Ed Fairburn’s art combines portraiture with maps, in which the faces, drawn in ink over an existing map, seem to emerge from the topographic or urban features. Here’s a short video feature on Fairburn from Arts District, a Rocky Mountain PBS program. [via]
Eleanor Lutz’s map of Mars isn’t exactly medieval in style (that’s not the right word for it), but it applies an ostensibly old aesthetic to a very modern map subject. “I thought it would be fun to use their historical design style to illustrate our current adventures into unexplored territory. […] Since the base map is hand-drawn I also added an overlay of actual NASA topographic imagery. This way even if some of my lines are a little off, you can still see what the actual ground looks like underneath.” Whatever you call it, it looks amazing. [via]
The Scituate Mariner has a profile of local resident John Roman, an illustrator whose book, The Art of Illustrated Maps, came out from HOW Design Books last fall. If “illustrated maps” sounds redundant to you, Roman means by it maps that are illustrations, maps that are conceptual rather than geographic—art rather than geometry. Buy at Amazon. [via]
Andrew Lynch has created posters of individual New York subway lines. Each poster contains ridership and historical data, and the lines are geographically accurate but are otherwise blank.
When I look at the subway map I always want to know where the lines really go. The VanMaps take this wish to a ridiculous extreme. A fully geographic map would be cluttered and difficult to read. I stripped that all away. All you have now is the essence, the subway itself and nothing else. In trying for the most geographic accuracy the map now becomes totally abstracted. The subway line exists on a blank plane. Totally accurate, totally useless. But damn does it look good.
Are transit system maps too complicated? Human beings can only process a finite amount of information at once (eight bits, or yes/no decisions—on maps that would mean 28 or 256 connection points); researchers examining the transit systems of 15 large metropolitan areas found that many trips exceeded that eight-bit limit, especially when multi-modal trips (e.g. subway plus bus or tram) are involved (subway-only trips tended to fall under the limit). System maps with too many data points are overwhelming. “We have found that, in the largest cities, the addition of bus routes with maps that are already too complicated to be used easily by travelers implies that the cognitive limit to urban navigation is exceeded for multimodal transportation systems.” A single map, in other words, is no longer sufficient or useful in such cases. [via]
A catalogue of the correspondence of Abraham Ortelius (1527–1598), the Flemish cartographer responsible for the first modern atlas, the Theatrum Orbis Terrarum, is now available. Ortelius’ letters are scattered about the world in various collections; the catalogue is just that, a catalogue, not a digital archive—where digital copies do exist there are links to them, but otherwise in-person library research is still required. (The principal researcher, Joost Depuydt, recently published an article on Ortelius’ correspondence in Imago Mundi.) [via]
The BBC’s Britain series looks at the plans and proposals to redesign London’s streets after the city was gutted by the Great Fire of 1666. [via]
There’s a certain kind of map found all over the Internet that drives me nuts. It’s the map that compares two geographic regions by labelling one with the other: show that this U.S. state has the same GDP as that country by labelling with that country (or better yet, its flag). But the comparisons can get awfully recondite: labelling the Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul with Zimbabwe’s flag because they have similar populations is cute but ultimately useless, unless you have some familiarity with both Rio Grande do Sul and Zimbabwe. They’re bad maps because they’re not really informative—they’re just showing off.
But the problem isn’t necessarily the format. For an exception to the above, see TimeOut London’s maps of London. The first map (above) shows London’s population size by illustrating how many other cities’ populations could be crammed inside London’s boundaries; the same is done with greater metropolitan areas, U.S. cities, Scotland and Wales, and other countries. These maps work because a British-based reader will have some sense of what’s being compared to London: they’re not, in other words, esoteric comparisons. [via]
Fuller’s London Town is a pen-and-ink masterpiece of detail that took ten years to create. Unveiled last October, it’s been making the exhibition rounds and is currently at the Hoxtown Gallery in Holborn, London until April 30th. It’s also included, along with his map of Bristol, in Mind the Map, a collection of map art that came out last September from Gestalten. Prints of his work are also available: a print of London Town costs £600 or £2,500 depending on the size. More about Fuller (whose real name is Gareth Wood) here. [via]
For this exhibition, Scher has created a body of large-scale cartographic paintings focusing on the United States. Paintings as tall as seven feet depict the country swirling in torrents of information and undulating with colorful layers of hand-painted boundary lines, place names, and commentary. Different sets of data—population demographics, transportation flows, geography, and climate—are employed to make connections and establish patterns. While the information can in no way be interpreted as literal fact, the expression of it demonstrates a personalized understanding of the diversity of the United States.
The exhibition runs until March 26. More on the exhibition from Slate and Mental Floss. The New Yorker has a new profile of Paula Scher, a renowned graphic designer who’s been painting these distinctive maps in her spare time.
The result of a decade’s worth of research, The Old North State at War: The North Carolina Civil War Atlas, written by Mark Anderson Moore with Jessica Bandel and Michael Hill, is now available. The book “is a comprehensive study of the impact of the war on the Tar Heel State, incorporating 99 newly prepared maps. The large format (17″ by 11″) volume highlights every significant military engagement and analyzes the war’s social, economic and political consequences through tables, charts and text.” Produced by the North Carolina Office of Archives and History, it can be ordered through their online store, at the North Carolina Museum of History or selected state historic sites. Read historian John David Smith’s review in The News & Observer. [via]
Scans from a colourful Japanese rail network map from 1936. Because it’s 1936, the map includes Taiwan, Korea and Manchuria. [via]
The Philadelphia Inquirer’s Elizabeth Mosier reports on a talk last Saturday by University of Delaware English professor Martin Brückner. “Using images from the exhibit he curated at Winterthur Museum (viewable online at http://commondestinations.winterthur.org), Brückner traced maps from production to purchase to public display and personal use, as they became fashionable objects in the period before and after the Revolutionary War,” Mosier writes.
In the 18th century, maps were everywhere: advertised with luxury goods in catalogs and with necessities in the newspaper, displayed in taverns and town halls and high-traffic areas in private homes, printed on parlor screens and ceramics and neckties—“cartifacts” serving no cartographic purpose. If political conflict built the market for maps, the cartouche—or decorative map title—refined it, adding beauty to the criteria for determining a map’s value. The brisk business in maps for navigating and decorating redefined what constituted their usefulness, in material and social terms. Owning a map meant economic status, educational achievement, and national identity; showing a map showed you belonged.
This is the “performative function” of maps, to create reality by plotting it.
Brückner is the author or editor of several books on the subject of the social history of maps in early America, including The Geographic Revolution in Early America: Early Maps, Literacy, and National Identity (UNC Press, 2006). I should really check his work (and Susan Schulten’s) out; my own graduate work was going to be on the social function of music, so the social function of maps is relevant to my interests for more than one reason. [via]