Two bits I want to post that have inspired me and helped me bridge my original perspective of cartography as and objective science with cartography as art. The first is a publication on the works of Paula Scher, lauded designer and principal at acclaimed design firm, Pentagram. Her book, Paula Scher: Maps displays the gigantic paintings Scher built at her summer home in the early 1990’s as a means to distract and engage herself while away from her otherwise industrious lifestyle in her home of New York City. The paintings are obsessively detailed and incredibly large typographical applications of place names in their respective places, all around the world. Words become landmarks, roads, intersections, towns, cities, counties, states and countries. It is difficult to see these works of art and convince yourself they are not also maps, or vice versa.
The other inspirational piece for this month is an architect I met at a flea market a few years ago who was selling beautiful quilts she devised using GIS software combined with a stitching machine. Her name is Emily Fischer, and her studio is called Haptic Lab. The quilts utilize the segmentation of birds-eye map contours as a subtle patterning that brings the comfort and familiarity of a blanket. If I owned one of these quilts, I’m not sure it would go on my sofa, but probably my wall. Haptic Lab has created an inspiring craft that captures a fondness of place with the contentment of warmth and rest.
When I was in college I took a class called Making Meaning and I can say for sure that it solidified my understanding of design as a concept and not just a career or industry. Making Meaning was, in short, a class about finding the relationship between what we see and how we think. A simple project in the class was to combine a single photograph with a single word, and to build interpretation simply in the way the two were combined. A simple example would be something like the recent HSBC ads which alter the perspective of word and image to make different meanings.
In this class there was another project that has, to this day, haunted me a bit. I cannot truly say I actually even completed it as my investment and brooding on the subject broke down as did, quite literally, my physical project. For the study, you would first choose a journey that was special to you; a yearly trip home to visit an old friend, a regimented schedule of going the gym, or a delightful day in your past when you toured San Francisco. The challenge of the project was to present the journey in two different ways, objectively and subjectively. The physical journey itself was to be presented in such a way that one could follow it or understand it in a global, comprehensive way. Alongside this objective perspective, the conceptual journey would reveal your impression of the travel, which could be anything you chose so long as it still conveyed the voyage.
I do wish I had figured this project out because I believe it to be more than amazing exercise, place and understanding are personal and intuitive subjects for me, and if I excelled at any projects in that class, I would think that this would have been one of them. Perhaps I’ll spend some time on this client’s “dime” to revisit the study and produce it for myself. I’m not sure what I might learn that I haven’t already—even in my relative failure at the project my understanding of its purpose was clear and my education of conceptual skills were elevated significantly. Clearly I learned, as I am blogging about it ten years later.
On to some more relevant exercises for this month’s client, Sojourn. As I often do, some mind mapping on paper is always a great place to start for a fresh perspective and an associative frame of mind to get the juices flowing for possible identity marks.