Welcome to the Age of Intelligent Maps



The Adobe Think Tank has an interesting article by Karzys Varnelis and Leah Meisterlin entitled “The invisible city: Design in the age of intelligent maps”.  Citing the rise of GPS, online mapping and other digital formats for cartography, Varnelis and Meisterlin discuss the implications on design as they herald, ” Welcome to the age of intelligent maps.

“Today’s intelligent maps don’t just represent spatial relationships, they reveal conditions in the city that were previously hidden in spreadsheets and databases. And it’s not just a new representation of the city that emerges out of this data; its a new hybrid city, part physical texture and part data-driven map.”

Varnelis and Meisterlin make the case that maps have become the media for analyzing much about our society, economics and politics, more intelligent design and innovation is called for.

As maps become richer, more complicated, and less predictable, cartography becomes less a matter of convention and more a matter of invention. Our age of intelligent maps demands intelligent map design. The role of the designer in contemporary mapping cannot be overstated. Aesthetics and readability have real-world implications both in use and in meaning. The choice of what to show and how to show not only impacts appearance, it can reframe arguments. Graphic considerations such as cropping, line weights, and even color or typeface translate into statements on territory and boundary, economy and politics.

The authors also take on the a parallel discussion initially raised by Nicolas Carr in his Atlantic Monthly article which asked “Is Goole making us stupid?.  Varnelis and Meisterlin pose a similar question by asking if the easily available Google Maps is pulling people away from a deeper geography found through atlases and other printed sources, not unlike the point Matt Rosenberg made in his essay, “Goodby Dear Atlas“.

The article also delves into what the authors refer to as mapping to  “to make the invisible visible. ”  Interventionist mapping is cartography that is argumentative, conclusive and provides answers.  It is cartography that can move people to action.

The invisible city: Design in the age of intelligent maps by Karzys Varnelis and Leah Meisterlin – Adobe Think Tank


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