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Printing a wall-sized world map and what I've learned from it (dominik-schwarz.net)
919 points by herrherr on Apr 30, 2015 | hide | past | web | favorite | 220 comments

I was formerly a cartographer with the military; I have lots of experience with large format maps, both of the world and of single countries (usually Iraq). It was fun to read an article about a map that wasn't hastily tacked up on a wall with nails or duct tape.

A few notes:

- Paper sags over time. Good thing he mounted it to a board

- We printed on tyvek for water/rip proofing, which was interesting. It's surprisingly hard to rip.

- I would have chosen a different projection maybe, but only for purely aesthetics, not any scientific reason. If its hanging on a wall in your house because you want it, you have all the license in the world to do whatever.

- I can't tell, but did NZ make the cut?

- And I may not have used blue for areas in the corners that are not actually water.

What a great job though!

This reminded me of Colonels coming to me in the military saying - "I want all of Iraq on my wall at 1:50,000" and as a junior enlisted man saying something, very respectfully, like "Well, sir, Iraq is about 900km from top to bottom, so that's 900,000m, and at 1:50,000 that's about 18m from top to bottom. How high are your ceilings?"

Lists like this often include the Pandemic board game the bit of that one that I love is you look at the reverse of the tile with Oz on it, you can see New Zealand there. (It sort of wraps around, can't think of a better way to put this).

"This reminded me of Colonels coming to me in the military saying - "I want all of Iraq on my wall at 1:50,000" and as a junior enlisted man saying something, very respectfully, like "Well, sir, Iraq is about 900km from top to bottom, so that's 900,000m, and at 1:50,000 that's about 18m from top to bottom. How high are your ceilings?"

Ahaha... I am really curious though. What were their responses? Just do it? Or was it like, my wall is 5 meters high, so make maps that will fit that height?

What's your take on digital maps in military? I gather printed maps will be around a looong time because tablets just cannot match the usefulness of maps (at least at platoon/company level)?

Always amazed to hear from people of such diverse background and experience here and on the internet in general.

My experience with digital maps is that they were always a complement to my paper map, not a replacement. Sometimes you'd be traveling long distances and a 1:25,000 or 1:50,000 became too cumbersome to carry once you got out of the truck...so following along on a digital surface made some sense. But at present I think you're correct that digital maps aren't ready to replace the paper form at the tactical level. From a planning perspective, satellite overlays are extremely useful and taking a printed version of selected imagery with me on a patrol happened pretty much every time, especially if we were looking for something specific or searching buildings etc. Platoon leaders end up getting pretty good at arts and crafts...we'd spend a lot of time cutting and pasting maps and imagery together to get something as useful as possible, but just small enough that it wasn't too terrible to have in your cargo pocket or tucked into your plate carrier.

If you look at the very bottom corner of http://www.dominik-schwarz.net/potpourri/worldmap/images/DSC... it looks like NZ was included, you can just see the Auckland area.

Out of curiosity, what projection would you go with?

Dymaxion would be disorienting but it would certainly get you thinking

Example: http://basementgeographer.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/uap...

This is the projection I’ve been working on for the past few weeks, a conformal spinoff of Cahill’s maps from the early 20th century:


I think it’ll be great for a map where the triangular sections are each about a meter on a side (1:10M scale), or perhaps half a meter on a side (1:20M scale).

I like Kavrayskiy VII as a good compromise projection fit for a rectangular print - just cut out the South Pole: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kavrayskiy_VII_projection

My father in law was a cartographer by trade, he got started when conscripted into the Vietnam war, and continued in mapping and cartography for his entire career. He spent his entire service producing detailed maps of Vietnam from a very long way away. All hand drawn. I've seen a couple of pieces of his work, it's awesomely detailed. They were shipping out new maps on a very frequent basis.

I've experimented with printing to tyvek before on a Canon ipf700 but I was using standard colorjet pigments which do not adhere to the tyvek.

I tried ringing around to see if I could source inks that would work with tyvek to use with this machine, but inks are expensive and i'd probably need a whole new dedicated printhead. In short I gave up.

What kind of resolutions were you able to achieve on Tyvek?

A projection I'm fond of, but is almost unheard of is the Kavrayskiy projection:


It solves most projection issues without looking terrible.

"We printed on tyvek for water/rip proofing, which was interesting. It's surprisingly hard to rip."

I've often wondered why children's books aren't printed on tyvek, but perhaps publishers see lack of durability as a feature rather than a bug.

I wanted to start up something like this a couple of years ago called BeachBooks or something, reading a waterproof book while floating in a ocean or pool would be unreal. I have no idea how you would ever sell publishers this idea though!


Like the invention of the dust jacket, the delicate protector.

if you want water/rip proffing, allow me to introduce http://www.splash-maps.com

"OpenStreetMap... the additional work to custom style the maps would be extraordinary"

It absolutely wouldn't. Download TileMill or its successor, Mapbox Studio. Adjust the (Carto)CSS. Done.

Though for a map of this scale I'd probably work straight from Natural Earth[1] without involving OSM, to be honest.

Looks great, anyway.

[1] http://www.naturalearthdata.com/

I get the impression he's not just talking about coloring, but also about what labels to show, how to space and lay them out, etc. He mentions this explicitly:

> [...] the real challenge for a map service is to decide what they should and should not display. Google does an excellent job [...]

You can edit all of that with CartoCSS. OP made a great map, but Mapbox Studio really is ideal for a project like this.


It doesn't follow that because CartoCSS/Mapbox studios is "editable", "customizable", and "easy", that the specific combinations of configuration and adjustment available would meet his complex criterion of minimizing time, effort, money, and aesthetics. I'd imagine Google Maps is optimized to a T for all of the tiny specific label placements you want, and I'm not convinced from the one-off choice it would have been a 100% better idea for the OP to use.

It might have been a better choice, and maybe he didn't evaluate the option, but I still imagine the complexity of these options for the OP's specific aesthetic taste is quite large.

There is indeed no great solution to 'prominence' in the OSM data. There have been efforts to add population information to places, and to promote so called villages into so called towns when they are locally important, but those efforts have not been completely systematic (so they might be better in Austria than Minnesota, and even worse in Wisconsin).

Which is one reason to turn to the Natural Earth data, it has been curated more systematically than OSM.

> There is indeed no great solution to 'prominence' in the OSM data.

There has been lots of research about how to automatically produce Goldilocks Maps (enough information - but not too much) - I remember an article (whose URL I can't locate) which showed increased readability by pruning minor location names when they are too close to major locations. Google does that sort of thing well, but they are not the only ones nowadays - for example the osmfr Openstreetmap style does, in my opinion, a decent job of prioritizing labels: http://tile.openstreetmap.fr/

If you look at the database queries (search "placenames" here: https://raw.githubusercontent.com/cquest/osmfr-cartocss/mast... ), it is largely leaning on population data.

I looked around the local area here and it turns out to be quite reasonable, but there are also more than a couple misses, where the more notable town/village in a pair is suppressed.

..or get the best of both worlds with a data mashup.

> I'd imagine Google Maps is optimized to a T for all of the tiny specific label placements you want

As i noticed the other day, they certainly have a very precise notion of where Great Britain is:


>Google Maps is optimized to a T

example image used in the article shows most countries with their capitals, and others with some random cities highlighted, truly to the T!

Or for the interested, TileMill would be better as you can print exports in PDF as vectors. I spent a great deal of time trying to manually create transit maps for one of our 'archaic' transit agencies, and this was before Mapbox Studio's time. I use Studio a bit, but TileMill does the better job as it caters better for offline usage.

I do agree with others though that it would have been a great amount of effort to invest in understanding CartoCSS for his requirements, and getting to create it.

Google does do a very good job at this for online maps - but as you can see in his photographs, it is absolutely the wrong choice for a wall. Having the ability to change the labelling of a map to suit your needs is cartography and the OpenStreetMap map making toolkit is one of the better ways of achieving this.

I'll be honest, I never really gave a lot of thought to whether or not I'm a "map lover" until this HN topic appeared in my feed, but your comment hooked me in...

...so much for this morning's priorities. /sigh

If you're familiar with the Natural Earth data set, do you know if it is possible to apply a transformation so a map could be printed of the World using the Cahill or Waterman projection?

I can envision a striking large-scale art piece that started from a "butterfly" representation of the World.

The data is stored as coordinates, so given software that supports a projection and understands the system used to store the data, it can be transformed.

(Much recently available data is stored using geographic coordinates - basically the latitude and longitude, and maybe the elevation, but a lot of older data, and especially government data, is stored in coordinate systems that are designed to limit the error in spatial analyses that are done on the data. This isn't really something that you would have to understand deeply to make a map in a given projection, but you might have to deal with it along the way.)

You can download QGIS and change the projection system pretty easily. It's also useful for doing other things like simplifying geometries, removing extra data columns, etc.

You should put your email address in your HN profile, so people can contact you. :-)

Your thought was my first thought too: but then I realized that Mapbox's products only support Web Mercator projection, which kinda ruins it for me :(

This is an amazing thread and comment. I've been looking to do a similar thing to the OP, and his much more thorough research confirms what I had found - none of the map sellers provide quite what I want, and I would have to resort to building it myself out of google maps (ideally using the API, not the web client).

Mapbox looks like exactly the thing I'm looking for (I want a local street-level map), thanks!

This is so brilliantly reminiscent of Borges' famous fiction:

On Exactitude in Science Jorge Luis Borges, Collected Fictions, translated by Andrew Hurley. ...In that Empire, the Art of Cartography attained such Perfection that the map of a single Province occupied the entirety of a City, and the map of the Empire, the entirety of a Province. In time, those Unconscionable Maps no longer satisfied, and the Cartographers Guilds struck a Map of the Empire whose size was that of the Empire, and which coincided point for point with it. The following Generations, who were not so fond of the Study of Cartography as their Forebears had been, saw that that vast Map was Useless, and not without some Pitilessness was it, that they delivered it up to the Inclemencies of Sun and Winters. In the Deserts of the West, still today, there are Tattered Ruins of that Map, inhabited by Animals and Beggars; in all the Land there is no other Relic of the Disciplines of Geography. —Suarez Miranda,Viajes de varones prudentes, Libro IV,Cap. XLV, Lerida, 1658

Lewis Carroll was there first. :-)

From Sylvie and Bruno Concluded (1893):

"That's another thing we've learned from your Nation," said Mein Herr, "map-making. But we've carried it much further than you. What do you consider the largest map that would be really useful?"

"About six inches to the mile."

""Only six inches!"exclaimed Mein Herr. "We very soon got to six yards to the mile. Then we tried a hundred yards to the mile. And then came the grandest idea of all! We actually made a map of the country, on the scale of a mile to the mile!"

"Have you used it much?" I enquired.

"It has never been spread out, yet," said Mein Herr: "the farmers objected: they said it would cover the whole country, and shut out the sunlight! So we now use the country itself, as its own map, and I assure you it does nearly as well.

So was that map the territory, or not?

I guess cuz it's fiction then the answer is no, the map is not the territory. Or come to think of it, maybe yes. Or both. Or neither. I actually have no idea. That's why I hate lit-crit. I do love me some Borges though. Maybe best not to sweat it.

Borges is what actually got me interesting in literary criticism -- because of the nature of his output, it's actually possible to read nearly all of his major work (poetry and nonfiction included). This makes reading lit-crit about him infinitely more satisfying. If you're remotely interested, I'd highly recommend "The Narrow Act", "Invisible Work", and particularly "The Mystery To A Solution", though this last one also requires a lot of Poe and even more patience.

Neither! Paradox or aporia is my guess. Gets you thinking though, which is clearly the idea.

This guy "loves world maps" but chose Mercator for the wall of his room? I guess there's no accounting for taste. There are hundreds of projections to choose from, why choose the one optimized for navigation by compass?

I can't believe I'm doing this, but I think I'm going to defend Mercator here.

The Mercator projection was indeed originally designed for compass navigation, but the reason it's still used for web mapping is slightly different. The Mercator projection is conformal. What this means is that angles (and hence in some sense shapes) are preserved locally. When we zoom in on a small section of the Mercator projection, we get a reasonably accurate representation of the actual shape of features. This is generally not true for most more fashionable projections, which will stretch and skew things, so they don't always look great when zoomed.

In general with map projections, you have to make a compromise between global properties and local properties. Choosing Mercator means going full-on for local quality, at the expense of the global map being quite distorted. This makes it great for zoomable web maps, because most of the time the global map is just used to find the area you're actually looking for.

Now, you could argue that for a living-room wall, you want something that looks good globally. If it was my wall, I'd agree with you. However, this guy seems to be really interested in local detail. He worries about his four-point fonts becoming blurry, and about having as many small villages marked on the map as possible. If he's interested in that kind of detail, then I think he probably cares far more about local properties than the kind of global properties that would bother me or you.

If I understand correctly, Mercator is the only conformal projection where north is always up, no matter where you zoom in. That makes it nice for online maps. If you relax the "north is up" requirement, there's tons of conformal projections that look nice: http://www.progonos.com/furuti/MapProj/Normal/ProjConf/projC...

I really like the "classic Guyou" projection: http://www.progonos.com/furuti/MapProj/Normal/ProjConf/Img/Z.... It mangles the ocean pretty badly, but the sizes and shapes of the landmasses are surprisingly realistic, and it's rectangular to boot.

I like the "classic Guyou" projection you linked to as well.

But referring back to the OP, notice the grid of books and curios along the entire neighboring wall, and the grid-like pattern of the wood flooring underneath. The Mercator projection seems of a piece with this grid theme in the room.

Your curvy Guyou projection would look great in this Lautner house: http://cdn.cstatic.net/images/gridfs/53e53330f92ea16cd900340...

According to your linked image, one advantage of classic Guyou projection to the writer of the article is that it seems to contain a straight, uninterrupted vertical path through only ocean. He stated that he wanted maximize ocean in his panel cut, but I think he still had to cut through a bit of Africa.

"classic Guyou"... the sizes and shapes of the landmasses are surprisingly realistic

I don't think so at all. Australia is fairly balanced east/west in real life, but on that projection it looks like it's got an eastern tumour. Africa looks like it's got a western tumour. Spain looks like it's the size of the Arabian Peninsula. The British Isles (300k sq km) are the same size as India (3M sq km). It looks horribly distorted compared to a map on a globe.

Very nice links. Thanks for posting.

>The Mercator projection was indeed originally designed for compass navigation, but the reason it's still used for web mapping is slightly different. The Mercator projection is conformal.

Just speculating here, but it's also a big rectangle that is easy on the eyes. Non-rectangular online maps would fit awkwardly in websites. As for Gall-Peters, that map is just irredeemably ugly to me, and I'm ignorant of other rectangular projections that could compete with Mercator.

Yes, absolutely! The Mercator projection isn't the only conformal projection, but it is the only one for which north-south maps to the vertical axis, and east-west to the horizontal axis. That means that it maps the whole world onto a rectangle, which works well both for computers and interior decorating.

As for other rectangular projections, the most common is the equirectangular (or plate carrée), which simply maps (longitude, latitude) to (x, y). This is a pretty common representation for gridded global data.

Gall-Peters is also a conformation projection that maps north-south maps to the vertical axis, and east-west to the horizontal axis. As to online maps one major advantage is the X-Y scale does not get nearly as messed up at multiple zoom levels.

However, online maps alter the projection as you zoom so this is not much of an issue.

Gall-Peters is definitely not conformal. It preserves area, but greatly distorts angles, apart from at the two standard parallels of 45 degrees north and south. This results in the shapes of land masses getting very squished towards the poles (and to a lesser extent, the equator). For an example, look at the shape of Greenland, which appears twice as wide (east-west) as it is tall (north-south), when in reality it's the other way around.

I'm also not aware of any of the main online maps changing projection as you zoom. It seems like that would be more pain than it's worth.

A Mercator projection (ed: is a Conformal map, but) it also greatly distorts both angles and shapes as you approach the poles. The trivial example is to walk a square mile (N,W,S,E) you would expect the opposite sides to be at 45deg angle, but on Mercator the sides get stretched so a square in the real world can have a 10+:1 or even 100:1 side lengths on a Mercator map.

The property they both preserve is points north, south, east, or west of them on a globe are also north, south, east, or west of them in the projection. (Plenty of rectangular projections don't have this property ex: http://geographer-at-large.blogspot.com/2011/08/fun-with-map...)

The issue is interior angels of a triangle on a sphere don't add up to 180 degrees so you literally can't preserve all angles on a projection.

PS: If you actually walk exactly 1 mile north, 1 mile west, 1 mile south, then 1 mile east you don't necessarily end up on exactly the same place on a globe. (It does work if you start half a mile below the equator.)

Edit: Not that the earth is even a sphere...

It preserves angles locally. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conformal_map

Yea, nm I was wrong. Shapes do get distorted near the poles, but at fixed latitude the distortion decreases as their size decreases.

> as many small villages marked on the map as possible

Based on this image: http://www.dominik-schwarz.net/potpourri/worldmap/images/DSC... the entire continent of Africa looks only slightly larger than Greenland (when in fact it's about 14 times larger), and substantially smaller than Russia (when it is actually ~1.7 times larger).

Greenland has a population of ~60,000. Africa has a population of ~1.1billion.

I think Africa would have more small villages than Greenland (and Northern Russia) combined, yet is afforded less space.

He only had a Mercator map source data. Unless you know how to switch Google Maps into Peters Projection mode?

I am surprised people who read the article are even asking this considering how much he struggled even to get the source image (and how he ultimately wound up manually stitching together print screens).

Incase anyone really does want to do this: http://www.gdal.org/gdalwarp.html is awesome.

But he had the map data and the text data all compressed into a single image -- the text would have been warped as well.

Hopefully someone will find it useful for the reverse, warping an overlay image to place on top.

Jason Davies has done excellent work on addressing this problem in the browser https://www.jasondavies.com/maps/raster/

Except, that's also going to screw with the nice 4pt fonts he talked about...

He chose Mercator source data.

I can understand why someone wouldn't want to set up their own tile rendering system (and hence not use something like OSM with whatever projection they want), but it likely would have been less work than screenshots.

Relevant xkcd: https://xkcd.com/977/

And obligatory West Wing "Gall Peters Projection" clip:

"What the hell is that?"

"It's where you've been living this whole time"


That was extremely funny. Especially the bit about putting the north on the bottom. "But you can't do that."

I was hoping to see what he learned was projections.

Still better than no map on the wall. The style looks lovely at this scale! I would have made my own map from NE and OSM data but not everyone knows how much great data is available for free and how easy making maps with it is. We who know should do a better job of sharing.

Me too. Sorely disappointed, but he does mention the issue in the footnotes. Glad he's happy with it though! It's a neat project.

This was also my first reaction. "Nice Africa-sized Greenland you have there.."

I have to agree. I love the idea here, it's something I've dreamt of myself, but even after trimming Antarctica and the Arctic, I feel like the map is dominated by the least interesting possible features on the globe: Greenland and Siberia. Worse, those features fall closest to eye level.

On some level this is an unsolvable problem, but I was disappointed to see him spend more time on the pins he used than on the tradeoffs involved in the projection.

Maybe because he used Google Maps, and they use Mercator?

By default, but this can be changed in the API:


But then you can't stitch images together.

Guarantee everyone in this comment thread saw that episode of the West Wing where CJ meets the cartographers for social cartography. Me too. Big block of cheese, indeed...

Ha, it permanently ruined (Mercator) maps for all of us!

That was a very amusing episode! I enjoyed it.

yeah he should've used the dymaxion with the continuous ocean


> I guess there's no accounting for taste.

Unless you're a hipster nerd trying hard to seem sophisticated. In that case, fashion is everything.

Yeah, a world map that shows Greenland and South America at the same size is probably not a map I want in my living room. Even sticking pins in it would feel weird, knowing that Brazil is the size of Montana or whatever.

Stylistically speaking, Mercator is classic. If the map is just there as art, maybe your goal is to invoke the map on the wall of some ancient study in England.

For the same reason we have long accepted sci-fi movies with sounds in space. Imagine Star Wars without that.

Now I wish we did not accepted that fast the lens-flares, but hey - my kid loves them.

he didnt, he just printed what google showed him

I wish someone would have recommended him to tweak one of many available OSM styles in TileMill. He also could have exported the layer in any tile shape, projection, and resolution using mapnik. You can even render to vector trivially, which comes in very handy for any printable pdfs.



The project was started 1,5 years ago at the time of writing the article.

I've been using Mapnik for about 8 years now, I think, since it was the first alternative to MapServer. OSM has always been using Mapnik, with mapnik styles in CartoCSS for a long time too (http://wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/CartoCSS). TileMill beta (https://github.com/mapbox/tilemill/tree/v0.5.1) came out 4 years ago. So, I definitely would have made the same recommendation 1.5 years ago. It still came out pretty cool :)

Feel free to ask me any gis or web mapping questions as demiurge@irc.freenode.org, I'd love to facilitate more beautiful maps out there.

"Even when the data quality is great the real challenge for a map service is to decide what they should and should not display. Google does an excellent job in always showing the right amount of information."

I used to work on tile rendering at Google and considerable effort was spent on this. Thank you!

FWIW, a shameless plug for the company where I had my first programming job as a 17 year old: www.marketmaps.com. They will print and ship HUGE maps without a moment's hesitation. Choose a nice world map with a decent projection or send them a PDF and they'll overnight to you :-)

Oddly, they don't seem to have world maps advertised online. Everything else though!

Try here: http://www.mapsales.com/world-wall-maps.aspx

I think marketmaps.com landing page is pretty focused on the US, but they have a pretty extensive catalog, and you could also design your map with QGIS from OSM data and send them the PDF.

Do you know of any UK / Euro companies that do the same?

Interesting they don't ship paper maps over a certain size, just laminated ones.

This article's throwaway notion of glow-in-the-dark pins has got me thinking about how to make a surface with light-up LED pins that can be stuck in arbitrarily.

- You could use (cleverly-braided+insulated) regular LEDs if there was a breadboard or something behind the map, but that'd be both huge and inconvenient.

- Maybe LEDs with inductive coils and a large backing induction mat?

- Given a metallic backing, and a regular fridge-magnet-like magnet, is there some way to trade some of the magnetic force the magnet is exerting on the backing for electrical power? Or maybe power a light using the normal force of the backing on the magnet. Either way, this would probably have the side-effect of reducing the coercivity in a regular permanent magnet way faster than otherwise. (You can make the whole backing surface a weak electromagnet, though! I wonder if that's more or less energy-intensive than making an induction mat of that size...)

- Maybe ignore conductive power, and try for radio power? RFID-powered LEDs? Crystal-radio-like LEDs? Or even just phosphorous-coated pinheads (not the matchstick kind; the CRT kind) with an infrared lamp or blacklight on the other wall?

- Or maybe, if you don't care about the LEDs only lighting up when on the wall, you could just make them "permanently" lit in the same way some exit signs are: put a tiny little bit of something radioactive in there, and then surround that with fluorescent gas in a glass shell.

- A chemical solution would be very interesting for its own sake. If there was potentially chemoluminescent fluid in the backplane (which would then have to be a gel/sponge), and the pins could pull it in via capillary action somehow—maybe the heads on the pins could be squeezed, making them effectively into little bulb syringes—then fluid could end up in the pinhead and react with something inside.

Around 2003 at MIT I spoke with a guy who told me about a home lighting system that the French were using. Basically, you take an entire wall in a house and sandwich thin conductive layers between insulator layers. Then you have these special light fixtures with a sharp pronged tip that exposes three different wire heads at different lengths.

You just stab one of these fixtures into the wall anywhere you want; each of the three prongs travels to a different depth and makes contact with a layer representing the hot, neutral, and ground lines so that your light fixture is now plugged into 220 Volt wall socket current.

At the time, I remember saying "that sounds totally insane". I still think it is. But if you made a special map backing board rather than entire walls and ran a lot less power through it....

Given a metallic backing, and a regular fridge-magnet-like magnet, is there some way to trade some of the magnetic force the magnet is exerting on the backing for electrical power?

You need movement to generate electricity, otherwise it'd be a perpetual machine.

An alternative would be to have a "surface of light", ie, a source of light all along one of the walls of the map and passing right over it (not actually illuminating the map); then any object sitting on the map would be illuminated.

Maybe put a strong light behind the map, and use a fiberglass pin? Kind of like a Lite-Brite.

That would be a reasonably practical solution with a lowish profile lightbox as the mounting.


> You could use (cleverly-braided+insulated) regular LEDs if there was a breadboard or something behind the map, but that'd be both huge and inconvenient.

Theres a simpler solution that uses the same idea. Have pins that look like mono audio jacks, so the "tip" and "ring" are separate. Put two layers of conductive material down on the map, one on each side of the insulating board, and apply a voltage between them. When you stick in the pin, your "ring" contacts the closest layer, the tip the furthest, and so you have a voltage available to power the LED in the head. The voltage would only need to be about 3V or so, so its perfectly safe, you just need a small fuse in case of shorts.

Manufacturing a conductive "ring" on a pin would be difficult with machining, so using a conductive paint on top of an insulating paint would be the best option. The hardest issue would be ensuring a reliable contact with the ring, as the contact surface would be very small.

I would probably go for black light as the cheap / easy solution, but you would need to keep the map clean.

I bet this guy would have some ideas for light-up LED pins: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCNAAxVKWPAbaZiB90_kjDJw

LEDs are cheap just tape a battery to one


Probably overkill, but you could get a similar effect with a high resolution projector aimed at the map. Light up certain spots with color, and leave the rest black.

Except that if someone walks up to look at the map they'll block the projector beam and you lose the effect

I wonder if you could mount it on the ceiling, or even in, angled steeply (so you'd have to get very close to create shadows). For imagery, distortion would make this impossible, but if you're just projecting white light...

you could just have self powered led pins that have a switch in the head that turns on when you press the head down ...this way you could also selectively light up pins!

This jumped out at me.

>I am now lucky enough to have the opportunity to travel to many different countries and I sadly realized that this planet is not nearly as big as I hoped when I was a kid.

Fly less. I find that my sense of how big the world is is related to how frequently I fly Vs traveling by train, bus, motorcycle or anything else really.

Hurtling from one airport to another at ~800km/hr gives you a false impression about the distances you are covering. I suspect the speeds are simply so fast that we don't have the ability to intuitively appreciate just how far we are traveling. When you take slower forms of transport you suddenly realize how freaking huge the world is.

Flying also isolates you from the area you are traveling across. When you don't fly you see that there is in fact a vast amount of stuff (cities, towns, farming areas, mountains, rivers etc) between the airports. When I fly a lot the world is reduced to a network of airports.

An example from my own life. My wife and I once flew to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia then traveled overland (trains and buses with the occasional ferry) through Malaysia, up through Thailand, around part of Laos, back into Thailand and then over into Cambodia.

Travel time => 8 months.

My impression of how big the world is => absolutely massive.

Then we flew back from Phnom Penh to Kuala Lumpur, where we started.

Travel time => less than 2 hours in the air.

After a few additional flights, my impression of how big the world is => tiny.

National Geographic mural map is pretty decent (but yes, it's heavy on borders) http://shop.nationalgeographic.com/ngs/product/maps/wall-map...

Be careful the National Geographic online store sell their customer's information to marketers. Source: They did it to me.

If you want to opt out you'll have to send a physical letter to a specific address which is only found by clicking "Privacy & Security" then clicking "Privacy Policy" then "complete Privacy Policy" and final in the section called "V. Your Choices"

However they note that even sending this letter may do nothing:

> Because we plan our communications in advance, it may take several weeks for your request to become effective. If you continue to receive our communications in error after expressing an opt-out preference, please let us know so that we can investigate the situation.

And by that "few weeks" they likely have already sent your personal information to "other selected third parties" making the entire exercise pointless.

I love how intentionally misleading their "Privacy & Security" page is. And how even if you click "Privacy Policy" you just get a summary page which is equally misleading. You have to go down three layers to find the legitimate policy which sets out all of their scummy practices.

The Earth-toned version looks much nicer IMHO http://shop.nationalgeographic.com/ngs/product/maps/wall-map...

Seeing what he ended up with, I don't think he would have been happy with how much of these maps are graphic design, not map.

I think also the lack of smaller cities.

I thought this one was smaller but it's actually a bit bigger than the one posted. (I have a smaller version of this one, very nice map)

I can't believe how negative the comments are here, criticizing the projection. I don't really like the term "middlebrow dismissal" but it seems to apply.

As an aside, have you looked closely at Greenland on a globe? It looks all wrong - long and skinny like someone messed up the aspect ratio.

> As an aside, have you looked closely at Greenland on a globe? It looks all wrong - long and skinny like someone messed up the aspect ratio.

:) Yeah! I don't know why the 3D spherical projection gets a free pass when we're talking about mapping.

There's an unbelievable amount of pretentiousness in this thread, it's ridiculous.

Imagine the roar if he'd used Comic Sans as the typeface for all place names. And made the frame out of re-purposed shipping pallets.

I haven’t contributed to those comment threads, but I have found them much more interesting to read than the original article, regardless of the putative quantity of neocortex supporting their authors’ brows.

Very cool. But I was surprised to see he chose Mercator.

See: https://xkcd.com/977/

I thought that too. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mercator_projection

Which map projections would you choose? A difficult decision: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_map_projections

If you have to do it yourself anyway, why not make your own projection? I'd do a Dymaxion-style projection onto a truncated icosahedron (Goldberg polyhedron G(1,1), a.k.a. the soccer ball shape), with the poles centered in two of the pentagons, and as many edges as possible over bodies of water. Then I'd print each tile image and plaster it to its own mounting board, trimming the backs of the board edges to 69 degrees on all the hexagons and 73.5 degrees on all the pentagons. At that point, I'd permanently join the tiles with appropriate amounts of contiguous land mass, using brackets, and attach magnets to the remaining edges in such a way that you could assemble them like a puzzle.

I'd rather have a gigantic globe (that can also be dismantled for moving or storage) than have a wall map.

Well, if you want something rectangular, preserving area, with vertical meridians then you automatically end up with a cylindrical area projection. If you want an aspect ratio of 3/2 (approximately) you end up with the Gall-Peters projection. Although if you're prepared to cut out part of the map then you have a lot more freedom in your choice.

Edit: Just discovered that if you prefer a conformal map instead of one with equal area then you end up with the Mercator projection.

Robinson or Winkel-tripel like National Geographic does.

Hammer retroazimuthal, back hemisphere. Which is, coincidentally, also my favorite skateboarding move.

This is really cool looking, and I have no idea what you'd use it for.

And this is just the neatest thing to play with: https://www.jasondavies.com/maps/hammer-retroazimuthal/

"As a retroazimuthal projection, azimuths (directions) are correct from any point to the designated center point." (-- Wikipedia, which knows everything and is never wrong.)

It looks like one retroazimuthal variant (the Craig retroazimuthal) is sometimes called the "Mecca projection", so you know which way to kneel at sundown if you're into that sort of thing.

Okay, hipster. Transverse Mercator, south-oriented. https://trac.osgeo.org/proj/wiki/TMSO

Azimuthal equidistant on my house.

I thought that too, but on the other hand it is not readily apparent where you'd get a good non-mercator map raster.

You can just generate one from OpenStreetMaps

How would you approach it? Setting up a renderer with global coverage isn't really a trivial task. It is straightforward, and there are reasonable guides, like https://switch2osm.org/ , but the planet database is just a big database to work with.

(I think I would take advantage of Mapbox's free plan, which allows for 1 custom stylesheet and enough usage to get the image together. I guess there are lots of people who would be happy to render a stylesheet (especially if a modest fee is involved), but I'm not sure how someone on the street figures that out and gets in contact with them)

Yes, I setup a postgres instance a few weeks ago, so that I could render the local area with nik4.py. Lucky for me I already had mapnik and node installed and working, so getting CartoCSS and nik4.py running wasn't a big deal.

I was wondering if you had a specific setup in mind when you said 'just generate', as I did not find the process to be particularly trivial, even for a smaller region (and I do have experience messing around with arcane syntax and command lines).

Cool project.

I'm somewhat surprised that they didn't end up using an Open Street Map derivitive. If Google was good enough, then they'd probably find something from Mapbox or others that use OSM data acceptable, and many provide tools so that "the additional work to custom style the maps would be extraordinary" wouldn't be true.

It's also a bit wierd that the comparison screenshots are all at a different level of zoom from the one's that he wanted to use. Many online maps emphasis different things at different levels.

Just want to know if someone will be interested in such a kick starter project if "someone" was to build this commercially?

My wife would love it, so I'd buy one.

I'd be interested.

me too

Back in the day when Google Maps first came out, I got a bit.. obsessed with it. I wrote a bit of code to download map tiles (they had an interesting, recursive spiral indexing scheme) and stitch them into large images, and printed poster-sized satellite imagery on a 4' plotter I should not have had access to at work. Such beautiful imagery..

A very inspiring story of what can be achieved with talent, determination and resourcefulness. It doesn't have to be perfect, it just has to be good.

It also makes it very evident how odd it can be to project the surface of a sphere over a flat surface. The distortion of some shapes leaps to the eye.

I printed 4x1.2m night sky panorama for my living room. I worked on Skyview fork (astronomical image stitching library), after some processing I got 5GB JPEG with 60K to 20K resolution. 6 hours of work and 80 euro printing fee.

Not sure of the resolution but the easiest solution would be wallpaper. Googling "world map wallpaper" returns quite a lot of results, eg:


The picture you linked is clearly a 3D rendering and not an actual photo.

Yes it is, it wasn't obvious on my phone...

Another one: https://www.walldecalcompany.com/product_images/x/995/world_...

It looks really nice, but it seems a shame to me that the ocean appears featureless.

If I were printing all that blue ink, I'd want ocean trenches to stand out in the same way that the mountain ranges do :)

Since it was stitched using a number of smaller images printed from Google maps, wouldn't you end up with a bunch of "google-maps" watermarks all over the map?

The watermark is per screen, so you just have to crop off the watermarks (and account for the cropping as you set the view for each screenshot).

Why do people feel like they can just edit Antarctica out?

At least Antarctica is practically uninhabited.

http://worldmapswithout.nz/ on the other hand...

Why not? It's a pretty much uninhabited, massive chunk of land. It's practically the definition of wasted space in a project like this.

If using Mercator, you're left with the choice of "absurd surface area consumed" or "trim the nigh-unpopulated lump".

Typical anti-Antarctican sentiment! Rise up, ice crystals!

> There is a profession called »plasterer«

Maybe it is a German thing, in Australia a plasterer is anyone who installs plaster boards on the interior of houses by nailing them directly to the stud work (the wooden tresses).

It would kill me to stick pins in something that nice looking.

Ugh, that was my first thought when I got to the end too. After all that work and expense, I was hoping he'd installed a ferromagnetic backing and was going to use tiny magnets as markers.

Well, once he killed it with his pins, he can print a new one with a different projection.

Yes, the printing was the easy part. In a few years, when the ink fades, he can print it again and remount on the same surface.

For more fun, check out this raised relief map of California: http://www.worldmapsonline.com/hs951californiamaprr.htm (discussed at http://redd.it/34azy8)

For a CA transplant who does a lot of driving up and down the state, this map has been fascinating.

My dad has a more low-tech approach: he buys a bunch of maps from the National Land Survey, cuts away the margins with scissors, and tapes them together with scotch tape. Rather than world maps, he likes large-scale maps of particular locations.

It's really very cool to a have that kind of wall-scale high-resolution information display. When I get a more permanent place to live, I'm tempted to do the same thing.

Too bad he chose Mercator projection. Gall–Peters or Robinson would be my choice.

This is awesome. I've always wanted a massive dymaxion project and never thought of going about it this way.

Now I need to figure out how to convert open-street-map tiles into a dymaxion projection, which I can then print and mount on triangular boards.




Does anyone know how to achieve this for individual states of India? I would like to have huge maps printed for individual states which shows even the big villages.Is this possible? Or atleast can we do this for big cities like Mumbai, Chennai, Delhi?

Look into the openstreetmap based tools mentioned in other comments. They allow to customize a lot about the presentation.

I am so conflicted about the "pins on a map" practice of marking your travels.

On one hand I totally buy the article's explanation: "Putting pins in a map is something I've loved doing for many years. They inspire me and remind me of great experiences."

But on the downside, I'd be really afraid that the completionist in me would be motivated to visit exotic places because of the pin I'd be able to add to the map. ie. going to a place just so I could say I've been there.

I'm sure I'd never book a trip solely for that reason, but I'd be afraid it would be more of a factor than it should.

That actually sounds like a fantastic way and reason to experience the world. It's far better than most systems people use to pick travel spots: speak the language, major capital city I've heard of, etc etc.

I read through and couldnt help but think of a video about Perter Bellerby i watched a few years back who makes some of the most beautiful globes I've ever seen. https://vimeo.com/103263135

I really like Domink's project but I would have liked to have seen more diy trial and error.

Watching this video of Jimmy Diresta's would have made mounting on a timber french cleat a breeze.


Amazing. I have always been somewhat obsessed with maps since I was a kid. My light up and quite massive globe was one of my most prized possessions when other kids were more concerned with their Gameboy's and lego.

A full-scale wall map has always crossed my mind, not making one, but buying one. I did try and find one once and came up empty handed. I am probably in the minority here, but I like the Mercator projection and I think it looks great on a wall in that size (at least North is always up) even if it isn't exactly well-loved by that many.

Clicked through thinking the "what I've learned from it" would contain some rousing geopolitical epiphany. Alas no, stuck some paper on a wall, put some pins in it, cool, cool.

I used to do this all the time in the military. We would glue together and laminate smaller maps into one big map (That was then used in a control point for real time planning).

I was about to say—isn't this sort of thing (fine-granularity topographic surveying/GIS) exactly what the Professional version of Google Earth is for, marketed to governments/militaries/etc.?

Which is now free, and lets you save images at 4800x4800 pixels, if you adjust your window just right. Not much use for flat projections though

So it looks like xkcd isn't always on the money. http://xkcd.com/977/

This is really cool. Thanks for documenting and capturing the meticulous process of creating this, it was an enjoyable read. I'd love to see a really high definition photo that captures both the scale of the map and the amount of detail in it, preferably in a format that makes it easy to zoom around on different locations to see the detail. Not sure how feasible that would be though :).

I love that the small details are preserved; that's gorgeous. But the omission of Antarctica would unsettle me every day until I redid it.

Such a tragedy that he used Mercator for this :(

His idea for overlaying the map with a projector reminded me of the giant globe covered in OLED screens, installed in a museum in Japan:


Or you can just buy this big ass one from Ikea for 129 bucks:


Doesn't have small villages.

Nice project. BTW the guy also made a trip to Chernobyl and shared some nice pics:


a long time ago, like, in the early years of google maps, I used some perl code someone published to pull down the tiles necessary to print off a 16 page map that I could tape together and put on the wall. I think the code was taken down shortly after because of a legal claim. Google obviously doesn't want their service/tiles being used for that....data/imagery owned by them and whatever map data company... Whether you can easily download the tiles or not due to browser caching, doesn't make it legal to use in stuff.

But all in all, hats off, fun project/good results

Well, the poster is in Germany, so German laws apply and section 53 of the copyright law (which is referred to in the post) clearly states that this is allowed use:

> It shall be permissible for a natural person to make single copies of a work for private use on any medium, insofar as they neither directly nor indirectly serve commercial purposes, as long as no obviously unlawfully-produced model or a model which has been unlawfully made available to the public is used for copying. A person authorised to make copies may also cause such copies to be made by another person if no payment is received therefore, or if it involves copies on paper or a similar medium which have been effected by the use of any kind of photomechanical technique or by some other process having similar effects.


Just found out about www.wallpapered.com, pretty relevant to this article.

Did he share a link to the map file that he produced? I'm not seeing it, and it would be incredibly generous if he had made this available for others.

would be interesting to add 3d depth on it to show mountains height and depths. No idea how that would be done using paper.

nice. i love world maps too, i've created a graffiti art series of wall sized world maps. you can check them out here http://www.saatchiart.com/account/artworks/323803

Notes about projection choice seem to prevail, which is nerdy. Well, 400 euros for a wall map seems like a lot of money, but what isn't described very well is how the source file was created. It seems like the guy was manually stitching screenshots. God knows how much time did this take. There's little to no hacking in this project. Just the bit where he makes something custom.

> There's little to no hacking in this project. Just the bit where he makes something custom.

Well the whole damn map/project was custom. Seems as the same amount of "hacking" as most posts in this sub, except this was not made inside a computer.

I'm pretty sure the costs were not a running tally, i.e. they need to be added up for a total of over 1140 EUR.

I was also confused about that. Just assumed he incremented expenses with each step, but I think you're right, since 10 euros for framing doesn't sound legit. At over thousand of material/services cost the whole thing appears to be even less sensible.

another possible map that would have looked fantastic as a big wall map would be stamen watercolor http://maps.stamen.com/watercolor

Great project and lots of followup info in the thread - thanks!

amazing work, I always dreamt about having a world map in one of my future house walls, thanks for sharing, I will definitely come back to your article at some point.

This is a very cool project. Turned out nice!

www.mapworld.co.nz sells similarly sized wall maps, for those who don't want to go to such hassle :)

> I've spent 1,5 years working on this project

So wouldn't it make more sense to just buy a huge display then? :)

I would guess that the destination wasn't important, the journey was.

But I must agree with others that the author at least seems to give the appearance that he was rather ignorant with different map projections. But if you want an Africa-sized Greenland and a huge huge Kamchatka, why not.

Nah, a display at that size with comparable resolution will cost a fortune (if it actually is available for mortals). Also power consumption would be quite a sum.

Or a decent high res LED projector, would have cost less than the foam board he stuck the map to and he could have it done in a day.

Given his objectives specifically included high resolution enough to see details on the map up close, even a 4K projector would have fallen far short of this.

Yes, for 3mx2m at 300dpi one would need something like 35k projector

Projectors aren't limited to displaying static images, but I guess the format is a matter of taste.

He raised the "you cant lean without having your shadow masking everything" problem

Greenland is fucking huge.

Amazing work!

I'm wondering why he has a skull for a bookstop :)

awesome article!

I don't really understand why OP decided to print it and glue it in separate steps. It seems rather expensive rather than finding someone to do all the work.

For example these guys would do the job for 142 euros http://sprint24.net/go/29ul/ I'm not sure they'd ship internationally though (or at all, for an item of that size).

Cleaned link: http://sprint24.net/buy/online/rigid-panels/panels/

Please don't use shortened URLs and don't sneak affiliate codes.

There was no affiliate code, the link only contained a bunch of query parameters to match the size and material of OP's map.


I tried 5% of what you did and failed... Basically I would pay for one... I guess this one is saved on the project list backburner.

www.kayatilev.com most of my work is furniture. Finishing up a coffee table would love feedback.

This is an awesome project!

I get the projection issues. He wants to see the details and be able to roam them. For one who is going to spend a lot of time close up, this project is a home run. Well done, and I'm envious.

When I was a kid, I would collect the large size maps Nat Geo would produce. Had a variety of them on the wall, and for reasons very similar to the ones expressed by this guy. It's fun to think about the places in the world, and associate them in various ways.

Visits, reading about things, photos, whatever, can all be placed into context and having a big map helps one with a sense of the world and it's many features and people. The pins bother me, but I stuck pins in mine too, and since he can reprint, no worries! I wonder if drawn tungsten or something might serve as a very small diameter pin? Could get a length of it, sharpen the ends, and dip into something to form the heads...

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