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22 Jun

I’ve always had an slight obsession interest in maps. Probably has something to do with the fact that I was the navigator when I was a kid. Even though we have Vanessa (the lady that gives us directions from our phones), I want my kids to be able to read a map. It’s such an important skill to have.

There’s something about how seemingly permanent maps are, but at the same time completely of their time and in some ways, completely subjective. I remember looking at an atlas at a book store that not only had maps and satellite images of the entire earth but also statistics about random aspects of earth. There was the coldest recorded temperature, as well as the hotest. The places with the highest per capita income and the lowest.

Who decided what was important for that atlas? Why are those specific stats important?

I gave a globe to the hubs for our wedding. It’s a super cool one that you plug in and it glows when you turn it on. I believe it was made sometime in the 50’s. It still has Persia as a country (instead of Iran and Iraq and the like). It also still has East and West Germany. It’s so interesting to look at this thing, the globe, that isn’t going to change (not this particular globe), that is representing something that is always in flux.

That seems, to me, to be the most important aspect of mapping. The cartographer is a historian and is only documenting what is happening at that moment…only to change in the future. It’s such an interesting way to learn about history. And…let’s be honest, maps can be so BEAUTIFUL (yes…I’m a complete nerd right now).

Just look at these awesome early maps of North Carolina…

Theodore DeBry, “Americae pars, Nunc Virginia,” 1590.

“A new discription of Carolina by the order of the Lords Proprietors,” circa 1671.

“North Carolina,” 1795

“. . . First actual survey of the state of North Carolina,” 1808.

All North Carolina maps and MANY more can be found at North Carolina Maps.

Isn’t it so cool that each map is a bit different depending on who authored it? At first, the only lines are rivers and streams and oceans and landmarks. And…isn’t it so interesting that by the time the last map was drawn there were all these invisible lines delineating counties and cities?

And now!!!! Now…there are so many maps of so many things. The first thing that comes to mind is the NYC subway map.

It’s not a map of a “real” place. It’s diagrammatic so we can understand relationships. That’s really what maps are about…graphic, visual ways to display relationships.


Always being one of those people who likes to see AND do, I like a visual.

The part I like most about mapping is that it doesn’t have to be about geography or places.

Here’s one of my favorites that displays the relationships between famous American architects and their mentors and apprentices and predecessors (please note that they’re all male).

sorry it’s so small…I couldn’t find a bigger version. source

So…if maps are just about relationships…we can map almost anything. That is so exciting to this girl.

Here are a few maps that I absolutely LEARVE!

This is actually a print that we have in our house. I bought this for the hubs just because (it’s awesome) one time. You can find it and a lot of other super awesome “maps” at Pop Chart Labs. Pop Chart Labs is a uber cool place to get some super hip apparel and prints for not a lot of money. If you sign up, they’ll send you emails when sales are happening.

How about a family tree..

I love these.

image from Chris Magiera

from My Tree and Me

Isn’t it funny how in both the cases above, the child is the “center” of everything…interesting.

This map is one I did in school for my final project. I definitely copied was inspired by the concept my good friend Ashley of Edible Perspective used in her final project for grad school…thanks Ash! But it really worked out well. I had this pretty crazy facade system and this was a very clear way to describe it. I even know of architecture firms who use methods like this to explain ideas to contractors. So cool.

How about Jenna Bigott who maps her days! How awesome is that?

Hmmm…what would be the subject of my map? I’ve got some work to do!