It’s turtles all the way down!

I created this map as part of the #SlowMapChallenge proposed by Daniel Wood — an alternative to the #30DayMapChallenge where instead of making a map a day, you tackle a map idea that you’ve been putting off over the course of 12 weeks.

I decided to work on this goofy map of habitat ranges for map turtles, which is a genus known for the topographic line-esque patterns on their shells. Each section of the large turtle’s shell show the range of one of the 14 species of map turtle found throughout North America.

The ‘small multiple’ maps were made using ArcGIS Pro, but all the graphics, text and layout were done using Inkscape.

This is the most I’ve used Inkscape for any one map. Previously I’d been using ArcGIS Pro’s layout tools for most tasks, occasionally importing an svg graphic from Inkscape, but for this one I’d guess that about 75% of the work was done in Inkscape itself. The giant turtle took a long time, getting the surrounding shell and appendages to line up with the small multiples and to look like they were part of the rest of the shell without being too distracting.

Funny enough, I think the maps themselves are probably the weakest aspect of this, even though it was the first design choice I finalized. I wanted to do hex bins to match up with the shell design and the map borders, but I think they’re too tiny (even if printed at the intended poster size). I played around with making the map extent for each small multiple different depending on how far the species ranged, but it didn’t quite look right and made it really difficult to tell what area was actually being shown. I’m pretty happy with how everything else came out, though. Especially the background which is a turning pattern generated with a repeating series of blurs and filters, before getting vectorized. It’s meant to mimic the skin pattern some map turtles have, such as Barbour’s map turtle.