Cartography

History

I call my little enterprise Kartegraphik. I've never explained why. I enjoy the letter K because, well, my name begins with it. I've always started my work since I was a small child by writing my name on it. This is how I was taught to do things. Your experience may have been different, but I learned that all good work begins with a 'K'. (Bad work never does, since I just erase my name).

When I first started paper-cutting, I was also starting German. Karte is a German word meaning card or map, similar enough to the English card* that I thought its meaning was fairly obvious. Kartegraphik is a made-up spelling, but sounds just like Cartographic, which is a legitimate branch of science dealing with maps. I also want to be a legitimate branch of something dealing with maps. So I made up the spelling and tacked an extra K on the end, just to be sure it was good.

Urbanist

As I'll mention to anyone who'll listen, I'm from Chicago and I love it. Maps are one expression of my fascination with cities. Citylab has a wonderful new post about Chicago as the last great capital of cartography. This obviously appeals to me. As the article notes, most maps now are electronic. 

When I was recently in Chicago, I was visiting with my friend who has a small daughter, who I'd last met when she was a great deal smaller. Even then I thought she was impressive. This time however she could speak, so we talked. We spoke about Thanksgiving, her food, and maps. 

She didn't know about paper maps, which makes sense since everyone finds their way around using an online map, even me. Her mother offered to show her a paper map when she got home, but she seemed confused by the idea of a map that wasn't in a phone. How did people find each other without phones? A question of increasing significance. 

via Citylab

via Citylab

The conventions of maps have certainly changed over the years. Paper maps have a certain mathematical precision and absolute reference to the streets that make them, once you understand how they work, a useful tool for moving around. 

You cannot, however, always be in the center of the map, as with Google Maps. You cannot go, as it were, off the map. Though, I suppose, you can go offline. This is part of what I like about the maps I make. It's easy to remove the street names and some geographical features. Suddenly you're left with a map that feels familiar to you, but you can't always name or place things in it. I like the sense of internalization, but without precision. 

As Citylab points out, the closest there is to a cartographic heart of America anymore is Silicone Valley. Yet, with phones we now carry maps everywhere with us. Maybe because of this we use them more than we might otherwise have. But certainly, paper maps are a strange sort of fixity. Like typewriters they remind us of a previous era, and we might own one, but we don't really use it. 

 

A different sort of map, one showing ethnicity by household. (Via Citylab. )

A different sort of map, one showing ethnicity by household. (Via Citylab. )

Daniel Burnham's potential Chicago. This is a map of a place that doesn't exist. (via Citylab).

Daniel Burnham's potential Chicago. This is a map of a place that doesn't exist. (via Citylab).

More Chicago maps can be found on Citylab here

*If you're interested in historical linguistics, and let's be honest, who isn't—you can read all about the High German consonant shift, a significant phonological development that happened somewhere around 400CE. It caused some sounds (plosives) like /d/ to be pronounced like a /t/ by becoming voiceless.