Californian Snowflakes by Kenneth Field

During winter 2022-2023 California experienced record snowfall, with some areas receiving over 20m (65ft). This map illustrates this snowfall thematically using 50 sq km hex-bins that each show the average total accumulation. While hex-binning is a reasonably common thematic mapping technique, here the hexagonal shapes are symbolised using digital recreations of Wilson ‘snowflake’ Bentley’s microphotographs of real snowflakes from the late 1800s. Higher total accumulation is shown using fuller, opaque snowflakes while lower accumulation is shown with smaller, whispy snowflakes. The snowflakes are modified by size and transparency that gives an impression of the relative amount of snowfall across the state. The snowflakes on the map are printed using Pantone Spot metallic silver to give them a hint of a sparkle that is suggestive of the way in which snow glistens on a crisp winter’s morning. A spot UV layer is used as a further visual variable that represents the areas that gained more than 100in (250cm) total snow accumulation. These two print techniques are applied across a monochrome lithographic print that uses negative space for the map’s other detail (borders, graph, text, title block). The purpose here is to illustrate not only an artistic form of map symbology where snowflakes are randomly applied but which conform to classification of relative accumulation, but also how printing techniques can themselves be used in innovative ways to enhance, and complement data representation.

Please note the digital version of the map does not adequately show the silver and spot UV finishes the map utilizes. Additional photographs of the lithographic print provide an illustration of the final finish.