It’s no secret that the world’s ocean trash problem is getting bad; looking at a handful of images from the Texas-sized Pacific garbage patch should be enough to convince anyone. As for all of our litter that doesn’t end up in the middle of the ocean? It often stays close to shore, where volunteers for Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup pick some of it up, cataloging all the items they find.
If you want to be a creative person, then you’re gonna have to be creative in how you put your career together. There isn’t a path. Part of the creativity is making your path.
“It’s a landscape archtitect’s job to pay attention to the things nobody else notices: the placement of benches, the way a rail curves around a tree, everything…”
“Why are those things important if nobody notices?”
“Because there’s an intrinsic feeling to being in balance.”
Love that last sentence — because the same could be said for typography.
You’d be hard pressed to find a layperson who notices ligatures, rags, and nicely kerned pairs, but these very minor details are the exact things that designers devote attention to.
I might be doing a map project in the next few weeks, so I’m looking through some maps I designed in the past. Some are definitely better than others, but what’s true for all is that design and content really go together.
Okay, I say that for other types of design, but whereas you might be able to slide by with trendy, eye-candy fluff in, say, an ad or brochure, in maps you can’t generate design at all without the content (in this case, data). Never start a map design without looking at all the data!
The easiest maps I worked on had very simple content. They were meant for a quick read; just a general idea of one specific location. Because no one is really going to navigate by these maps, you can do some clean-up and and move the roads a little to achieve really good balance in the design. That street is a little bumpy? Just smooth it out.
The most difficult and painstaking maps are the ones with a lot of detail. There are two types — detail in its breadth and detail in its complexity.
Some maps cover a lot of ground. This is breadth, and even just checking your work will take a few hours. It’s not a good idea to shift roads a lot for these maps because people do use them to navigate to an extent. They are no Thomas Guide, but maps of this type are handed out to people or used in brochures. I keep all those weird curves and respect the almost-but-not-nearly northerly angle, but I do a lot of label-nudging and size-tinkering.
Complexity deals with the different types of data. How do you successfully differentiate restaurants from shopping locations, doctor’s offices, and gyms? What about freeways versus roads? Do you use color codes or icons? What if there are a lot of items in each data set? Do you label right on the map or use letters or numbers with a key?
Sometimes, the most difficult maps are the most rewarding. The series of design decisions you make along the way is like solving a complex puzzle. I personally get the satisfaction of conquering that puzzle and of knowing that what I designed is actually useful.