Tuesday 30 September 2014

Pretzel crust cartography

I saw an ad on television last night that may help the understanding of how cartographers think about good map design and construction vs what we perceive as poor map design and construction. It was for a new Pretzel Crust pizza available at Little Caesars. It's constructed with a pretzel crust as the base (poor basemap for a pizza in my opinion) and then goes on to slop on a thick yellow cheese sauce instead of a tomato based sauce (odd choice, gloopy and lacking taste), before topping it off with four more cheeses and pepperoni (solid choice for a final topping but a bit out of place on the base).

Take a look and you decide whether any of this should be allowable on a pizza. The pizza appears at about 16 seconds...by 20 seconds I'd hope you won't want one...by 26 seconds I'm hoping you're wondering what the hell they were on when they invented it. If you're thinking yum, gotta go get one now then you may as well not read any more of this post.

Want a pretzel? Have a pretzel. Want cheese dipping sauce with your nachos...go ahead (though forgive me if I don't - plastic orange goo isn't that appealing even in it's correct environs). But designing a pizza using these ingredients just doesn't work for me. If it was experimental then fine...but don't release it and ask people to pay for it. I wonder if I'm alone in this or whether sales prove otherwise?

There are clear parallels to mapping. Start with any old basemap - probably a default topographic one because you don't know what the others are for or, even better, use a satellite image because that's colourful and detailed and more must be better. Then slop some data over the top. Don't pay much attention to symbol choice or design...just dump your data across the top and smear it around. Actually, make it bright because it won't show up on the satellite basemap unless it's bright. Then if you have some point based ingredients (e.g. emoji...see previous post), position these across the top. Finish off with a smear of butter and a good dose of flavour enhancing salt and boom - you made a pretzel crust map.

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