Expository Cartography

Today’s cartographic convention, software, and methods of data harvesting all homogenize how designers approach and communicate through maps. Across practice and academia these forces produce torrents of site analyses and territorial plans that read like state-sanctioned data collages. Discerning analysis, temporal projection, and graphic experimentation are all subordinated by the machine process – download, visualize, format, print.

It’s a dreadful state for the endlessly imaginative field of cartography. But maps and geographic visualizations have the capacity to reveal invisible networks, articulate inequities, and produce new paradigms for representing relationships across space. Our ability to stimulate conversation across disciplines and with the public hinges upon a cartographic practice that preferences rigor, translation, and empathy.

Expository Cartography roots itself within this speculative and critical mode of practice. Adopting a journalistic ethic, students will leverage tools of GIS, data visualization, and 3D modeling to graphically narrate powerful stories about cities and landscapes in transition.

Several short projects will ask students to convey morphological, demographic, or environmental phenomena through single mediums such as Census data or Landsat imagery. The final term project invites students to design a new cartographic convention – a representational standard applicable across geography and time – using advanced geospatial workflows. Students will work in small groups and design through one of three methodologies: symbologies (inventing a new graphic language or notation), geometries (challenging the spatial boundaries we observe), or tactilities (employing analog drawing and modeling techniques).

The course meets weekly, with time spent between lectures and hands-on technical workshops. While no prior GIS knowledge is required, experience with Rhino and the Adobe Suite is expected, as is an aptitude for digital and analog drawing.