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Martin Gamache at Malofiej 23

In the year of their centenary of map-mapping, the process behind National Geographic's cartographic gems

March 25, 2015
Martin Gamache, Senior Editor of Maps at National Geographic

Martin Gamache, the Senior Editor of Maps at National Geographic since 2007, was next in line, after Feilding Cage’s presentation. Martin has worked in The American Alpine Journal, Boston Redevelopment Authority and Tele Atlas North America, and taught at Northern British Columbia, Boston and Ottawa Universities. He’s also founder and principal of The Alpine Mapping Guild since 1999.

At Malofiej23, Martin explained the general phases of map making at National Geographic – a magazine that recently celebrated one century of top-quality cartographic production. These stages (research, compilation, projection, typography, relief) are not always fully appreciated by the general audience, since most of this work isn’t actually visible – specially in simple looking projects. To illustrate what kind of effort goes into those projects, Martin pulled together a cartographic feast, with several examples for each one of those stages, some of which are featured below (online versions, click through the images to go to the original articles).

The First Americans

  Partial screen capture of the interactive infographic The first Americans
(image: National Geographic Magazine)

The Lost Land

 Partial screen capture of the interactive infographic The Lost Land
(image: National Geographic Magazine)

Red Gold Rush

Partial screen capture of the interactive infographic Red Gold Rush
(image: National Geographic Magazine)

Chronology of an Epidemic

Partial screen capture of the interactive infographic Chronology of an Epidemic
(image: National Geographic Magazine)

Deadly snowfall, avalanches

Partial screen capture of the interactive infographic Deadly snowfall avalanches
(image: National Geographic Magazine)

When talking about projections, Martin showed one of the works (the “Beneath the Oceans” supplement map) where the team decided to use an interrupted Mollweide projection centered on the Pacific, to show each ocean as a whole with the least possible distortion. Since this projection is not as common as, for example, Mercator, they also produced a video explainer that helped readers to explore it.

Another interesting aspect that Martin shared with the Malofiej audience is that National Geographic is doing more breaking news work that requires the use of visualization – something that represents a shift in what has been traditionally the long-term projects the magazine is so well-known for. Not that these big projects have been forgotten, but the fact remains that this change brings with it a major challenge for the team, that has also been pressured to re-purpose print maps in different online formats and devices.

Connect with Martin on Twitter (@themappist), and if you are interested in NatGeo’s amazing maps, head out to the online shop, where you can get many of the awarded cartographic gems, among other itens. And continue to follow our posts about Malofiej 23 here on Visualoop.

Written by Tiago Veloso

Tiago Veloso is the founder and editor of Visualoop and Visualoop Brasil . He is Portuguese, currently based in Bonito, Brazil.