This is a weird one. As a fan of weird art, Vanessa’s first impression was that this map is pretty cool, weird, and creepy, and that it would go well in an Orwelian universe. This map is of the United States, but as a pig. Yes, that’s right. The word “gehography,” possibly the best geographic pun ever, is used in the sub-title text and gives a sense of the humor that went into it. Aesthetically, we’re looking at a lithograph and this is shown by the level of detail and the way that different textures and colors stop in clear and straight lines. It was commissioned by an eccentric entrepreneur who had built a successful sewing machine company and then poured his money into a pig farm, the opening of which was being announced by way of this map poster. This map was made to announce the opening of his pig farm. This guy had a cause, which was to eradicate foodborne illnesses to make the food market of the 19th century safer with good animal husbandry. To kick things off he made 2,500 copies of this map for a party. It was a “good cheer souvenir,” as it calls itself.
This is a relatively accurate depiction of the United States except where it isn’t. For example, Florida is the front right leg of the pig, which seems to fit pretty well but the tail isn’t part of the country. What should we call maps that look like animals, of which this is just one of many others that could be placed in this genre? On twitter, Robert St. John suggested that they should be called mapaphores, which seems quite fitting.
Other highlights on this map include a hog pouring itself a drink, a reference to brain sauce, a dodo look-alike bird, and a pig eating shrimp. Forming the frame of the map is a ribbon for each state, a pig, and a reference to the state’s favorite pork dish. Colorado’s is something called roast chines, a kind of stuffed bacon apparently and an old dish imported from England. But returning to the main map, you see the utilization of Canada as a supporting feature that creates parts of the hog shape, such as parts of Canada represented as tufts of hair, but there are also parts of Canada that are intentionally maintained in their true geographic shape. The same goes for Mexico.
The state colors have a different color in each such that, for the most part, each state has a color that makes it look visually separated from its nearest neighbors. The Four Color Theorem, which states that a planar map of polygons only needs four colors such that no adjacent polygon has the same color, is an obvious cartographic factoid to bring up in relation to this. Upon closer scrutiny, however, we notice that the map maker has cleverly altered the color scheme to suit the purpose where color was needed to convey the idea of the country as a pig, such as Wisconsin and Michigan both being shades of red where they are supposed to form part of the pig’s ear. A discussion of mitten-shaped states ensues.
Farmers Markets: Accessible to All?
A free book called Food: An Atlas was put together by an organization called Guerrilla Cartography. This map, by Margaret Raimann, is one of the maps in the book. It’s on an important food topic in that it shows farmers’ market accessibility for those who are on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), essentially showing us the proportion of farmer’s markets that accept SNAP in each metropolitan area of the U.S. It shows that there is a large disparity across the country. The circles that are used to show this were really effective in terms of instantaneous understanding of the data even for people who have never seen this kind of data presentation. The labels that curve along the circles of the metro areas are super unique, meaningful, and helpful. The curvy feel on the labels carries over throughout the map and the marginalia and lends to a cohesive look.
The grayscale basemap is notable for its ability to be pulled backward in the visual hierarchy. Pushing yourself cartographically by making grayscale maps is a good exercise. Daniel Huffman, in fact, hosted a monochrome mapping competition a couple of years ago, and its winners are good to look at for inspiration. Speaking of circles though, a lot of cartographic software makes it easy to create proportional circle symbols out of your data to show that there’s more here and less there but we caution that circle size can be difficult for the human eye to differentiate (Meihoefer, The Utility of the Circle as an Effective Cartographic Symbol, 1969). However, as we said before, this particular map doesn’t seem to suffer from this problem as there are only 4 different major circle sizes. The use of colors in design carries with it a similar caution in that you don’t want to go beyond seven completely different hues as this can make the map difficult to understand if each color denotes a different category that must be visually matched to a legend.
Les Grands Vins de Bourgogne
This is a French wine map that is extremely long. Indeed, it is an atypical size and shape for a European map of this era. It’s a fold-out map in an old book from the 1800s, depicting the Burgandy wine region in France. On the right-hand side is a beautiful plan of the city of Dijon, made beautiful by its use of a generalized style of buildings. This reminded us of the Swiss style that was described in a 1977 Swiss Society of Cartography paper called Cartographic Generalization. The paper describes how to use vertex culling to blend the buildings together visually while still maintaining the general look of buildings. The city label for Bourgogne (Burgandy) is different than the other labels and lends itself to being the focus of the map.
Pink, yellow, and green water coloring is shown on top. In the 1800s a lot of these old maps used a pastel watercolor scheme like this. Essentially the vineyards are colored in such a way to show you which vineyards’ grapes go into which vats, as explained in the legend. This is the most important part of this map: the vineyards and their colors.
We surmise that this is probably a copperplate map because of the thinness of the lines, the certain way that the curvatures are shown, and the fact that the color was painted in after printing. We are both completely flummoxed by the arrows that are all pointing downward and are not explained in the legend. The typography of the title is really amazing and really French, and may be traced back to the French typographers of the Didot family, since it has the same ornamentation and shapes. Essentially it is a pretty title face consisting of black letters, each with a diamond shape in its center that make it an ornamental typeface fitting with both the style of the map and the time period. Additionally, throughout the map you see a breadth of typography styles including italics, bold, regular, and ornamental that we haven’t seen in any of the maps discussed on this podcast before. Overall this map has a fantastic balance of aesthetics and data!
We’re hungry now. Cheers!