Date Written: 15/10/2015 by Andrew Scott
New UK Council Boundaries Map in Development... What's involved
Well, I thought I'd got the UK mapping covered with postcode areas, districts, sectors, parliamentary constituencies, county boundaries and road maps however a recent request from a customer has opened up an area that I haven't covered.
A UK Councils Boundary Map has been requested which is one I don't currently have available. I think it could be a useful map for others to benefit from so I thought I'd briefly explain the process of selecting, designing and releasing a new map to the public.
If a customer requests a map that doesn't yet exist on the system, I will research the potential sales that map could produce if it were available to the public. If it is financially viable I will decide whether to put it into production or not. It typically takes between 40 and 100 hours to design a vector based UK boundaries map to a standard and specification that can be sold and used by the public.
Once the decision to produce a particular map has been made it's then time to source the raw data needed to produce the map. One of the key features of our maps are they are sold royalty free which means there are no ongoing fees or royalty payments that need to be made by the end user. This means the data sources I use also have to be royalty free. Once I've sourced the data which usually comes in the form scanned images, spreadsheet files of coordinates and old out of copyright maps which are generally out of date but still contain useful information. Once I have enough information to make a start the design process can begin.
Drawing the Map
I use a large Wacom Cintiq graphics tablet along with Adobe Illustrator to do the bulk of the design work. This means drawing every single shape on the map using vectors. Each shape needs to match exactly its neighbouring shapes so there are no overlapping areas and the designs must be created using straight lines with no curves which makes the process very time consuming and fiddly. Once the map has been drawn, every shape needs labelling and moving to its own layer within illustrator. Text then needs adding to the map and any other information required. Once complete, the designs can be optimised and exported in various different file formats and then zipped up ready for inclusion on the website.
Map Colouring System
The map colouring system which is available on our site is a different setup to the original map artwork sales side. I developed the system to be as 'cross device compatible' as possible and the only way to ensure the system works on iPhones, Andriod phones, PC's, Mac's and Tablets was to design it to use SVG maps(scalable vector graphics). This is a form of image made up of coordinates, lines and shapes rather than dots and pixels. The maps that have been designed for sale on our site need another 20+ hours work to convert them so they can be used with the colour your own map system. Because the system doesn't recognise images, the maps need to be converted into code and then that code needs formatting by hand to work with the system. Once complete, it can then be inserted into the system and tested. Once tested the map can be fully incorporated and made available to the public.
From start to finish the whole process can take well over 100 hours to take the simplest map from concept through to completion and release to the public. The price you pay for a map on my site or the map colouring system reflects the amount of work that was put into it. When a map costs as little as £10 to purchase on my site it can take over 250 downloads before it covers the costs of producing it. I'm releasing new maps all the time so call back regularly and check out what's new.
The latest map that will be released in the coming days will be the UK Council Boundaries map showing all the local council boundaries in the UK which is significantly different to the UK County Map and the UK Parliamentary Constituencies maps.