Thursday, March 04, 2010

A note to visitors interested in my maps
Although I still check this blog for comments, I have switched to posting most frequently to my Flickr site. I did this because I was getting more comments and traffic there and because of the excellent built-in metrics for views. You can contact me here or from there.


Friday, December 21, 2007

Maps: Cartography & Typography
This is a collection of maps I've designed since 2000. In my maps, I explore everything from the editorial nature of maps to the role of typography in communicating the spirit (or politics) of place. I started out trying to make maps that appear more traditional. These are made out of a love of maps and as a way to learn from the many amazing cartographers that came before me. I typically make these as a record of a place I've visited or as a present for friends. Most of these eventually get printed and framed so paper is the intended medium.

The other style I am trying to develop is more original and contemporary.
Many years ago, when I was preparing a map of Manahttan to be silk screened, I noticed that the typography layer was enough to capture the essence of the city... the fabric of the streets and its relationship to the surrounding water and landmarks. I made a few experiments at the time and then forgot about them until a couple of years ago. The Silk Road was my first attempt at exploring these ideas further. The maps in this series are intended to be art experiments with typography.

Maps are a very interesting media type. They exist somewhere between images that we look at and documents that we read. Their reference to the real world often hides their subjective, if not political, nature. A couple of friends have commented, "What's left to be mapped?". It may simply be the perspective of an insider but I think there is so much more to map... if only to see the same places with new eyes.

I've included fairly detailed descriptions of the inspiration or objective of each map. I am very interested in getting people's reactions to the maps so please comment. I've adjusted the post dates of my blog to the approximate creation dates of my maps so please click on the archive links on the right. There are a total of about 10 or 12 maps. More to come.

Labels: ,

Monday, December 10, 2007

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Map of Mt. Kilimanjaro, Africa
This map is another trip / journey map. In June of 2007, my wife and I climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro with 12 other people. It was a major undertaking and accomplishment for us so when we got back, I immediately started a map of our trip. There are 3 or 4 major routes up the mountain so I wanted to understand our route relative to the others. People often ask me what map did I use as a base map. I have scans of all of my base maps and my finished maps usually bare little resemblance to my source maps. For my Kilimanjaro Map, I relied on a very cheap and poor tourist map that I bought at a hotel gift shop, some aerial photographs and a few map details that I found on the Internet. The trickiest part was figuring out how to render the mountain which is really a large cinder cone sitting on top of a giant volcanic dome. The dome appears quite smooth and regular from a distance so after several attempts at rendering more detail, I settled on some very simple blends and shading. I realized I could use the same technique to create an elevation view of the mountain so I added that in which gives a better sense of the scale of the mountain. In addition to the summit peak itself, there were two other major geographic features along our journey, Cathedral Spires and Mwenzi Peak. Seeing them in both the map and the elevation makes it easier to understand the various summit routes. There were also key landmarks on our journey so capturing them on the map was key. The map documents not just our route but dates and campsites as well as a few minor details such as the route taken by one of our climbers who got sick and had to hike out on Day 4. The cartouche contains a slightly personalized description of the mountain in the fine type. I also created a decorative border for this map based on a traditional African pattern... something I might try more of in future maps. If any of you are planning to climb the mountain and want more details, please feel free to contact me.

Labels: , , , , ,

Monday, June 05, 2006

Map of Block Island, Rhode Island
This map is in the same series as my map of Fire Island. Its more traditional in appearance and was done for a friend. Block Island lies off the coast of Rhode Island in the Atlantic Ocean. It was once a whaling outpost and is now a popular Summer destination for the Boston and New York City communities. An interesting but little known fact about the island is that they chose to remain independent during the Revolutionary War. They knew they were part of the 13 colonies but wanted to continue their trade relationship with England so they tried to stay neutral. My friend Rob loves going to Block Island with his family and his daughter Maya. So, last year I decided to create a map of the island for his birthday. It is a fairly inclusive map but I emphasized a few of his favorite haunts on the island to make it more personal. The cartouche contains a short history of the island that ends with a description of its Summer popularity with, "New York Type 'A' Wall Street financial types"... a description that could be used to describe Rob.

Labels: , , , , ,

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Sakhalin... a Long Island with a Long Story
I have always admired the artistry of older maps. The edges of these maps often contain engravings depicting local architecture or the real or imagined cosmos. One of the elements of traditional map making is the cartouche. Cartouches typically contain the name of the map along with other pertinent information like the date of the map and the name of the map maker. But some old maps turn the name into a short, visually elegant narrative of the place being mapped. If the maps were meant to be as accurate as possible, the cartouche is the one place where the map maker can show their creative side creating custom fonts and flourishes.

I try to spend some time on the cartouche whenever I am creating a map. At first, I tried to mimic some of the typographic flourishes. But recently, I have also started to explore the narrative side of cartouches... to use the cartouche to summarize what is interesting about a place. In my map of Sakhalin, I have tried to take this to it's ultimate end by making the cartouche overtake the map in importance.

The Island of Sakhalin lies North of Hokkaido, the northern-most island of Japan and East of mainland Russia. Overall the island is of limited interest. There is some oil but the climate is not great and there are no major cities. Despite the seaming lack of commercial interest, the island has been the subject of ongoing land disputes. It has a native population but was colonized by China, Japan and eventually Russia. In the 20th century, the island switched hands between Russia and Japan. A post-World War II treaty gave possession to Russia... the legitimacy of which is still disputed by Japan today. In researching the history of the island, I came upon a description in Wikipedia. Wikipedia summaries are particularly interesting in how much they pack into a paragraph or two usually with no one political or commercial agenda. The description also contains the name of the island in Chinese, Russian and Japanese so I decided that I would use these in my cartouche. The map is a "political" map in that the cartouche describes not only the evolving disputes over the island but the evolution of the name of the place in the various languages of its "owners". To highlight the dominance of the cartouche narrative and hint at the lack of interesting landmarks of the island, I left the map itself devoid of detail. The Island is surrounded by several bodies of water, several of which also have have multiple names given over the history of the island's discovery and history.

Labels: , , , ,

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Map of the South Island, New Zealand
This map of the South Island in New Zealand is a record of an outdoor adventure my wife and I took with Active New Zealand a couple of years ago. Like the map of Mt. Kilimanjaro that follows and the map of Yosemite that I am still working on, it records a journey as much as a place. I was also motivated to work on them because I shared the journey with others and so the map is of interest to at least a small group of people. I have dreams of creating a map of my journey down the Colorado River but that is also a difficult task as the river's path seems minuscule in relation to the Canyon when seen on a map.It is also hard to capture the drama of the canyon without the benefit of photographs, 3D modeling or some wicked water color skills. But I digress. One of the questions I've been asked when I tell people I design maps is, What is there left to map? Hasn't everything already been mapped? I map lover would never ask this question. There are only 2 types of maps... boring ones and interesting ones and as long as you can map something interesting that is different than what's been mapped before, then there are more maps to be made. One way to achieve this is to map an observation that no one has made before. Another way is to focus not on the place but someone's unique journey through it. It is the difference between a map of Dallas and a map of President Kennedy's path through downtown the day he was shot. Minor details like the Grassy Knoll or the School Book Depository take on great meaning that would otherwise have been irrelevant and overlooked on any other map. Though lacking any of the historical importance, this is what I try to capture on my journey maps. On the New Zealand trip, we stopped at several common places, the Milford Sound, Mt. Aspiring, Queenstown, etc. But there were some special moments, the drive around Lake Wakatipu at sunrise, the place our bus broke down, and our bike ride through the Egglington Valley that made our trip unique to us. Flickr now offers the ability to place your images on a map. Both Yahoo and Google offer the ability to create custom maps. These tools increase the social and personal value of the Web. I am trying to do the same thing... just on the medium of paper and at a much smaller group size.

Labels: , , , ,