Now a days, Maps are the most widely used tool by every common man. No matter If you are rushing to workplace by booking an Uber ride, navigating to a tourist spot or either you want to try a newly opened food place in your city. Maps make it easier for you to move around.
I as a Cartographer and many other people belonging to GIS community see maps as a medium for visualizing different scientific phenomena, processes and patterns either natural or man made using sophisticated technologies .But I have always believed that their is an artistic side of maps as if we look back to the manual methods ,it reflects a unique art of map making.
Today ,I want to introduce you to a textile designer “Ayesha Babar” from Karachi ,who is on her way of exploring the artistic side of Maps. Ayesha and I came to know each other via social media few months ago and I was amazed and overwhelmed to see her keen interest in maps. Since then ,we became good friends.
I was very curious when she told me about her map art ideas ,so we had an interrogative talk . You might also be wondering why she chose such an unusual topic ? well lets dig into it.
Talk with Ayesha Babar
What motivated you to work on maps?
When I started to research for my thesis topic, I had one thing in my mind and that was to choose a challenging theme.
I came up with the term “Cartography” which means; “the art and science of making maps.” This got my attention, since geographical features of a land/space has always inspired me. I remember I always had keen interest in studying geography in my highschool as well. While doing my in depth research regarding this topic I got to discover how much cartography is related to geography since maps are used to represent geographical features of a land/space.
As a designer, I feel you should work on something which excites you and I was more than happy to know that this was what my late maternal grandfather used to do as his side passion.
Yes he was a ‘Cartographer.’ My mother tells me how artistic he was and would go in his room and spend hours drawing imaginary maps with his tool box and roll of sheets in his spare time. Unfortunately due to his early demise I couldn’t catch a glimpse of his work which I really wish i could but this gave me another solid reason to work on this theme since now I felt a connection and this motivated me to work on maps.
Besides that, as a textile designer, I was very keen to experiment on maps and incorporate them into fabricated textiles.
What do you think what are maps and how they are useful to us?
Maps are guides that shows direction. They’re part of a journey and navigate us through a destination.
I see maps as a visual display of various ideas and concepts as well and I believe maps are the most compelling forms of information since maps are scientific, artistic and maps clarify, preserve history, reveal the invisible and inform the future. Regardless of the reasons, a map is a highly interactactive medium to capture the imagination of people around the world.
Maps play a very important role in this digital era. They are part of our daily activities since maps are much more accesible. Almost every smart device has an in built Google map for location awareness. Since I’m working on a city map, the navigations of a road/street map is useful as one does not have to depend on anybody for local directions.
It has improved our lifestyle and helping in almost every aspect of life since you can travel easily, get traffic information, find places of interests with in local area and it allows to navigate easily through unknown regions without any hurdle. In fact location intelligence is used through maps in order to build homes or offices with best facilities with in the area. So I believes maps have really upgraded our standard of living and has been always useful in informing humans to know about their physical world since centuries and as of today.
How do you see maps as art?
As cartography is a blend of science and art, I believe ‘Art’ is the first step in the approach of mapmaking.
Before artificial intelligence, detailed maps were sketched and illustrated which involves artistic skills and techniques, therefore map making is a highly creative process and involves design flair.
Maps have a high potential to be used in different ways to articulate information by transforming the geographic features into abstract or contemporary art style or in any other way depending on the styling of the designer. Use of colors, scale and precision in maps also contribute to art work and entire maps hold artistic purpose even in traditional mapmaking rules.
Working on a city map has made me explore the pictorial side of a map which adds more artistic style rather than technical with illustrations of buildings, street patterns, roads and city sights to enhance landmarks and to give a sense of recognition of the specified area. Hence, I’ve found maps to be very aesthetic and artistic.
What was the reaction of people when they came to know that you want to work with maps?
I still remember when I disclosed my theme, I saw confusion on faces, questions were been asked although teachers were supportive since they give margin to students for experimentation.
How are you going to use maps in designs? What are you going to make? I don’t get your theme. It seems very tough. Do you think you can make enough samples? Won’t you get stuck later? How will you take this forward?
In fact some people thought it’s not practical to work on it.
So yes I realized that it’s a bit challenging since mostly people around me thought maps are dry, boring and not really important and people were unaware of the word cartography. At that point the only way to prove my stance on this theme was to acknowledge myself regarding maps to an extent where I’m answerable to all the queries. But on the other side I got positive remarks as well since it seemed different than the regular work been done. Some of my friends encouraged and were eager to see it’s turnout.
Therefore I got a two-edged response.
Have you experienced any hurdles in your way that kept you holding back?
The beginning was struggling since I knew I have to go the extra mile to show that I’m taking it very seriously.
Initially, choosing the best technique which I can pull off and incorporating it in maps through textiles was a task. Conceiving ideas and presenting them without the confidence that they are right. Thoughts if others will value them or not was daunting.
Considering the details of maps and stitching each line, city blocks and urban topographies required much time and patience. More than words and pictures it took a lot of effort.
Basically design is hard. It’s more than ideas. Various things used to pop in my mind when starting any sample since along with visual appeal, practicality, rationality and durability is equally important. Considering all these factors together, I wanted to do something original or produce good and was only concerned about the physical form at the initial stage but it was manageable as long as I put in effort.
Do you want to take maps on applic to next level ? how far you want to go with it ?
Yes, I myself is very curious to see it’s turnout.
Right now all I can say is that I’m seeing it on a bigger scale and would want to make it interactive for the audience.
It’s been amazing working on this theme and the amount of projects I came across during my research is mesmerizing.
The use of artificial intelligence has played a major part in construction of a city map and 3D models for mapping purpose which I think is a very innovative approach if included in textiles.
Presently my aim is to view the city through a vision of map by moulding it in textiles.
As a designer my utmost effort would be to execute it successfully into a product design and do justice with the theme by a fresh perspective.
You can expect either 3D, print based and fabricated products for utilitarian purposes or a wide public display.
Working on this theme has made me realize there’s no particular right way or wrong way. It’s just one have to trust their gut feeling and make possibility to go as far as possible one wants to be and that’s what’s my goal is.
Ayesha presented her mini thesis titled “Cityscape” in which she used her commendable aplic design techniques to create map features on fabric sheets . She received distinction and a lot of appreciation and from her department and peer groups.
Here is a glimpse of her work
I found her work and perspective about maps to be very inspiring. I’m anxiously looking forward to her upcoming map work on Aplic.
I wish Ayesha all the best for her Map art journey ahead
Happy Mapping 🙂