Category Archives: note

Dear Reader: This blog has moved its home..

I’ve been blogging at for a bit more than two years now. Recently, I have rebuilt my personal website from scratch. In the process, I decided to move my website and my blog closer together, thus:

Starting from yesterday, this blog has moved its home (and all its content) to The brand new RSS feed is

New posts will be published to only. Please read the first blogpost under the new address here. It’s about the thinking that went into the production of this cartogram linked view:

If you liked this blog on Facebook (thank you!), things will go on as they were, at least for now. I will continue to notify you of new blogposts on Facebook.

The new, self-hosted blog is also built on WordPress. While the content (posts and comments) has been moved, my guess would be that subscriptions (email or WordPress) are probably not. It’d be great if you just re-subscribed, sorry for the inconvenience!

Thank you all for your understanding and hope to see you soon over on!

Hailpixel’s colour tool

Picking up where I have left, I have a nice addition to my collection of colour tools for visualisation experts

What you see below is the whole interface, when you open the website by Devin Hunt.

Choosing colours is easy as pie: Move your mouse pointer around and the area changes its colour. Once you like what you see, click, and the colour will be saved to a part in the browser window, together with its hex code. In the remaining area you can continue to create new colours until you’re satisfied with your palette. Colours can also be selectively deleted again and the URL of the page keeps track of your palette and allows for easy sharing (and, if you will, “export” of the colour values).

These are too many words, best enjoy the simplicity of yourself! (Also, visit that frontpage and pull on the thread!)

Colour me well-informed

When designing a map or a visualisation, sooner or later there is the point where you have to choose a range of colours (except in very specific circumstances which may require you to produce a black-and-white or greyscale visualisation). What is there to consider in such a situation?


Appropriate use of colours

According to Bertin‘s (1918–2010) seminal work, Semiologie Graphique, colour (defined as hue with constant value) as a visual variable is both selective and associative. These mean, respectively, that an object with slightly differing hue can be selected with ease out of a group of objects and that objects with identical colour but differing values for other visual variables (e.g., in the case of shape as the other variable: a red circle, a red square and a red triangle) can easily be grouped mentally. Continue reading

Kite aerial photography gallery

Digital Photography School has a nice gallery of kite aerial photography (or KAP, as it’s called amongst insiders):

Le Mont Saint Michel (Manche-FR)

Le Mont Saint Michel, France (© François Levalet,

I have to date built various kites myself and actually also one of the KAP rigs shown in the gallery and have done some KAP experiments myself. KAP is lightweight, can produce affordable aerial photography and is thus an interesting acquisition method for spatial data. For these reasons it is sometimes used for archaeologic studies and exploration, see for example here or here.

Despite ever more popular quadro- and other copters and their advantages (for example, no need for wind), I think KAP may keep a niche, for example in applications where noise may be an issue or where an especially heavy payload needs to be lifted.

Etymologic cartography

I propose Etymologic cartography as a field of study: Somebody had the simple but appealing idea to simply translate the toponyms on a map to English. In this case the subject in question is the USA:

Map of the USA with state names in English

Some of the names are rather interesting (and were unknown to me), e.g. Asleep for Iowa, Flattened Water for Nebraska, Great Hills for Massachusetts, Lord of War for Delaware, Dugout Canoe for Missouri (see here for an ordinary USA map for comparison). Note also, that both peripheral Alaska and peripheral Maine consider(ed) themselves the Mainland and that Idaho was apparently named such as a practical joke (really!? – possibly!)!

Also, the map nicely answers a question a friend of mine recently wondered about (and which I couldn’t answer): Kansas apparently means Wind, while Arkansas means People of the Wind!

The principle of etymologic cartography is of course easily transferred to other geographic areas. Though, coming to think of it, given its history the USA has probably a substantial (more than average?) density of toponyms that don’t stem from the local language but rather from Spanish or Aboriginal American languages (think, for example, Utah). I wonder what other countries or regions would especially lend themselves to such an experiment?

(via gisn8)

James Bond(s), quantified

The Economist compares the average of Martinis, romantic involvements and kills per Bond movie per actor:

How the Bonds stack up against each other (Source: The Economist)

The various Bonds fare quite differently in the three departments. I wonder if the increased Martini intake of Daniel Craig’s Bond is a consequence of the more somber style of the recent films with a Bond full of self-doubt or indicative of the Craig-era fincancial woes of the MGM empire (think product placement)?