Buffalonians of all ages will be happy to hear that Monica Stephens, PhD, assistant professor of geography in the University at Buffalo College of Arts and Sciences, has created a printable “Color Buffalo” map, which is now free and downloadable. UB’s Charlotte Hsu posted the story about how the UB geography researcher came up with the idea for the customized maps for offline coloring or painting.
“I made this map/web app for families or anyone else who would enjoy a coloring book of Buffalo,” says Stephens, PhD, assistant professor of geography in the UB College of Arts and Sciences. “We’re all going through a really stressful time right now, and I designed the map to help people de-stress by making art without more screen time. I also needed to entertain my kid in an educational way, as he’s at home learning about the neighborhood, geography and art.
“My students use this technology to design and deploy web maps for a variety of community-driven purposes. I thought a coloring book would be an application many families could use right now while we work and learn from home.”
In the article, Hsu points out that the inspiration for the interactive project came from a map-based coloring book made by a company called Mapbox. Mapbox allows students in cartography classes to create mapping projects that align with community-driven causes.
Stephens’ interactive version is very user friendly in that people can choose from drilling the topography down to city blocks or entire regions. Once the quadrants have been selected, they can then be downloaded into coloring pages. The geographic picture (the outline of buildings and streets) comes into play thanks to a mix of open-source data, interactivity features from Mapbox and OpenStreetMap (OSM), and detailed building footprints from Microsoft that were digitally generated.
Not only is the coloring book fun to fill in with any available spectrum of colors, it’s also a handy resource that allows children to become more familiar with their cities, neighborhoods, streets… including the geographical location of their own houses, schools, parks, and favorite shops. They can even embellish the book with their own images of cyclists, animals, trees, and neighbors. Once the maps have been colored and characterized, Stephens asks that they be shared using the hashtag #ColorBuffalo on social media.
The mapping tool works best in the Google Chrome browser, as other browsers may not enable users to print the map, Stephens says.
Click here to begin the interactive process for the Buffalo Color Mapping process.
For people who may be interested in creating similar tools for other places, Stephens explains the process in a short write-up found at the bottom of the “Color Buffalo” map: “This experiment was inspired by the Mapbox coloring book. As buildings in Buffalo are missing from OSM data, I added the Microsoft building footprints for Buffalo to the monochrome style. I then modified paper.css to create a printable page.”