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Beautiful Maps?

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#1
joris

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Looking at a map, one can be caught by a feeling of joy and richness. This experience is similar to the way art is experienced. Is it the aestetical aspect of maps that causes this? Or is there something else: the spatial awareness, the way our brain interpretes spatial signals.....

I am doing research on what causes the particular joyfull and rich map-experience, and on how it can be used in map making and map reading.

Who has anything to say about this?
What websites and literature can you recommend?

#2
aug_aug

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This might be a good place to find people to comment on the whole map/art experience...

http://www.davidrumsey.com/

#3
David Medeiros

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Interesting. I'm writing a short essay on a loosely related phenomenon... the tendency of many GIS professionals to see high end cartography as art only and not an information medium.

I know from my own experience that I respond most often as you describe, to maps that are beautiful and informative. I think it's the maps ability to allow you to imagine movement on it's surface that really captivates. You see the message or data represented and in your mind you can see down into layers that are not even on the map and imagine yourself in the map, perhaps like imaging yourself in a place captured in a painting or photograph.

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#4
frax

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There must be some article in Cartographic Perspectives about that - I find that that journal often brings up art perspectives on maps.
Hugo Ahlenius
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#5
natcase

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It's a topic I discuss in my blog, MapHead, especially if you go back about a year in the archives.

See also Mark Denil's work (there's an excellent essay in Cartographic Perspectives a few years back).

See also Ed Tufte's oevre; beauty in information is kind of his running theme.

I'd be happy to discuss offline, if you like.

Nat Case
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#6
MapMedia

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Beautiful maps are like any art, which give pleasure to people predisposed to sense good aesthetics. (some ppl are not predisposed to see or feel aesthetics). This may be subjective, but I am certain there is some good objective research out there that defines the chemical pathway/process of a person's elated response to 'beauty'

Since I am a map fiend, when I see another form of art, I imagine what it would look like as a map. For instance, my hobby of transposing postcards into maps - see attachments.

My 2 cents

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#7
natcase

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Since I am a map fiend, when I see another form of art, I imagine what it would look like as a map. For instance, my hobby of transposing postcards into maps - see attachments.

What a cool idea. Thanks for the example (in my back yard, in fact)!

Nat Case
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#8
MapMedia

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I have a backlog of postcards, but am currently working on maps for these 2, then will start putting them on my personal website.
I think these postcards have excellent pallets and composition (placement of colors, shapes) that would work really well on a stylized map design.

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#9
joris

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Thank you all for interesting reactions so far.

Many (also in other discussion groups) point out that maps can be considered art. I agree and there is little doubt about that - I think not only among cartographers.

What interst me mostly though is what it is that makes map art: is it aestetics -craftmanship, composition, skills, colours, signs, etc. or is the art-experience caused by the interpretation of what you see as a map: the spatial aspect, high information/inkt ratio, generalization, scaled referencing etc.

I suspect the latter to be the case but I am not entirely sure and would like to know more about it. So my question is not so much whether maps are art or not, my question is: do the things that make a map a map have to do with the art-experience of maps?

And then there are many more questions:

- why does not everybody enjoy beautiful maps in the same way?
- what are the characteristics of map-lovers (do they have their spatial senses more developped in some way, are they efficiency-lovers as well, maybe musicians, what correlation could there be between map-lovers and their typical personality, or between people that are not sensible to maps and their other characteristics)?
- how can maps be made more accesible to this enjoyment?
- can people be trained or educated in enjoying maps (and would thatbe the same as a map reading training)?

Looking forward to reading your thought and recommendations...

#10
Fran├žois Goulet

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For me, the thing that makes a map a map can be a part of the art. I'll be impressed by the quantity of information on a map, how the cartographer has been able to synthesize the information, ... It's part of the craftmanship, but that's not what will make me find a map beautiful.

I'll appreciate a nicely designed north arrow or scalebar as well as the colors. I'll love a nice perspective on a map that can give me "vertigo".

The interpretation gave me satisfaction because I'm a cartographer too and I can appreciate all the work... The aesthetics is what I makes me like a beautiful map.

#11
DaveB

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I think for me it's a combination of the pure aesthetics, things like pleasing color palettes and composition (the "art" of cartography?) and efficient communication of information (the "science" of cartography?) that makes a map beautiful. :)

As for personalities - maybe some of us are just born map geeks :lol:
I think people can learn to appreciate art in general and the same goes for maps. Tastes will likely still vary, though.
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#12
heath b

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I've been fascinated for a while now on the idea of using maps and geographical information as art or pieces of art. Whether it be a beautifully abstract satellite image, a wonderfully illustrated map, or using maps as background transparencies in pieces of art, I appreciate how it communicates with people. I've had a few project ideas for things like this but have until now been too timid about my artistic abilities. Working on it...

There is an exhibit opening here in Portland today at our big art walk which is all about maps and how they communicate. I'm going to check it out tonight. Here's the gallery's website:

http://seagallery.wordpress.com/

Heath

#13
Nick H

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First off, what are maps? To me a map is an analogy; from an old dictionary definition of the word 'an agreement, likeness, or proportion between the relations of things to one another...'.

Maps have shapes, points, lines and polygons, which have to be honest. Part of the art (if art it is) comes from how styles are applied to the shapes and by how the text, labelling and furniture is selected and placed. The shapes of course can not be altered in the interests of appearance and this imposes necessary constraints on the map maker, who's job it is to use his skills to make the map tell a story in the simplest way possible. I think it is inevitable that a map which tells its story well will also be attractive to the eye, but this, in my opinion, would not make it art. Maps are things of purpose and good ones can be interesting and appealing, but not art I think.

Now I'm in trouble.

Regards, N.
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#14
MapMedia

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First off, what are maps? To me a map is an analogy; from an old dictionary definition of the word 'an agreement, likeness, or proportion between the relations of things to one another...'.

Maps have shapes, points, lines and polygons, which have to be honest. Part of the art (if art it is) comes from how styles are applied to the shapes and by how the text, labelling and furniture is selected and placed. The shapes of course can not be altered in the interests of appearance and this imposes necessary constraints on the map maker, who's job it is to use his skills to make the map tell a story in the simplest way possible. I think it is inevitable that a map which tells its story well will also be attractive to the eye, but this, in my opinion, would not make it art. Maps are things of purpose and good ones can be interesting and appealing, but not art I think.

Now I'm in trouble.

Regards, N.


I like what you said Nick. There can be 'art' in the design, but if art is a pure expression and maps are function first, then a map can not be a pure expression and be functional (opposing forces).

#15
David Medeiros

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First off, what are maps? To me a map is an analogy; from an old dictionary definition of the word 'an agreement, likeness, or proportion between the relations of things to one another...'.

Maps have shapes, points, lines and polygons, which have to be honest. Part of the art (if art it is) comes from how styles are applied to the shapes and by how the text, labelling and furniture is selected and placed. The shapes of course can not be altered in the interests of appearance and this imposes necessary constraints on the map maker, who's job it is to use his skills to make the map tell a story in the simplest way possible. I think it is inevitable that a map which tells its story well will also be attractive to the eye, but this, in my opinion, would not make it art. Maps are things of purpose and good ones can be interesting and appealing, but not art I think.

Now I'm in trouble.

Regards, N.


I like what you said Nick. There can be 'art' in the design, but if art is a pure expression and maps are function first, then a map can not be a pure expression and be functional (opposing forces).


Could not disagree more. Art is what and where we find it and although the term may have a definition art itself is a fairly personal concept defined by the individual. A person may find art, whether man made or not, in almost anything. To me an artful map can indeed be a functional one, these are not mutually exclusive concepts in design.

The art in "art & science" of cartography is a different subject altogether and reflects the subjective nature of creating a graphic representation of the world as well as the creative process of map mapping overall.

To the idea that a map must be 'honest', again I respectfully disagree. A map as a representation of some part of the world is by it's very nature 'dishonest'. It carries with it in style and design all of it's makers perceptions and biases about the subject being mapped (we do this whether conscious of it or not). And just like a photograph, simply by taking a segment of the world and showing it in frame we alter its context and reality. But beyond that esoterica is the fact that many maps (even good maps) are purposefully made to be misleading or dishonest (see "how to lie with maps", Monmonier).

GIS Reference and Instruction Specialist, Stanford Geospatial Center.

 

www.mapbliss.com

 





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