage here of being able to see our beautiful illustrations.  Dan needed a bit further explanation, and the definition I used was,  ”An infographic is exactly as it sounds. A set or multiple sets of information that is a graphic designed to inform, entertain and simplify massive amounts of somehow related data.”  ”I love it!” he burst out.

To illustrate a personal infographic, we directed him and all our Techlife readers to visit Brazil’s ionz personality map creation tool. (Click the flag in the upper right.)  With a few simple questions answered by you, nearly 50 points of data are relayed back and graphically represented against the other 66,000 plus people who have participated in these questions.  They even let you save your infographic as wallpaper for your computer.

Can anyone create an infographic?

Probably not. To effectively share unique information, you need both the information and someone with skills to help you craft your design. With many of our past columns we often offer a how-to, so this seems like a little departure from our normal advice. It is.

How to create your own infographic

Ok fine…We want you to be a success and feel good so here’s a small step by step to making a great infographic.  Be warned this is not for the timid.

Step 1 – Collect your Data  - How many engineers does it take to screw in a light bulb?

Step 2 - Review your data’s key findings – Clients love Fed Ex over Bernie’s horse and buggy delivery service.

Step 3 – Pick out how multiple findings might overlap/be juxtaposed. – People who love French Fries also enjoy French Films.

Step 4 – Visually represent your data. – If this icon represents our purple hair customers then this map of Cleveland will be used to show growth of superball sales.

Wow I was wrong, just 4 steps that was easy. Next time…prepare for quick lesson in particle nuclear physics.  My sincerest apologies for that last comment to all our friends in the physics department. We all know chemistry has the grand daddy of all cool infographics – The Periodic Table of Elements.  Physicists are always lamenting that, but hey maybe now they too can make their own.

If you make a cool infographic, be sure to share it with us.  Who will be the first to design an infographic  with all the bad jokes this column has compared to useful information?