Ross School - Senior Projects 2010
Mentor: Mark Foard
Description: Mapper’s Statement
The central idea of my senior project was to create maps in order to gain a better understanding of how the world works. (The word “map” tends to confuse people as to the actual nature of the project, so, to clarify a little bit, this project was much more a study in information graphics than it was in cartography). The maps were designed to bring various observations from a range of subjects to new light by representing them graphically.
Collectively, the work could probably be put under the category of data visualization. The data being visualized, however, is often a bit odd. Some of maps were personal to me, some of them personal to the Ross community, and some just a little out of nowhere (e.g. A poster designed to show the complexity of the Road Runner cartoon by mapping the all the ways Coyote fails to catch Road Runner in the first six episodes of the show).
I created all of my maps with a program called Adobe InDesign. InDesign is basically the standard program used in the graphic design world, and was on the school laptops.
Road Runner (Road Runner Final.pdf)
My project was an exploration in the data mapping. Data mapping (which essentially entails visualizing information) is something of an emerging field, but if one looks around (my works consulted page has a few related things), there is some interesting stuff to be found. Exactly how I arrived at the decision to undertake a project in data mapping, something that I had never really heard of or even knew existed until this summer, is probably not worth explaining here, so I’m going to start at the point when I already kind of knew what was going on with my project.
I started out by reading three books given to me by my mentor and outside consultant. These were You Are Here by Katherine Harmon, which opened up the initial question how maps can work in abstract ways, Beautiful Evidence by Edward Tufte, which gave me some serious insight into what the essentials of a data map were, and Maps of the Imagination: The Writer as Cartographer, which left me with an understanding of how a good map often works in the same way that a good written story does. After reading those three books, I had gained some solid ground that I could base my project on.
While doing my initial research, which included reading those books as well as doing a good amount of exploring on the Internet, I had been thinking about maps that I could potentially make. In The Writer as Cartographer, Turchi had talked about the Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote cartoon, and mentioned the fact that its creator, Chuck Jones, had made a rule when he was doing the show that the Coyote could never fail to catch the Road Runner in the same way twice. It struck my mentor (Mark Foard) and I, then, that this seemingly simple and repetitive cartoon was in fact extremely complex in the sense that, throughout the course of all the episodes, Coyote had to fail to catch Road Runner in around 500 different ways. The best way to enlighten someone as to that complexity, we thought, would be to make a map. Thus was born the Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote map, my first piece.
Designing the Road Runner map led me to figure out exactly what my project would be about. My train of thought (or at least an exceedingly oversimplified version of it) was, if I can use mapping to figure out the Road Runner cartoon, maybe I can use mapping to as a tool for understanding how the world works on a broad scale. From there, I went on to create four more series of maps, each of which used mapping to figure out different subject matter. A discussion of what each of those maps are I think is unnecessary here, as one can find each of them in the archive.
I will, however, touch on the process of creating the maps. The first big wall that I encountered in the project was the fact that at the outset of it, I knew relatively little about graphic design (I had done a few projects in the field in the past, namely the Modernity Project and work on the school newspaper, but nothing terribly extensive). In order to get around that, I had to enlist a huge amount of help from my outside consultant, Julie Iden. She was essentially my graphic design teacher for the six months or so that I was doing my project. I also had to spend a good amount of time learning to make better use of the program Adobe InDesign, which I created all of my maps with.
At the end of the project, I was left with (among other things) an understanding that mapping, which, again, was a topic I had never really thought about before, could be a tool for life, and for understanding a wide range of subject matter in a unique manner.
Donald., Barthelme,. Sixty Stories. New York: Penguin (Non-Classics), 1993. Print.
Harmon, Katharine. You Are Here. New York: Princeton Architectural, 2003. Print.
Hemingway, Ernest. The Complete Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway The Finca Vigia Edition. New York: Scribner, 1998. Print.
Hiebert, Kenneth J. Graphic design sources. New Haven, CT: Yale UP, 1998. Print.
"Lamosca Data." Lamosca. Web. Fall 2009. <http://www.lamosca.com/data/>
Luis, Borges, Jorge. Ficciones (English Translation). New York: Grove, 1994. Print.
McCandless, David. The Visual Miscellaneum: A Colorful Guide To The World's Most Consequential Trivia. New York: HarperCollins, 2009. Print.
Moody, Rick. The Ring of Brightest Angels Around Heaven A Novella and Stories. New York: Back Bay, 2002. Print.
Tufte, Edward R. Beautiful Evidence. New York: Graphics Pr, 2006. Print.
Turchi, Peter. Maps of the imagination the writer as cartographer. San Antonio, Texas: Trinity UP, 2004. Print.
Voytilla, Stuart. Myth and the movies discovering the mythic structure of 50 unforgettable films. Studio City, CA: Michael Wiese Productions, 1999. Print.
Community Member (Details)
Julie Iden is a graphic designer who works in the publishing department at Ross School (as of winter 2010). She also happens to be Mark Foard’s wife, if that is of any consequence.