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A few months ago Daniel Huffman ( https://twitter.com/pinakographos / https://somethingaboutmaps.com/ ) posted a competition to twitter revolving around ‘Monochrome Mapping.’ I loved the idea of this challenge and have myself been guilty of overusing colour in many of our animated visualisations. The idea of stripping away such an important visualisation element focuses the brain on deriving cartographic meaning in other forms.

Most of my work has an element of 3d and I love trying to find new ways of visualising data, last year I produced the Coral Cities project which was a unique take on drive-time catchments in perhaps a more artistic form ( https://towardsdatascience.com/coral-cities-an-ito-design-lab-concept-c01a3f4a2722 ). The initial concept behind ‘Coral Cities’ was ‘Drive Time Mountains’ – essentially the inverted version of the Corals.

I always loved the way the mountains looked as a visualisation with ambient occlusion bolstering the shadows underneath the mountains creating a unique view of drive time catchments. This was the visualisation I entered into the competition, albeit the animated form.

I took 40 of the top populated towns and cities in the UK and applied a very generic 60 min drive time algorithm from the centre of the urban areas. This doesn’t include congestion and is purely calculated on road speed.

The mountains are created, similar to corals, by applying a height value to each vertex of a road segment. The height, for mountains, is inversely proportionate to the distance from the centre, so the peaks of the mountains hover over the centre of the urban areas.

Secondly, we have dynamic widths to the roads, which are proportionate to the number of journeys along the road and as such show more popular routes in and out of cities (again using road speed as a proxy for convenience, so nothing too accurate!)

The result looks like something from another planet! Creating a kind of boomerang animation gives the animation a heart-beat or pulse which adds to the idea that the drive-time mountains are somewhat alive or organic.

Of course, adding colour would highlight the mountains but it’s not needed as the 3d nature of the mountains coupled with the animation techniques results in something that is comprehensible and understandable.

Here are a couple of other examples using this technique…

Drive Time Mountains – France
Drive Time Mountains – China

And here is the less elegant offcut I produced before stripping away all the colour…

More Monochrome

Previous to this competition I started a project visualising OpenStreetMap edits, I liked the idea of using monochrome to show the growth in street networks over time. The below video is a little bit of an offcut to the monochrome competition which I didn’t submit but wanted to share anyway.

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