New York Times mapmakers

Oct 24, 2014

When news breaks, maps often accompany stories (or the maps are the story), and cartographers and graphics people have to work quickly. The New York Times does this really well. Cartographer Tim Wallace of the New York Times describes some of the process for Wired. I like the bit about uncertainty.

They also have to deal with incorporating uncertainty into their maps. A recent map of territory held by ISIS in Iraq and Syria, for example, uses blurry red and yellow shading to indicate regions controlled by ISIS and areas of recurring attacks. The same map uses light grey hatching to indicate sparsely populated regions. “You don’t want to put a hard line around that,” Wallace said. “It’s not like you cross a river and all of a sudden it’s sparsely populated.”

When I was over there as a lowly graphics intern years ago, I was always impressed by the map department. Actually, I think the map department had just been combined with graphics to work more closely together. Maybe they split them back up again. Anyways, they sit next to each other, and I was impressed by everyone.

I’d occasionally make location maps — mostly small stuff with a few dots on them. Then I’d give it to the map department for checking. Their speed and accuracy was always top notch, which was a fine way for me to see how much I had to learn.

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