A man with three legs, a vintage car scaling a building, and an unsettling formation of people donning bird masks are a few of the scenarios highlighted in the terrifically bizarre Wonders of Street View. One of the many sites of coder Neal Agarwal, the project showcases photographs of offbeat landmarks, digital glitches, chance encounters, and people who prepare to pose for the famous camera-laden Google Street View cars as they drive by. The playful platform is similarly interactive to allow viewers to explore the surroundings and generates scenes at random, taking visitors from San Francisco to Hesse, Germany, to Samburu, Kenya. Head to Wonders of Street View to traverse the globe one strange sight at a time. (via Waxy)
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It’s one thing to know that Chicago is the third largest city in the United States or that the fastest growing metropolitan areas are in the West and the South, but how can we see it? Data technologist Spencer Schien answers that question with an ongoing series of population density maps of states, rivers, and coastlines. In his work with nonprofits and NGOs, he uses R programming language to generate data visualizations that help organizations target where their services are most needed.
To compile the maps, Schien digs into the Kontur Population dataset, a publicly accessible project that layers global population numbers derived from sources like the Global Human Settlement Layer—a tool for assessing the presence of people on the planet—along with Microsoft’s Building Footprints and Facebook. He then translates statistical information about specific regions into highly contrasted maps utilizing Rayshader. The more densely populated an area is, the higher the bars rise. Atlanta, for example, is more than 137 square miles with around 4,200 people per square mile, and the map illustrates this as a mass of red amidst surroundings of more rural areas in green.
Currently based in Milwaukee where he works as the Senior Manager of Data & Analytics for City Forward Collective, Schien focuses on building the maps and other statistical visualizations using open-source tools that help to alleviate financial barriers to information. You can find more of his work on his website.
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Along the contours of roads, property boundaries, and shorelines, English artist Ed Fairburn draws inspiration for his detailed cross-hatched portraits. As an avid map collector, he is fascinated by the urban landscape and cartographic design. “The more maps I collect, the more I want to create,” he tells Colossal, sharing that transportation routes like roads and bridges can be likened to the veins or arteries of the body.
Fairburn’s intricate drawings directly respond to the layout of the original map. “I allow the composition of each map to inform the composition of each portrait,” he explains. An interest in the body as metaphorical landscape and vice versa also informs how he approaches each piece. “In a wider sense, I hope that my work pushes viewers to think about those similarities, and perhaps offers a reminder that we’re shaped by the landscape around us, which we in turn are also shaping.”
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What route does the whooping crane follow as it travels south each year? What about the long-winged turkey vulture? A new interactive guide from Audubon tracks the journeys of more than 450 species as they travel around the hemisphere. Complete with the conservation organization’s signature illustrations, the Bird Migration Explorer features digital maps that offer detailed insight into such grand-scale avian movement and are searchable by different taxonomies. Follow a tundra swan’s annual flight path from the arctic, see where the organization spots tagged merlins, and explore the difficulties a horned lark faces as it encounters human activity and climate crisis-related changes on its treks. (via Alastair Humphreys)
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A Trio of Visual Catalogs Celebrates the Innovative Figures Who Pioneered Modern Information Graphics
A new book set honors the lives and legacies of three figures who fundamentally altered the way we communicate and organize data still today. Information Graphic Visionaries is a catalog trio dedicated to educator and entrepreneur Emma Willard, statistician and founder of modern nursing Florence Nightingale, and scientist Étienne-Jules Marey, who all brought insight and clarity to the modern world by conveying complex information in visually compelling and convincing manners. Edited by RJ Andrews of Info We Trust with art direction by Lorenzo Fanton, the series unveils these previously overlooked histories through newly discovered graphics and prominent works paired with contextual essays and annotations.
Through a combination of atlases, wall hangings, and textbook woodcut graphics, Emma Willard: Maps of History explores how Willard invented new conceptions of time and ultimately defined chronology in the United States. Florence Nightingale: Mortality & Health Diagrams contains the nurses’ persuasive designs that ultimately sparked vital reforms to the English health care system. And the Étienne-Jules Marey volume is the first English translation of the French scientist’s seminal text on data visualization, The Graphic Method, La Méthode Graphique, which was first published in 1885.
After launching May 11, Information Graphic Visionaries is already nearing its goal on Kickstarter, but you still have time to back the project.
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By day, Scott Reinhard designs graphics for The New York Times. Recently, he created a United States map detailing where city-dwellers fled during the pandemic and another showing how the Pantanal wetland in Brazil has transformed into a massive inferno. Incorporating an ever-growing swath of data, his daily tasks are connected to the fluctuations of news cycles.
But in his off-hours, the Brooklyn-based designer takes a broader look at the state of the nation. He merges vintage maps and contemporary elevation data, creating stunning digital works that flatten the differences of time and space into hybrid objects. While his graphics for The Times are rooted in the ever-changing present, his personal work is nestled within historical contexts.
Reinhard’s interest in data and map-generation grew while he was pursuing a master’s degree in graphic design at North Carolina State University, particularly during an introductory course centered around geographic information systems. “I basically became aware of all these cartography tools that I had no idea about. Because I wasn’t coming from that background, I was free to play around… and approach visualizing geographic data in new and interesting ways,” he says.
That experimental period spurred Reinhard’s ideas of fusing historical maps and contemporary land elevations, and he began exploring filtering, a cartographic method that calculates a theoretical sun and provides data about corresponding landscapes. “It’s pretty crude, but it really fascinated me that from a flat, black-and-white image, which is basically what elevation data looks like, you could interpolate this scene,” he shares, noting that he began to work with 3-D renderings around the same time. “That data that’s stored in a paper map can still be activated.”
Since 2019, Reinhard has refined his focus and shifted to larger series. “I’m still interested in these USGS (United States Geological Survey) maps as graphic objects and as really beautiful works of graphic design. What I’ve really been enjoying is to build these out,” he says. The more comprehensive collections have included studies of Alaskan maps from the 1950s, one series focused on the Oregon coast, and another considering south-central Indiana where he was raised.
A macro-view captures the intricacies and histories etched into the landscape of a region, showcasing glacial formations, seismic activity, and how a mountain range emerged during a period of years. “I realized once I started visualizing the landscape that, on a day-to-day standpoint when you look around you, you see elevation changes, but you don’t really see patterns. We’re just a little too small,” he says. Because USGS maps utilize coordinates, they also circumvent more political orientations found in documents outlining territories or other cordoned-off areas, offering an opportunity to correct false narratives that have been perpetuated by cartographic objects in the past. The historical maps hold additional information on trends and periods in design, which manifest in aesthetic choices like style and color.
Reinhard currently is working his way through producing a collection of USGS-recommended maps from the 1950s, a novel project that’s rooted in exploration and curiosity. “All maps are exaggerations, to some extent,” he says. “You can push and pull what the map says and what the map tells you.” Explore Reinhard’s extensive collection of digital works on Instagram and his site, where he also sells an array of prints.
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