Unit 10 – Brief 3: My Message to Society – Research: Context, Culture and Maps

As referred to in my previous post Maps are connected to a bigger picture. There is more to maps than just design.

Through out history, maps have not been the greatest at representing an area. It is nearly impossible to document everything, therefore it is really important to consider what elements are not being represented as well as those shown. It means a designer has had to decide what is important. Perhaps the use and purpose of the map helps the designer decided, but there would also be other influences like culture, society and the history of cartography.

Maps are an influential tool. I have never been to Scotland, but I have a vague understanding of the size and shape due to the various maps I have seen of the UK. It also means that we put a lot of trust into a design piece, people see maps and will easily agree that they are fact, when really it is only one persons interpretation of an area. World maps are interesting in terms of their design. When looking at European Maps, England for example is at the top and in the centre, this is all dependant on who designed the map. If they were from Europe it would be natural to layout the world like this, you would natural feel that where you originate from to be the most important place. Also I would say that it is also more instinct, people think about themselves, therefore they look and placed things in relation to themselves. E.g. The pencil case I own is to the right of me.

Here This website explains in more detail about the era of Enlightenment and how the map was extremely significant.

The map was seen as exciting, the Enlightenment era was about science, maths and facts. By mapping an area, it was proof and evidence of how the land looked. Maps also played a large part in politics, like mentioned above the map has an influential power. The country could define their territory as well as understand the locations of their enemies.

From this understanding it means that when I design my own map I have any things to consider such as what is included in the design, the people who use the map. It would be an interesting if I could work with the point that each person refers to other places, from themselves. Perhaps there is a way to design a map that is focused on the location of the individual. A dynamic and user responsive map.


Who is it for: For students, Staff and visitors who wish to make phone call or send messages within the Central Saint Martins building.

What is the purpose: The main purpose of this map is to use information design as a system that will help people find a location to send messages.

Why is it relevant: It is relevant to design, as information design is about being able to aid someone in understanding information, it is about being able to clarify and communicate through words and marks. It also reminds me how influential my profession is. It is also relevant in society as this project brings the attention to how technology does not always work how it should. We are heavily reliant on the use of mobile phones, if we were not so, there would not necessarily be a need for this project in the first place.

Where will it live: This is dependant, but it needs be easy access and readily available.


A link to a research paper titled “How maps work politically and influence our understanding of the world ” This research paper expands on the points I raised earlier.

Abstract: While maps are often looked at as objective and natural depictions of the world, this paper argues that they are in fact social constructions that work politically. Maps and cartographic images are powerful objects that are viewed through the interaction of a range of mapping practices and the intersubjective understanding a viewer brings to the map. The paper argues that their power resides in their widespread use by the media, in government and for education. Maps are shown to influence the way we view and understand the world, and to create and maintain particular discourses about the world and international relations, with very real implications for those in the territory they depict. Decision makers are encouraged to develop a critical awareness of the mapping techniques used to construct meaning and perpetuate intersubjective understandings of the world. This paper examines these practices: such as the use of colour, naming, drawing lines and framing. I argue that cartographic images contribute to conceptions of national and supranational identity, and as such they should be studied more carefully in order to be used more effectively.

There is also a book titled “Maps and Politics” by Jeremy Black which can be bought on amazon HERE

This book also expands on the ideas of how mapping can be a political tool…

We all rely on the apparent accuracy and objectivity of maps, but often do not see the very process of mapping as political. Are the power and purpose of maps inherently political? “Maps and Politics” addresses this important question and seeks to emphasize that the apparent objectivity’ of the map-making and map-using process cannot be divorced from aspects of the politics of representation. Maps have played, and continue to play, a major role in both international and domestic politics. They show how visual geographical representations can be made to reflect and advance political agendas in powerful ways. The major developments in this field over the last century are responses both to cartographic progression and to a greater emphasis on graphic imagery in societies affected by politicization, democratization, and consumer and cultural shifts. Jeremy Black asks whether bias-free cartography is possible and demonstrates that maps are not straight-forward visual texts, but contain political and politicising subtexts that need to be read with care.

Tomorrow, I will hunt down Edward Tufte’s book “Beautiful Evidence.” This book contains ideas surrounding how maps are changing into diagrams that have multiple layers of information. Perhaps theses mean that there is an attempt to try and include everything in the design.

  • Published:Cheshire, Conn. : Graphics Press, c2006.
  • Physical description:213 p. : ill. (some col.), maps, plans, facsims. ; 28 cm.
  • CSM – 3 week loan
  • Shelfmark:760.04022 TUF

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