Cartography isn’t just design. It can be art. The aesthetics of a map can extend a personalized perspective of a place that poses questions, communicates ideas or provides meaningful impressions. A cartographer may be more than a technician who collects data, plots precise locations or qualifies information in a spatial order. A cartographer can be both an engineer and an artist. They can be the architects of perception.
I hope to stage this ideal perspective on the profession of cartography through a fictional identity. I’ve fabricated a design firm that focuses on environmental, periodical, educational and even fictional cartography whose goal is to blend the values of technical GIS and artistic representation. In short, this company makes maps that are interesting, valuable and beautiful.
The name of the company is Sojourn. Sojourn is defined as a temporary stay or visit in a place. I like to think of this as a great way to express the romantic effect one can have of viewing a map and imagining yourself in that place. Perhaps not so literally, but for me, there is a mental translation of a map into something exotic, spacial, hopeful or new. And this doesn’t necessarily need to be a classically charming place like a map of the Bahamas or of Prague. I could be looking at a map that’s supposed to lead me to the impound office to pick up a towed car and I still imagine what the place will be like once I transpose cross streets and river contours into reality. Sojourn attempts to capture that moment, that visionary translation, but to do so in a wide spectrum from very technical to whimsical.
Sojourn is a company formed by a few professionals with a range of skills from technical GIS training and expertise all the way to graphic design and artistry. They combine hand-drawn line work with sophisticated software. They’ve worked on projects for architectural expeditions in the south of France, to representing cultural emigrations in southeast Asia, to mapping the fictional land of Oz. They’ve made maps for large name periodicals for both information and editorial purposes, and they’ve sold screen printed posters of their own masterpiece painted maps of the largest volcanoes in the world. Sojourn is made up of both cartographers and artists, and its that mixture of spirit and skill that they wish to represent them with a graphic identity.
As I often ask of my fictional clients, Sojourn has provided 5 key words that encapsulate their character, ideals and identity:
Sojourn has built their business around their love for making maps, for making tools for navigation and for venerating places in the world in vibrant color. There’s no reason your Google map shouldn’t tell you more through the voice of line quality, or your community’s main avenue antique festival shouldn’t have a little perspective to hand out to visitors, or even your medieval fantasy novel shouldn’t have a guide that helps keep track of all those kingdoms. Maps of this world or any world should be treated as an art, and one that tells a story, not simply a collection of points overlaid on a satellite image of the landscape. To all the companies and professionals out there that strive for this ideal respect for cartography, I hope to exhibit you with a thoughtful logo or graphic that does them justice through Sojourn. So let’s hit the road.
Map of Manhattan by Michael Albert