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Discussion: Map printing and rendering - what ISOM 2017 sadly side stepped

in: Orienteering; General

Apr 4, 2017 8:30 PM # 
The newly published ISOM 2017 has nice changes from ISOM 2000, like thinning form lines relative to contour lines. However, regarding probably the most important orienteering mapping issue of the last few decades (changing printing technologies), it essentially side-stepped the issue. Early versions of ISOM led to rapid adoption; printing technology changes have meant that ever fewer maps are truly ISOM. If the IOF were actually serious about spot color offset printing, then it would have pursued making sure that this was feasibly available on each continent to the needed standards, such as by purchasing (in conjunction with the national federations) printing presses for each continent, or liaising with inkjet manufacturers or others to make spot color inkjet available (such as it seems to be for making T-shirts). But there appears to be no effort to keep the (now very) old technology readily available, nor to adapt significantly to new technologies (such as radically adapting symbology to what the new technology does well, and away from what it doesn't). And not even a mention of the future (well, actually, in small ways, already the present) of map rendering. So, here's a thread for a topic that frankly has led to poorly readable maps, and strictly speaking a lessening use of ISOM. I'll start with some comments on some key aspects.
Apr 4, 2017 8:42 PM # 
One way to keep the current ISOM symbology and make maps as readable as intended would be to make spot color offset more feasible. This could mean one or both of two approaches: adapt inkjet, laser printing or wax printing to do spot color (good for low volumes), or making old school spot color offset (Heidelberg presses or such) with the appropriate inks more easily available.

Googling, I see that some firm has adapted a large format inkjet printer for spot color, complete with software and inks, although intended for printing T-shirts not maps. Orienteering has a lot of technology workers among its participants, so making a similar adaptation for orienteering maps at least seems plausible. Maybe not every smaller club could afford such a printer (the one adapted to spot color for T-shirts costs thousands), but maybe each continent could have a vendor that could print and courier maps in a few days.

For major events (thousands of maps printed), a press of the type traditionally used decades ago for orienteering maps could be useful, especially if dedicated to orienteering maps so that the time and cost and nuisance of changing inks (and then getting the ink colors right) could be avoided. Or, perhaps a newer press could suit for spot color. If western Eurasia had one or two, including people talented in its operation, that would probably suffice. (But if lower volume presses, like inkjet adapted to spot color, were readily available, it might turn out that even big events used this.)
Apr 4, 2017 8:49 PM # 
Another approach to the change in printing technology is to radically redesign the map specification to optimize around newer printing technologies, much as ISOM was designed to make optimal maps from spot color offset. This could involve changes to colors as well as symbols.

Rather than specifying colors that can be reproduced exactly with spot color but only poorly with CMYK, especially for thin lines, one could specify simple combinations of cyan, magenta and yellow, plus black. Stay close to primary colors.

Rather than line and dot screens for various area symbols, choose something closer to solid colors. Overlap of symbols becomes an issue (or a constraint, if you prefer).

It would take a lot of thought to myriad details. It would essentially be starting afresh.
Apr 4, 2017 8:51 PM # 
When I was young, many maps were black and white. With modern imagesetting, black and white images can be amazingly sharp. And high resolution B&W printing could be relatively affordable. Good laser printers or inkjets might or might not be adequate, but it could be investigated. This too would require totally rethinking the symbol set.
Apr 4, 2017 9:00 PM # 
Now that nearly every orienteer owns a mobile device (or ten), some orienteering is already done by displaying the map onscreen. It has downsides (such as in strong daylight, or light rain), but so did early inkjets and color laser printers, and they nonetheless quickly took over. It seems hard to believe that mobile devices would fail to take an increasing role.

Some advantages could be apps that do everything from assisting with course design, control placement and vetting, to event publicity, registration (in-app purchases), check-in, start, electronic punching, finish, results, publication of results (and even photos), GPS tracking (real-time and post-event, including uploading to a common website), updating of personal training and competition logs, ranking calculations, maybe even offline directions to the event.
Apr 4, 2017 9:12 PM # 
The limited degree to which the topic has been addressed has been side documents and side discussions about work-arounds, even as work-arounds, or simply hitting the print button for whatever printer one has handy, become the norm, and maps produced by spot color offset seem to be exceedingly rare. But a solution needs to be practical, and it should address the bulk of map printing, not the rare exception. Either make spot color offset less difficult, so that it can be used for most events (by arranging for such services to be easily available), or adapt the map specifications to technologies that are feasible to be used for most events. It's no victory if WOC maps are spot color offset or a close approximation, but few other orienteering maps are. That's about ego (my, this one map was perfect), not making the sport better. Arriving at WOC (or other world event) to run on a type of map that one rarely if ever trains or competes on, does not reflect an optimal mapping standard for competition or sport, far from it.
Apr 4, 2017 9:21 PM # 
Some orienteers have detailed experience with work-arounds. They may have a lot to contribute to this topic. But turning this knowledge into practical means for widespread adoption is of the essence. For a few to say that they know how to do some complicated procedures to achieve a good result for a few events that they help with, is close to helpful, but not quite there unless that knowledge turns into a way for most events to print ISOM maps well. The latter (or an alternative to ISOM, sadly) is the (frankly quite reasonable) goal. IOF seems to have abandoned that goal, beyond a few WOC maps. Maybe others have as well.
Apr 4, 2017 10:20 PM # 
I see the document still refers to purple, violet, and magenta. Which color is correct? What is the standard? Can I use any color from that end of the rainbow?
Apr 4, 2017 10:45 PM # 
My reading is that the specification when printing using spot color is to use PMS Purple. (I'm curious; is anyone still doing true spot color for orienteering maps?) For what to use when printing CMYK, one is referred to a separate document. (I didn't notice where that document is specified specifically but haven't done an exhaustive check; perhaps it's referring to .) An unfortunate effect of this is that many people will just use any color from that part of the spectrum, rather than doing an extensive search to find out where that document is.
Apr 5, 2017 12:30 AM # 
Would people really be willing to orienteer on a mobile device? No way would I put my $500+ phone through the things my maps have gone through. (Submerged in water, submerged in a swamp, fallen on, dropped on rocks, held in teeth or jammed against rocks/trees while using both hands to climb...just among a few I can think of.) Many would have a battery life issue. And I actually know a decent number of orienteers who don't have smartphones (and some who don't want them).
Apr 5, 2017 3:26 AM # 
Well, some people already use them for permanent courses, admittedly a more sedate undertaking than what you describe. But people also already subject electrónica like GoPros, GPS watches, and so forth to the same. I take my smartphone on search and rescue missions for use as a map. It's been dropped a fair number of times. And rained and snowed on. Went underwater once. People asked similar survivability questions about inkjet printed maps when they first started being used, and now they're ubiquitous. Since I risk my fifty dollar compass and fifty dollar SI card every event, as do most active orienteers, I'm not sure that the risk to mobile devices will be a major deterrent. I could be wrong. But if people called it a hundred dollar "electronic map" (but it was really a tablet with special software), I think that everyone would buy and use it. And if it saved clubs effort printing maps and doing results, I think that would entice clubs to adopt it, just as they adopted inkjet and electronic punching despite the costs of the latter, and risk of loss.
Apr 5, 2017 3:43 AM # 
Wrong. I would not buy and use it.
Apr 5, 2017 4:08 AM # 
If you trash an inkjet map, you've trashed a map. If you trash a compass or a GPS watch, likewise. If you trash your phone, you've ruined something that may be very central to a lot of other stuff you do in your life. I would not race with my phone, I would have to get a second phone if I were going to do that.
Apr 5, 2017 4:12 AM # 
I remember clubs obsessing about every penny, and then when electronic punching became popular, suddenly coming up with ten thousand dollars for equipment was not a problem. Similarly orienteers and fancy gear. We'll see. I suspect that it will come, simply because it's the next logical step.

In any case, until it does, printing maps on paper (or polymers or latex) is the challenge. Right now, inkjet maps enlarged enough to make them readable is the main, but often unpleasing, means, augmented by a little bit of CMYK printing on a larger press for bigger events, and some mythical spot color printing of maps (usually seen in company with unicorns and gold filled pots at ends of rainbows), albeit supposedly the affordable choice. Is there a way to print maps affordably, practically, in reasonable quantities, with good quality? If not, are there ideas for how to achieve this? Is this question meaningful for the sport? Or is inkjet printing of ISOM maps, the current de facto standard that I've seen living and orienteering in America, Canada, Oslo and the UK, adequate for all but a few events?
Apr 7, 2017 5:02 PM # 
ISOM 2017 recommends "Pantone Purple". Here are some of the recommended shades.

This discussion thread is closed.