MonoCarto 2019 Winners

I am very pleased to present to you the Final Selection (i.e., the winners) of MonoCarto 2019 (formerly known as the Monochrome Mapping Competition; thanks Arnaud Hannequin for suggesting a better name)! Keep scrolling down to see all the maps, or click on a thumbnail to jump to that particular entry. Each also features some brief thoughts provided by me or one of the judges. I hope you find these works as inspirational as the judges and I have.

-Daniel P. Huffman, MonoCarto Curator

FINAL SELECTION

Appalachian Trail Fold Out Shelter Reference & Journal-Atop Adventure Map
John Nelson, Erich Rainville

Ireland
Alex Hotchin

The Topography of Wealth in LA
Nick Underwood

Watershed Flow Map
Warren Davison

Monochrome Drive Time Mountains
Craig Taylor, Ito World

The Lost Treasures of la Isla del Coco
Jakob Listabarth

Tongass National Forest
Evan Applegate, Matt Strieby, Aiyana Udesen, Ezra Butt

The Paris Map
Kevin Sheehan

Inland Northwest Washington Art Deco Map
Sarah Bell

Natural Gas System of North America
Josie Sajbel

Newport News Green Foundation
Jonah Adkins

Iturup
Heather Smith

Peru: A Relief Map
Shannon Gonzales

Newberry Caldera
Daniel Coe

The Sum of its Parts
Pete King


Appalachian Trail Fold Out Shelter Reference & Journal-Atop Adventure Map

John Nelson, Erich Rainville

Commentary by Arzu Çöltekin, competition judge

Cartographically quite perfect—with its full attention to legibility of the text and lines, and its gridlines holding the reader’s hand any time they need to estimate distances and distortions—Appalachian Trail Fold Out Shelter Reference & Journal-Atop Adventure Map is also simply beautiful. The fact that it is monochrome seems entirely appropriate as we are missing no information that is relevant to the imagined journey; and no doubt its monochrome-ness adds to its beauty. The use of multiple shades mark what we need to know about the terrain, and introduces simplicity which gives a satisfyingly tidy feel to it; yet still inspiring elegance. With its attractive features, deliberate coverage and functional design, this map indeed inspires one to adventure into the nature, both with excitement and with safety of knowing where you are, and what is ahead!

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Ireland

Alex Hotchin

Commentary by Lauren Tierney, competition judge

Incredible attention to detail in the texturing for different illustrations and cartographic features, which balanced all the elements effectively within a single color. The mixture of a solid fill to frame the coastline, and the variation in density of textures and patterns helped differentiate complex illustrations from each other, make this a detailed but easy-to-absorb map in monochrome. I kept getting lost in this map in the best way possible, noticing the intricate illustrated details of symbols and physical features. And that coastline… I notice new details every time I look at it.

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The Topography of Wealth in LA

Nick Underwood

Click to view the full animated map

Commentary by Daniel P. Huffman, competition Curator

Turning income data into a topographic surface, Nick Underwood takes us on a quick scrollytelling tour of Los Angeles. Wealthy areas are extruded upwards into pseudo-skyscrapers, surrounding flatter poor areas. What’s interesting to me is that it made me realize how much I already associate skyscrapers with wealth, and so seeing the tall blocks of Beverly Hills (median income >$250,000) makes perfect sense to me. Atop the “terrain” sit a few understated labels, judiciously and subtly shadowed. The minimal presentation (note the stark grey sky in the background) offers a sort of early CGI feeling. But I’m not sure it needs more than that; color might simply muddy the clarity of the shapes. Some light and shadow is all that’s needed to see what’s going on.

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Watershed Flow Map

Warren Davison

Commentary by Xemartin Laborde, competition judge

I really enjoyed this monochrome map, whose intense and strong blue catches the eye. The meanders and structure of the river and its tributaries give a very graphic, capillary aspect. The paint effect and typography used are excellent choices, and the radar charts are didactic and eloquent. I also appreciate the spread of the waves on Lakes Erie and Ontario. By primarily using lines (of various thicknesses and dot/dash patterns) as the central graphic system, the map can remain monochrome while offering optimal readability. It is a very beautiful map.

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Monochrome Drive Time Mountains

Craig Taylor, Ito World

Click to view the full video

Commentary by Amy Griffin, competition judge

Monochrome Drive Time Mountains was one of my favourite submissions to the Monochrome Mapping competition. Commuting, often undertaken by driving a car, is one of the strongest rhythms in modern, dynamic cities. The movement of people to and from work, often from the hinterlands to the city centre, is a mobility pattern that recurs insistently, and this movement of people, like the movement of blood through the human body, breathes life and energy into city centres. Craig Taylor’s monochrome animated map effectively and elegantly captures this rhythm. Craig’s design decision to size the roads according to their width and likely traffic volumes produces a map whose appearance also references the small blood vessels that feed into larger ones to bring life to the body. The balance of greyscale variations provides enough contrast to clearly delineate the growth and diminishment of the mountains along the road networks and focuses the reader’s attention within the changing scene. Finally, the measured pace of the animation contributes to the sense of a living, breathing commute.

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The Lost Treasures of la Isla del Coco

Jakob Listabarth, under the supervision of Manuela Schmidt

Commentary by Daniel P. Huffman, competition Curator

When doing monochrome design, cartographers can only use one “ink” color, but most of us at least use various tints of that ink: basically, mixing it with the background color to create a continuous ramp of colors (e.g., greyscale) that we can use to distinguish rivers, contours, and other feature types from each other. Continuous monochrome is tough enough, but Jakob Listabarth takes the challenge even further and uses this map’s sole ink at 100% strength only. He is only able to distinguish feature types from each other using line weight, dot/dash patterns, and hachure shading. This he does excellently, and I continue to be impressed by how much information is shown, and how clearly each layer is distinguished from the others when they are all, after all, exactly the same version of magenta.

It’s not only an attractive aesthetic choice, but one that ties into the map’s subject. In the 19th century cartographers were usually likewise limited to representing features using ink lines, printed from engraved copper plates. Listabarth still puts a modern spin on things with the sans serif typography and charming (whimsical?) illustrations. It’s a lovely blending of old and new.

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Tongass National Forest

Evan Applegate, Matt Strieby, Aiyana Udesen, Ezra Butt

Commentary by Xemartin Laborde, competition judge

Many elements stand out in this gorgeous map, which frames the Tongass region and its fragmented and serrated coastline, composed of myriad islands and lakes. The choice to rotate the map away from north is a nice and elegant emancipation from cartographic conventions. The ratio between the map and the illustrations below is well proportioned. The monochrome palette is subtle, a mixture of black and bistre colours, featuring darkness in the ocean and lakes, while contextual information, coastlines, shaded relief, and the silhouettes of the trees are highlighted. The graphical aspect is of a great delicacy, and the semiological choices are very coherent (I notice the very careful and creative work applied to the scales, the introductory text, the coordinates, and the north arrow). The locator map, which is a great help, is in a judicious projection of North America. The geographical data (bathymetry, relief, graticule) are of a great precision and bring texture and depth. At the bottom, the incredibly realistic illustration gives the reader the impression of entering into a nocturnal forest, with highlighted treetops. There is a very clever system of contrast and opacity that creates both foreground and the background in the forest, offering a very immersive atmosphere. It is a fantastic work, very inspiring.

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The Paris Map

Kevin Sheehan

Commentary by Sarah Bell, competition judge

This exquisitely hand-drawn map by cartographer Kevin Sheehan combines modern and historic features of Paris into a beautiful work of fine art. Each map element is encompassed by finely detailed ornamentation intricately drawn with a dip pen. The cartographer smartly employs Roman numerals in this City of Love map as a nod to Paris’ Roman past. The title’s border is itself a work of art, illustrating some of the city’s most iconic buildings. Throughout the map, readers can locate these and many other iconic buildings, each drawn obliquely to capture the buildings’ characteristics. Purely monochrome in ink and calf vellum, this stunning illustration of Paris displays true craftsmanship.

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Inland Northwest Washington Art Deco Map

Sarah Bell

Commentary by Hans van der Maarel, competition judge

This map caught my eye immediately and invited me to study it closer, and not just because it’s showing a part of the US where I’ve travelled a lot and have fond memories of. Even within the constraints of a single color it manages to deliver a lot of information in a clear way without seeming too cluttered. This is largely due to the excellent typography, especially the type hierarchy. Overall, the design of the map works well to invoke an Art-Deco feeling, thanks to the choice of typeface and the modest, but stylish, ornamentation. In short, this map is a pleasure to look at, not just a tool but a work of art.

Commentary by Xemartin Laborde, competition judge

The yellowed side of this map caught my eye. The graphical choices of vintage typography and faded green color offer an old-fashioned look to this map, making it look like an old advertisement. It is a very successful work!

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Natural Gas System of North America

Josie Sajbel

Commentary by James Cheshire, competition judge

The “Natural Gas System of North America” immediately leapt out at me from a very strong field. This is because it is incredibly hard to create a monochrome map from multiple layers of data: we’re used to seeing such maps with loads of color as the cartographer tries what they can to discern one element from another. In this map the margins of error are tiny, slightly more or less transparency on the circles would have made them indistinguishable, a notch up or down on the gradient applied to the pipelines would have resulted in a messy tangle of lines shining through. The fact that production regions, state borders and a mass of labels have been squeezed on – and remain legible – is a triumph. My favourite maps are those that appear effortless to all but the most specialist readers who can appreciate the many, many tiny tweaks required to create them. In that regard this map really delivers.

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Newport News Green Foundation

Jonah Adkins

Commentary by Mark Denil, competition judge

The Newport News Green Foundation: Preserving a Greener Future deserves to be noticed amongst the crowd in this competition. It is a good map of the achievements of a local non-profit. The general conception and layout are elegant and understated, and the map should be inexpensive to print. Wall maps are effective tools for conservation efforts: charming, understated maps like this can play out-sized roles insinuating an organization’s take on a situation into the general consciousness of a community.

The map is not without problems: some of the symbolization is obscure, and the choice of such a light ink color might make some of the finely differentiated shades difficult to reproduce readably on paper. At the very least, the sheet should be taller: the text jammed along the lower edge of the page really needs some breathing room. As a snapshot of the present situation, this map also very much needs a date.

This map seems not to be officially connected with the Newport News Green Foundation (nngreen.com)—its existence is not mentioned on the Foundation’s website—nor does the cartographer’s website (www.jonahadkins.com) map mention any formal relationship. Maybe, with some tweaks, the Foundation might have itself a fine map.

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Iturup

Heather Smith

Commentary by Martha Bostwick, competition judge

I love the combination of digital and manual technologies and techniques in this map. The hand-rendered relief shows minimal terrain representation without the clutter of traditional shading. It draws the readers eye to the important topographical features on the map. The stark black and white contrast provides a fantastic figure-ground relationship, while careful attention to line weights really makes the various map features stand out.

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Peru: A Relief Map

Shannon Gonzales

Commentary by Jake Coolidge, competition judge

A great monochrome map will not leave the viewer wanting for color — instead, with that one selected color, the cartographer can express specific aspects of the depicted geography with great acuity. “Peru: a Relief Map”, by Shannon Gonzales, is a striking example. When viewed from afar, the map reveals larger patterns in the terrain: canyons and ravines cutting into the coastal range, a spine of highlands in the Andes, complex valleys and gorges on the eastern flank of the mountains leading to the Amazon Basin. The tilted perspective view from the southeast, reaching out to the curvature of the Earth, reveals on close inspection the roughly parallel orientation of the coastal ravines, stacked one after another, as well as the interiors of two grand river valleys, the Marañon and Ucayali. Terrain of this complexity has many stories to suggest all on its own, and choosing to portray the terrain in shades of gray brings it to the fore. The effect is further accentuated by the tilted perspective projection and level of vertical exaggeration applied to the 3D modeling. In summary, the map is a thoughtful combination of cartographic choices, whose clarity is accentuated through the use of monochrome design.

Commentary by Xemartin Laborde, competition judge

This map pleased me because of its perspective projection. This view brings realism, makes the exaggerated relief appear more 3D, and offers a horizon that gives the impression that we are looking at Peru from space. The use of this map projection reminds me of Richard Edes Harrison’s impressive orthographic maps.

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Newberry Caldera

Daniel Coe

Commentary by Brooke Marston, competition judge

Fully embracing the challenges of monochrome mapping, the author aptly applies a highly effective dark canvas to reflect the natural black obsidian features of this volcanic monument, immersing the reader in the landscape. Emphasizing shadows and highlights on lakes and mountain slopes mimics the smooth, glassy texture of the obsidian. Through subtle stylistic details carefully chosen and visually balanced throughout, the author has created a reference map that is as informative as it is attractive. Light, elegant typeface and modernly styled map elements contrast with highly detailed, dark LIDAR relief, mimicking somewhat the small, present-day human impact on a historically active and volatile volcanic landscape. Despite being completely grayscale, individual map elements are distinct and legible and naturally complement, rather than compete with or supersede, each other. Unique line symbology makes trails easily distinguishable and combined with varying saturations of text, a clear visual hierarchy of information is well presented. The author has shown monochrome is not always a limitation in cartography, but at times an asset that can enhance the relationship between reader and nature, making this one of the best examples of contemporary monochrome maps.

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The Sum of its Parts

Pete King

Commentary by Ginny Mason, competition judge

The simple and straight-forward design of “The Sum of its Parts” is a map where the content drives the palette, rather than where the palette drives the content. There are many maps that are “forced” into a monochromatic design, perhaps because of printing limitations, or a preconceived design. With those stylistic preconceptions in mind, decisions are made as to what content can be shown and how to show it. With this map, the deconstruction of data to merely a footprint is the appropriate driver for the choice of a monochromatic color scheme.

The map’s monochromatic palette allows for a quick read of the content in the layout. The small multiples allow for easy comparison of data density and geographical coverage without the distraction of other visual variables getting in the way. Minimalism takes its true form. While we see these maps as deconstructed parts, we can simply take away a holistic view of New Zealand’s geography.

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