Thursday, 27 March 2008

A Texas Designer's Map of the World

The fabulous design agency Pentagram based in New York with partners like Angus Hyland (co-author of many excellant design/illustration books, The Picture Book: Contemporary Illustration & Paula Scher (AIGA medalists, notorius mapper, will feature soon), at the worlds leading multi-disciplinary design consultancy, feature an excellant map that Scher would be proud of.

The partner DJ Stout has created a “Texas Designer’s Map of the World” as a part of a promotion for Sappi Fine Paper. Based on the concept of a Texas Brag Map, the poster elucidates the worldview that everything is bigger and better in the Lone Star State. “It’s part of our Texas heritage and our collective sense of humor,” explains Stout. “My apologies to the other smaller, less interesting states on the map.”' (pentagram, 2008,

He divides a map of the U.S. into six parts and assigns each section to a graphic designer who resides within the region. When all six posters are put together, they form a giant map of the United States, “of course I was given the Southwest,” says Stout (pentagram, 2008, Its composition is bolshy, beautifully layered (as you notice opening the pdf on a sluggish computer), with Piet Zwart/H. N. Werkman letters treatment surrounded by soft pastel triadic harmony of red, blue, yellow. Yet still its not too disparaging with the these surreal, fluctuating sized elements like The World's biggest Jack Rabbit, it has Swiss grounding in neat, clean, precise, even grids of text J.M.Brockmann would be proud of, creating a salient [1] contrast. It also treats word (type) as image that crow [2], and concrete poets of appollinaire to mallarme would adore.

The other participants include Art Chantry, Rick Valicenti, Paul Sahre, Clive Piercy and Tim Hussey. Brilliant.

Download the large version image here.

[1] Kress & Van leeuwen
[2] Left to Right: The Cultural Shift from Word to Image

Wednesday, 26 March 2008

Liverpool Map

There are other techniques to improve salience within the design process such as some of those mentioned by Laszlo Moholy-nagy in his essay from 1925 ‘Contemporary typography – Aims, Practice, Criticism’, ‘tension introduced into layouts by contrasting visual elements such as:

• light/dark
• empty/full
• multicoloured/grey
• vertical/horizontal
• upright/oblique’ (Blackwell, 2001, p. unknown).

An excellent visual map that beautifies, enlivens, and has an excellent salient ability is ‘Liverpool the centre of the creative universe’ designed by Burn, fig. This was exhibited at the Tate Liverpool but this certainly grabs the user/readers attention and it categorises the content into Topographic landmarks of the city, such as The Docks, The Walker Art Gallery, Tate, Bluecoat Art Gallery, Liverpool College of art & also by The Beatles. The subtle harmony with tinges of Pink Framing (arrows/lines) the main Landmarks in the foreground and the background framing of the Blue linking particular people across these Landmarks are excellent. The framing (Kress & Van Leeuwen[1]) also has many different styles from varied iconic and well known pointing hands, to hand drawn, dashed lines, rounded edge bubbles, rectangular, organic grey shapes, speech bubbles all used in distinction to there landmarks. The use of varying saturations of black with the monochrome bubbles and introduction of illustrations of birds & eyes, some iconic others mimetic (realistic photos) create a magnificent balance of word & image.

The layering and differing tones of grey create great depth and the information value is immense because it is so visually engaging and stimulating you to read/interpret and identify The Beatles as being something you know of. You follow the linked bubbles further and may discover Brian Epstein, ‘Who is this?’ is a reponse the name might elicit. This would then hopefully inspire the map reader/user to research this name, usually via Google (preferably, or ‘Who is Peter Blake?’ That would certainly inspire and stimulate creativity upon discovery.

[1] Kress, Gunther & Theo van Leeuwen wrote three aspects of visual composition: Salience, Information Value & Framing in Reading Images: The Grammar of Visual Design. London: Routledge (1996), (Chandler, 2006, p. sem_04).

Blackwell, Lewis. (1998). Twentieth-Century Type, New and Revised Edition. Lawrence King, London

Tuesday, 25 March 2008

Illustrative 07 Berlin - Blu Multidirectional comic

Held in Berlin from 31 August to 16 September 2007, Illustrative showcases more than 200 works of established European illustrators. The exhibition focuses on so called free, uncommissioned, daring and ambitious works of the new generation in the illustrative field.

This is an excellant multi-directional comic by Blu, more multidirectional comics featured in Pictures and Words: New Comic Art and Narrative Illustration. It has the same multidrectional, non-linear reading that maps entail. It creates multi-narratives that could be continued with other collaborators/designers with other point of views similiar to PAR, Participatory Action Research[i]. This involves ‘participants in collaborative research activity with researchers in constructing their own perspectives of their world with a view to social improvement’ (Dowmunt, Dunford & Hemert, 2007, p 181).

[i] [i] This is very similar to PD (Participatory Design) which is ‘an approach to systems design that emerged from Scandinavia in the early 1070’s […] active participation of workers in the design process’ to enhance skills/knowledge (Crabtree, 2005, p132).

Illustrative Berlin - blu - multi directional comic - Centaur Publication. (2008). Creative Review nov 07 p52

Dowmunt, Tony, Dunford, Mark & Hemert, Nicole van. Ed. (2007). Inclusion Through Media. London: Goldsmiths

Crabtree, Andy. (2005). Designing Collaborative Systems: A Practical Guide to Ethnography (Computer Supported Cooperative Work). Springer-Verlag, London Limited

Monday, 24 March 2008

Once More Around the Sun

Brad Paley, sometimes teaching at Columbia University, who also designed Text Arc has depicted the calendar graphically in an excellent circular form with equal distances between numbers, fig 96. It is informatively named Once more around the Sun 2008 a package of 7 calendars, brilliant symmetry and fidelity from its accuracy.

The book Mapping: An Illustrated Guide to Graphic Navigational Systems has a high focus on the graphic element and has a chapter looking at examples of representations of time & space featuring work by NB: Studio - London Kerning

Paley, Bradford. (2008). Information Esthetics - calendar

Text Arc - Alice in wonderland

In reference to aesthetics and the data functionality Bradford Paley created Text Arc (fig 95) a system for visualising literary texts states ‘beauty [form, aesthetics] is neither an alternative to function, nor a bolt-on extra. The two bear a more subtle relation to one another: “beauty is a personal goal, but I believe that it came from the accurate and comfortable representation of data”’ (Centaur Publication, 2008, p. mar – 50). The aesthetic is needed to make it worth looking at see the whole functionality. (2001). Digital image design incorporated - A TextArc is a visual represention of a text—the entire text (twice!) on a single page. A funny combination of an index, concordance, and summary; it uses the viewer's eye to help uncover meaning.
Centaur Publication. (2008). Creative Review – mar 2008, p.50.

Music Plasma

Its ‘planets’ style with the 3D central gradient effect to the circles, and varying sizes create excellent salience as they grab your attention. The circular halo around ‘a band represents its popularity, the wider it is, the more popular or representative of a certain style of music it is’. The colour stands out against the soft grey background, ‘the colour of a very popular band, will influence the colour of the related bands’ (Worldwide, 2005, p. credits).

This varying size affects the information value very effectively, but as it is a Concept map, clicking one of the planets readjusts the circular halo (planets) to a series of bands that are associated to them, such as with The Ravonettes. The subtle, seamless, beautiful real time repositioning of the constellation to the associated bands with them is excellent. The interconnection of these information sources is immense and is not half, not nearly as visually stimulating viewed via plain words/sentences. Music Plasma has an interactive highly creative visual composition, visual map. It has mapped the knowledge of a map designers mind and allowed the seamless fluid motion to map user’s interaction.
Worldwide (2005). Frederic Vavrille – Live Plasma

London Kerning

This is a fantastic typographic exploration of type's place within the visual world of the capital.
This map won a design award from Aiga and London Design. The information is taken from AZ street maps where the icons, symbols and hard lines representing churches, streets, rivers and parks have been removed from the map, leaving only letters. It is interesting to see Geography and Creative Graphic Design combine as opposed to the separation they seem to have followed. It is a fantastic and visually inspiring/innovative typographic map of London’s street names.
Although this is not so much about knowledge it is visually inspiring to inform ways of seeing, connecting thoughts spatially, creating a spatial immediacy that demands attention.
Img src: Creative review - the annual 2007
Good review