How to Crop a Country – The Netherlands in Scrapwood

Sometimes, when I’m struggling with a design issue, I ask the Facebook panel for advice. Social media are a blessing for a freelancer: since I no longer work in an open-plan office, I cannot easily ask a few colleagues what they think. In those cases, therefore, I ask my Facebook friends for their opinion.

Scrap wood

Recently the panel helped me with the important issue of the scap wood map of the Netherlands. An interesting piece of digital recycling: a map of my country made of old boards, slats, boxes, scaffolding wood, plywood, floor boards and similar scrap.

Detail of a map of the provinces of the Netherlands made of digital scrapwood, including Gelderland, Utrecht and surrounding areas

Whitespace

But what is the best way to crop a map of the Netherlands? Square, portrait or rotated? The square crop leaves relatively much white space (in this case actually gray space) left and right. But the portait version results in a lot of white space at the top and bottom.

After rotating the whole country some twenty degrees counterclockwise it fits a lot better in a rectangular frame. But we are so used to having the north on top that even such a small rotation looks weird.

Three different crops of a map of the Netherlands with the provinces done in various pieces of scrapwood: square, portrait and rotated

Data density

Approximately half of the panel members opted for the square version, but the two other versions also had fans and received each about a quarter of the votes. A panel member motivated his choice for number three with “permecologically the optimal one, the least white space and largest data density per pixel²”.  I could not have said it better.

Lion

Especially version 3 provoked mixed reactions. One of the panel members thought it made the country look drunk .

Another member, on the other hand, spotted the Dutch Lion in this option. Even though lions have never been part of the indigenous fauna of the lowlands, the animal has found its way to flags and blazons. And yes, I certainly see a similarity…

Map of the Netherlands made out of scrapwood, rotated 20 degrees anticlockwise, with next to it the Dutch lion as a recessed surface in the concrete of the wall

Historical maps

But the panel also came up with other alternatives, referring to historical maps. For example the map of Inferioris Germaniae, for example, made by Joan Blaeu in 1649, on which the North Sea (the Oceanus Germanicus) is at the top.

Another mapmaker, Abraham Ortelius, put the North Sea on the bottom on his map of Hollandiae Antiquorum in 1581.

Two versions of a map of the Netherlands, with the provinces made of various pieces of scrapwood: one version with the north to the right and one with the north to the left

Webshop

For the version that I have put in my webshop I have picked the rectangular variant, with a little modification: ratio 4: 5 instead of 3: 4. But of course, I can make other crops by request. That is the advantage of digital recycling.

A canvasprint of the scrapwood map of the Netherlands, on the wall in a living room with a table and a chair in the foreground

World map

A world map of scrap wood is on its way. But the cropping issue does not really play a role there.

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