Occasionally, a map can be tangential to the graphic display…sometimes even a luxury or superfluous in it’s fundamental sense. This scenario tends to happen with very simple data and where a thematic map with no topographic detail is about as detailed as one would need. This example of the global drug trade illustrates this perfectly. The flow lines between regions of origin and consumption are perfectly represented by the lines. The proportional symbology illustrates the mix of drug types. There is little need for the map and it is simply used here for emphasis.
Detail is minimal; and the information could easily have been presented in a series of graphs, yet by using the map Asta has immediately connected people’s view of the trade to places. It is used to good effect since the outline of the world is barely visible and recedes to the background. The vivid colours are visually powerful and the text is there for those wishing to read further, though it’s unnecessary in order to get the idea of the information being presented.
A simple dataset, mapped simply but with good clear design to support ease of use, information recovery and understanding. The map is tangential yet plays a good supporting role.
Integrating maps and map shapes into other designs has been a popular approach in graphic design for decades. This isn’t pure cartography but it’s the use of cartographic design and products to emphasise another design or to create a juxtoposition. This woodcut, possibly from as early as the 1500s though more likely a nineteenth century example due to the angled lines, illustrates a Holstein Fresian with it’s distinctive black and white hide in the design of the British Isles. The northern coastline of France is also included for cartographic completeness!
The beauty of such images is that at first glance they appear perfectly ordinary. The markings have to be ‘seen’ but when they are, they become impossible not to see. Maps are incredibly flexible and their use extends far beyond their cartographic purpose. They are fantastic when used in other art and graphic design projects. They do not have to be complex either…as this wonderful whimsical example shows.
Maps are often used to explore places we rarely, if ever, get to see. These may be far away lands or even fictional places. They may equally be much closer to home and medicine has long had a need to create intricate maps of the human body. More formally, these may take the form of slices through an MRI scan that provide us with images that can be seen individually or pieced together to make a 3D picture. Such images are no different to representations of terrain that we create by draping a geography over some surface feature and artists and designers have used maps as inspirational drapes over all manner of surfaces.
Here then, a playful commentary on the fascination we have of viewing inside the human body. The renowned designer Seymour Chwast has used the act of lovemaking as a focus for his map that depicts the topography of the various parts of our anatomy. Chwast founded the famous Push Pin Studios in the 1950s and the influential Push Pin Graphic publication has became known for its bold graphic design. Chwast made a number of images of the human body as part of his work.
Chwast uses contour lines to give a sense of organs and skeletal structures having a mass. He also uses familiar colours that we may find on any number of maps of land use to differentiate between body parts. The subtle difference between the male and female bodies, through different colours, allows him to map two people differently. The darkening of colours for the ‘higher’ countoured peaks also gives a sense of depth. The typography is well crafted and without this component the image would be rather one-dimensional. Using type makes the picture a map-like object.
Strictly playful cartography and definitely whimsical but why can’t we use maps to have some fun from time to time?!