How I Make Maps

Map Ideology:
In school I learned to be a technical cartographer making maps for navigation and research. I've since moved my map making from science-based to art-based, making simple and aesthetically appealing maps. I think the relationship people have with their homes is often stored as spatial knowledge -- how to get to the best hiking spot, the quickest way home, the scenic route. This unique knowledge so often goes unappreciated, especially with the ubiquity of google maps telling us where to go.

My maps attempt to honor the relationship people have with their homes. I make maps of street systems, elevation, and neighborhoods. These maps include little to no text, which tells viewers to use their knowledge to locate themselves. 

I can look at a map of my hometown of Dallas and use the highways and streets to navigate to my childhood home. I want my maps to be both a challenge of familiarity for viewers who call that place home as well as a piece of art for everyone else.

The Process:
I start every map with real spatial data. I research online for the appropriate data, download it, and then access it in a mapping program (try to imagine how Google Maps is created, but way simpler). In this mapping program I can do all kinds of extractions and spatial analysis depending on what I want to create. For example, the San Francisco Hills Map is created by extracting the highest elevation point of each building and assigning that value to the building. So that when color is added, viewers can identify skyscrapers in downtown as well as hills and valleys around the city.

To get really technical, some of the data I work with is raster data (the water depth of the SF Bathymetry Map, the elevation of the Allagash River Map), which can be smoothed, or recalculated, or interpolated in a variety of ways. And most of the data I use is vector data, which can be streets, or buildings, or bodies of water. In the Rome Map I used the building data's underlying information to identify important points of interest and pull them out. The resulting map stacks many layers of spatial data to provide a detailed, yet textless landscape for familiar viewers to interpret.

Next, I export the map into an imagery editing program to smooth the features and make final color decisions. For the majority of my maps, I then send them to print at my local print shop (Replica Digital Ink <3) that uses the highest quality ink and paper. But for some, I print them myself...

Screen Printing Process:
There's certain effects that can only be captured by manually printing with ink poured out and pulled over a screen. For a few of my maps, after I complete the above process, I then send the digital files to my local screen printing shop (Anthem Printing <3) where they burn the images on to screens. Then I use these screens to transfer ink onto paper to create my maps (see the gallery for pictures of the process).

Interesting effects like color gradients (or "split fountain prints") can be created by mixing multiple colors when printing in order to generate a fade effect (see San Francisco Streets Screen Print). For Cape Cod Retro I printed the first layer blue, and then slightly offset the screen for the orange print, which creates this trippy overlay where the two align and misalign. For San Francisco Streets + Elevation I laid down an elevation layer first using a technique called "halftones", which uses the density of points to shade, here representing elevation--so the closer together the dots, the higher the elevation. I then overlaid the streets layer with a color gradient to finish off that map.

The screen printed maps have an interesting texture to them as the ink sits on top of the paper in a unique way (the raised dots of the halftones feel really cool). Each screen printed map is slightly different from the others because of the manual process, creating one of a kind pieces.

Try to keep these processes in mind while you peruse my maps. Feel free to reach out with any questions about how they were made or where the data came from, I'd honestly love nothing more than nerding out about map making. So get in touch!

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