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Discussion: vintage mapping standards

in: Orienteering; General

Sep 3, 2022 3:54 PM # 
Backstreet Boy:
As advanced as the ISSprOM standards have become, I kinda miss when I could read the trails on the map. Beige on white or yellow just does not pop. When I started orienteering, maps to me were more legible, and it's not just because my eyes are younger.

I posit: Legibility of O maps peaked years ago. Which of the prior mapping standards had the most elegant look and legibility?

Indeed, we've had some fun locally with vintage maps. At our 30th BAOC anniversary, we had courses on the original version of one of our oldest maps.
Sep 3, 2022 5:19 PM # 
"Legibility of O maps peaked years ago."

but I'll posit the prime factor isn't the mapping standards, but the disappearance of offset printing.
I recall some years back, when notable mapper/setter cedarcreek/MattR used the same exact word "pop" when looking at one of DVOA's surviving offset maps, Hickory Run.

Also agreed, trails are the main shortcoming of ISprOM, but ISOM still exists and still has sharp black trails.
I think the problem is that ISSprOM is over-applied. While fine for urban settings, it comes up short for non-urban settings regardless of scale.
Sep 3, 2022 7:48 PM # 
Or perhaps the tendency to use smaller-than-spec point features to put as much detail as possible into a small area? I appreciate it when mappers pay attention to legibility and make necessary adjustments to show what needs to be shown, spacing things out without overly distorting reality. Minimum gap requirements in the specs matter.
Sep 3, 2022 10:23 PM # 
Black trails amongst black cliffs is a shortcoming of ISOM. That's why the only black allowed in ISMTBOM is for tracks.
Sep 4, 2022 5:49 AM # 
> Minimum gap requirements in the specs matter.
Agree, but following them requires generalisation. Most of the feedback I hear to mappers is about "missing" features.
Sep 4, 2022 10:55 AM # 
@TheInvisibleLog, I had a course planner once ask my to add a cliff to the map that they felt should be there (in a control circle so fsir important). I went out and checked it out and stuck to my original decision to leave it off because the area was super rocky and it just didn't meet my criteria for inclusion. If I had added that one to the map I would have had to add about 300 others to the map as well to be consistent!
Sep 5, 2022 8:50 AM # 
The beige on white/yellow is awful, but the mapper still has the option of using black-dashed paths in non-urban areas. You can't blame the standards.

Of course, black-dashed paths are not without their own problems...

But mainly, I'd echo Eric's point. Now that james is the family member in charge of running 1:15 elite courses, its possible to compare his (laserprinted) maps with mine (litho) for the exact same areas. The difference is clarity is remarkable, and its not down to added detail.
Sep 6, 2022 10:42 AM # 
Terje Mathisen:
If you can get true (analog) offset printing, then this is still the best. For CMYK I'm quite pleased with my Xerox C60 which is the updated version of the 560 which IOF MC picked as their reference model. It handles 2400x2400 DPI which gets pretty close to that old analog offset film quality. I still prefer 1:10K instead of 1:15K!
Sep 6, 2022 11:33 AM # 
If we are going to talk vintage then remember that while the offset maps certainly popped the map revisions posted on a board or hand drawn in and the courses being hand drawn or not always being perfectly registered using various over printing options was also part of the “vintage package”.
Sep 6, 2022 11:36 AM # 
I certainly remember how much fun it was (not) as controller for the 1992 Australian Relays, checking each of ~600 hand-drawn maps - or for that matter checking the overprinting on each of 7000 maps for WMOC 2002. Not at all upset that that isn't part of the job this year.
Sep 6, 2022 11:40 AM # 
The old maps may have been legible, but they were also prone to distortions. This meant you could clearly see the features, but possibly in the wrong position.
Sep 6, 2022 12:17 PM # 
I don't think the IOF mapping standard matters as much as other things (although the ISSprOM is a separate issue). The printing method as mentioned above is one, and so is the mapping "idiom" (I don't know if there's a better word for it), the convention of the era of how much to put on the map versus how much to generalize. Including too much detail makes the map harder to use, and so the question becomes how much is too much. I've been on some modern maps that I felt were difficult to use compared to older ones, but that has nothing to do with the mapping standard that was used.

The printing method has a couple of aspects to it. Digital offset is usually CMYK, the same as laser or inkjet printing, though at a better resolution. It is possible to get digital offset that has brown as a separate color, and that helps, because contours are the item that is both the most sensitive to "graininess" and the most subject to it (it's complicated to make brown out of the component colors). Having them printed in actual brown ink is a big step toward regaining the clarity of the old offset printed maps. There's another factor that most people may be oblivious to, but it affects me. In the old days, light green and light yellow were made of a pattern of halftone dots of a specified density, but using the same color ink as full green or full yellow. These days, it's effectively a separate color made by mixing the CMYK colors together (actually still a dot pattern, but a pattern of different color dots at a very fine resolution). I'm colorblind, and I could distinguish between light yellow and light green much easier with spot color printing. There have been several times on CMYK maps when I was expecting rough open land and instead found slow run.

Other modern day innovations have nothing to do with the printing method. For quite a few years I dealt with getting maps printed where the maps and courses were drafted on a computer, the artwork was uploaded to a service that produced high resolution negatives, and those were sent to a print shop that did spot color printing including perfectly registered courses. And we kept some of the maps untrimmed so that we could print courses on the offset press the following year. We did have 1000 copies printed at a time, so there was the potential of maps becoming out of date before it was time to reprint. And the maps were produced from photogrammetric basemaps, so there was no georeferencing, but since nobody had GPS, that didn't matter. It's still possible to do all of the above these days but with a georeferenced map made from lidar, though finding a shop that will do spot color printing is probably difficult (but CMYK+brown is doable).

The cost per map was lower in those days than laser printing is now. But there's some lead time required, you can't send in an order for offset printed maps a day or two before your event, and people have gotten used to that sort of procrastination.
Sep 6, 2022 5:02 PM # 
Legibility. Generalization. Any mapper swings and misses. Me likely more than most I'm sorry to admit.

I'm going to throw out this heresy: consistency on an orienteering map is overrated.

More precisely, global consistency isn't necessary on an orienteering map. I'd define global consistency==the same from one corner of the map to other. Nice to do, but not principle #1.

That said, local consistency matters. I'd define local consistency==within the same "visual bubble." Visual bubble==what you can see 360-degrees around you. It would be nonsensical to have identical features mapped differently within the same visual bubble. Conversely, identical features in widely-separately visual bubbles should be mapped the same, if there is space, but must not absolutely be mapped identically. Once you've entered the world of generalization, you have to choose which features in a particular (cluttered) area are the most important and show those clearly and omit or displace others if necessary.

My general rule-of-thumb of what order to put things on the map or leave them off:
1. (Most important): things that block you (uncrossables: cliff, marsh, lake, etc)
2 .things that let you go fast (roads, trails, etc)
3. Other prominent navigable features (per the mapping specs)
4. (least important): point feature detail that could be used as a control site.
Sometimes 3 & 4 blur together.

I suspect most requests to add detail are from category 4. And, often the rationale is "I've seen it on other maps or in other places."

I applaud Jeff's (Canadian) courage to stick to his guns and leave off detail (an almost cliff), even if I think clutter is a better rationale than global consistency:)

The crux of mapping, IMO, isn't rigidly applying the mapping specs--it's determining what in the terrain is relevant to show on the map with the specs as a guide.

Sounds easy, but take the canonical 1m boulder. Is 1m high side? low side? What if it's close (0.95m)? If your answer is: automatic fail (0.95 < 1m per ISOM)--the reality is you generally have to walk over and stand at one to tell the difference between 0.95m and 1m. You certainly aren't going to from halfway across a visual bubble (40m?) at competition speed.

I could fill pages with these sorts of "it's a something" so how do you show it legibly within the mapping specs.

My best argument against the rigid application of the mapping specs: I have seen cases where the mapping specs were used as "disqualifying" criteria. The rock face isn't vertical, so it doesn't count (ISOM 00), length of cliff isn't long enough (so omitted rather than exaggerated), boulder example above, etc. This results in a map that has lots of missing "somethings." Rock-like knolls can be notorious for this--not really a boulder, not really a knoll, not really bare rock (or too small), not really stony ground. Super prominent, so it really ought to be shown, somehow, even if it's not cleanly a "classic" knoll, boulder, bare rock, etc.
Sep 6, 2022 5:48 PM # 
On printing.

The analog vs digital nuance above is super important. Much (most?) offset printing today is digital.

Why's that matter? Because it is little dots of ink/toner. The technique to put those little dots on the paper differs between laser & inkjet. I'll admit I don't know what fancy digital offset printing does at heart. But, little dots, all, except analog offset (as Terje mentions).

Our maps go in to the printer in vector form (whether from OCAD, OOM, Condes, PurplePen, etc), typically as a PDF. You know it is a vector because it is infinitely scalable (on screen) without pixelation. That's a screen/monitor term, and probably not technically correct for printing, but more commonly understood so I'll go with it.

Somewhere along the line, SOFTWARE has to turn that vector into a bunch of dots (aka "raster") for your printer (regardless of type). At 600dpi, 1200dpi, 2400dpi (or the nebulous marketing of "equivalent/enhanced dpi"), it may not be the printer that is causing the shortcoming, but the print driver or other intermediary software.

Telling the printer "High Print Quality" or max DPI may not fix this vector-to-raster problem.

The IOF map printing document (the one previously named ISOM 2017 Appendix 1) hints at this in paragraph 3, with its little footnote "lpi is something different than dpi" but is strangely silent on how to do it right, probably because it is so dependent on the software used.

IOF mentions necessary resolution measured in lpi (lines per inch) at the RIP stage (Raster Image Processing). In layman's terms, that is turning our vectors into dots for the printer to lay down. If this isn't converted right/well, the printer's gloriously high dpi is meaningless.

And here's where it ties into what JJ says about dot patterns (also called halftone screens). You can do a lot with a single color and an appropriate dot screen--remember old black-and-white newspaper photos/illustrations--all done with a black dot screen. With four colors (CMYK), you can imagine these dot screens could either work well together or clash. More on that later.

IOF's called-for lpi values (>=230lpi for CMYK) are way above newsprint (~85lpi halftone screen) and even above a typically glossy magazine (~175lpi; think National Geographic, but I don't actually know their resolution). Up there with art books. At this resolution, paper matters too. I'll stay on topic. Paper advice: experiment.

In printing maps for The World Games 2022 in Alabama, we had to work laboriously with the print shop, teaching them how to pull more out of their printing process. Their print machines were fine (as are most modern machines)--it was a SOFTWARE limit and they didn't have troubleshooting procedures beyond setting the print quality drop-down box to "High Quality." We helped them find the halftone screen settings (there are a lot of terms used for this) buried deep in advanced print settings--the stuff they just normally don't touch because someone at the factory/programmer made some defaults that are good enough for most of what they do...but not high quality O-maps. We didn't get it all right for TWG, but we were at the point where the flaws took a magnifying glass--actually a 10X or 30X magnifying loupe. If you care about print quality, get yourself one of these for $20 on Amazon.

Once you find the right advanced print settings, besides setting the lpi resolution, there is usually an option to set the halftone screen angles. Remember JJ's dots and how the four colors play well or don't. If not happy with the defaults, go dust off your copy of IOF's ISOM 2000, and look at pg 6, with its recommended angles for CMYK (15, 75, 0, 45 respectively).

Do I go for this level of insanity every map I print--no. Local events get the local print shop set to "High Quality" on decent (28lb) paper. Good enough:)

Now I have to go back to my day job--time to cram too much detail onto whatever map I'm working on:) Plus, extra light brown trails just for Rex (BackStreet_Boy)...
Sep 6, 2022 10:34 PM # 
Strong endorsement of cmpbllj''s comments on "Legibility. Generalization" and "consistency", including "global" vs "local" , and "rigid application"
More like guiding principles than heresy to me.
I wish more of this was reflected in IOF documents and practices.
Thank you.

Printing? I'll leave that to others. Beyond my expertise and eyes.
Sep 7, 2022 12:31 AM # 
I appreciate Jonathan's comments about prioritizing local consistency over global consistency. It's worth thinking about. And also worth thinking about when to employ a shift. I would be annoyed if I was running a leg and checking off boulders along my route, and then I got thrown off by a sudden, un-telegraphed shift in style. But on the other hand, if I suddenly left a smooth forest and entered a rock-field or lava flow (which is not uncommon out west), I'd be shocked if the mapping style didn't change a bit.
Sep 7, 2022 12:31 AM # 
I also pulled up this old presentation.
Purely on aesthetics and legibility, I like 1962 - Norway EOC. Pre ISOM. I'd like to see a finer-pitch on the trails, but that is a good looking map.
Sep 7, 2022 12:53 AM # 
You can map like that when you have terrain like that. Judging by the presented timeline, WOC 1985 ("extreme terrain") introduced terrain that needed a different approach.
Sep 7, 2022 2:44 AM # 
I do wonder how different the terrain in EOC 1962 is, compared to, say, WOC Norway 1978. They were both Norwegian events. Is the terrain really that different, or is it a stylistic choice, driven by an expectation of increased detail and a gradual increase in the technology to pull it off?
Sep 7, 2022 5:42 AM # 
Regarding that presentation, WOC 1966 map is not an orienteering map. It is our regular base map of that time. Old maps can be browsed here
Just select your 1967 and you'll get the WOC map. Opacity slider lets you see how the current version of the map looks.
Sep 7, 2022 3:26 PM # 
I have not been involved in the sport long enough to comment much on the evolution of the mapping specifications. Though I will say I personally think there are some significant flaws in ISSprOM.

In terms of printing, I likewise don't have the expertise but I do know it makes a huge difference. I like to test print my maps as I go along to see what they look like printed. I print at a variety of different qualities and always check for legibility on relatively poor printing when I know that the bulk of the time the maps are going to be used will be for trainings and printed on office printers, etc.

re generalization, first off, thanks, Jon (cmpbllj) for the words of support. To be clear, the consistency across the map that I'm looking for is a combination of rigid size and relative prominence (i.e. in the local area). I think we're using similar concepts in our mapping but different terminology :)

I encourage mappers to think in terms of prominence and prioritization rather than simply legibility and generalization. Prominence means what is prominent visually and navigationally in the terrain should be prominent on the map and vice versa. Prioritization is the process by which one generalizes. Place prominent features on the map first and prioritize them in your fieldwork and drafting. Then add subsequently less prominent features keeping in mind consistency, etc. With experience, this thought process becomes easier and you can place less prominent features on the map first as you get a feel for how much space to leave for other more prominent features.

One can have a legible map that is a terrible map if the wrong things are given priority on the map. It's hard, however, to have a poorly legible map when prioritization has been done reasonable well with a mind to prominence.

These are concepts I'm adding into some mapping courses I'm developing. I think they're much more useful than legibility and generalization.

I think one of the huge factors leading to the tendency to make crowded illegible maps is the improvement in technological capacity. Dense lidar, gps, various open data make it really easy to accurately place features and important data that's more detailed than should be on an orienteering map. It takes a lot of experience and discipline to leave things off.
Sep 7, 2022 4:00 PM # 
There's a great example of "prioritization" that I learned in the days of ink drafting that serves as an excellent lesson. Suppose you have a stream, which quite naturally flows down a reentrant. The stream is a concrete linear object that can be followed, while the contours are more abstract. If you were to draft the contours first, then if there's any discrepancy, you'd have to either adjust the shape of the stream (bad), or draw the stream not centered in the reentrant (also bad). So the correct sequence was to draw the blue layer first, and then draw the contours, nudging them slightly if needed to make them meet the stream properly.

When I switched to 0CAD, I used the same drafting sequence that I did with pen and ink. This included things like drawing the trails first, then putting in the nearby black point features, which might need to have their positions slightly adjusted (the fieldwork symbols are not always the same size as the map symbols). Once in a great while I'd contact the mapper and say "I can't draft this bit" (though the vast majority of my communications were to clarify something where I wasn't sure what they had drawn).

I had a checklist that I would use, going through the map multiple times as I progressed from the high-priority to low-priority symbols. This also had the benefit that I would occasionally find some object that I had missed on a previous pass. This sequencing is valuable, even if the map is being drafted in small sections as it's being fieldchecked.
Sep 11, 2022 11:24 PM # 
Re prominence, I still struggle with index contours looking more prominent/steeper than other contour lines. Does anyone find them useful on a standard o-map? Now if they were used to indicate the highest contour line on a map (so I could more quickly figure out the top of a convoluted ridge) , then I would be a fan.
Sep 12, 2022 12:31 AM # 
Yes they are useful when you need to quickly analyse an across slope leg and whether you need to go up, down or maintain your height rather than trying to see where a multitude of contours may end up. Our map yesterday at Mt Tarrengower was a prime example. Check out leg 1 to make a quick decision on where you need to leave the track to contour around (or go over like I did).

Form lines on the other hand...
Sep 12, 2022 1:20 AM # 
I agree with tRicky's explanation for index contours which is essentially the ISOM rationale.
I'll even agree they are useful in less hilly terrains than his example, however that leaves plenty of terrains where I think they are more of a problem than an aid, basically flat terrain with many contour details.
The recent O-ringen terrain near Uppsala Sweden is a handy example, but there are many more examples around the world, including North America.

The ISOM allows the index symbol to be downgraded for individual features, which most(?) mappers seem to apply well, but apparently it cannot be disregarded over a complete map, which I think is a mistake, another example where a little flexibility would improve the ISOM . (If anyone can find an exception to "shall" I will yield)
Sep 12, 2022 2:39 AM # 
In steeper terrain (e.g. some of the maps I've been on in Colorado or California), index contours are very, very helpful. In other places, I find them irrelevant. On the original version of Pawtuckaway, in New Hampshire (used for a World Cup race in 1992), I made the conscious decision to not use them, since the total relief across the whole map is only about 10 contours, and having one arbitrary line snaking its way around the middle of the map be thicker just seems pointless. When the map was updated some years later, index contours were added, and it looks just like I expected and they are entirely useless.

I don't remember how insistent the mapping spec in effect back in 1992 was about their use, but I didn't care. I also didn't have to deal with an IOF mapping controller for that event, other than that we made a query as to whether we could use purple north lines on the map since there's so much black and blue detail, and we got approval for that (more or less). The current version has also switched to black north lines, and I definitely prefer the purple ones.

One that that I always do (did*) when drafting is to not use index contours for any hill (or depression) below some vague size threshold, even if it's mathematically called for, because it makes the hill look too prominent. (*past tense because it's been quite a while since I've done any drafting)
Sep 12, 2022 2:46 AM # 
Untagged bank lines and index contours.
Sep 12, 2022 5:15 AM # 
There were (at least) two untagged bank lines on yesterday's map!!! On the old version they were tagged but someone seems to have removed the tags (just NE of #6 in the previous link, which is the old map - the middle one still has the tags). Ironically the northern one, which you'd naturally expect to be tagged down the hill, has them removed so it's very confusing on the updated version knowing which way the bank slopes.
Sep 12, 2022 1:34 PM # 
This map update is a mystery to me.
Sep 12, 2022 3:53 PM # 
@tRicky, thanks for the example.
>Check out leg 1 to make a quick decision on where you need to leave the track to contour around (or go over like I did).

That's exactly what I'm talking about. The top of the trail is only 3 or 4 contour lines above the control, but the prominent index line tricks my (50-something) brain into thinking it's steeper than it is and maybe that nice thick brown line would be nicer to traverse along than those skinny brown lines
Sep 15, 2022 9:19 PM # 
The US has been fortunate to have many of the people on this thread involved in map production for our most important international events over the past 30 years—and most recently cmpbllj. The emphasis on extreme “hands-on” in the printing process can’t be overemphasized. Locally, across many years, DVOA also had such such ‘fanatical’ folks involved in production—and that makes all the difference.

This discussion thread is closed.