100 ideas that changed graphic design, by Steven Heller and Veronique Vienne, London, Laurence King, 2012, 216 pp., $29.95 (paperback), ISBN 978-1856697941
I love cartography because it is both an art and a science. On the one hand, cartography is a deeply quantitative profession, requiring working knowledge of mathematical concepts like coordinate systems, map scale, and map projections as well as statistical concepts like sampling, aggregation, normalization, and classification. Further, this conceptual knowledge is realized in the map through use of sophisticated GIS software or, increasingly, through the logic-driven endeavor of coding. On the other hand, cartography is fundamentally a qualitative craft, requiring creativity and ingenuity to develop a compelling visual story and an aesthetically pleasing visual style. Further, the cartographer must call upon skills typically treated in graphic design, or art broadly, such as color theory, layout, symbolization, and typography. The cartographer is Exhibit A against the left-brained/fight-brained construct.
Despite this fundamental duality of cartography, the majority of research within cartography over the past several decades has been presented within scientific (e.g., from perceptual, cognitive, or semiotic perspectives) or ethical (e.g., critical cartography, participatory mapping, and counter mapping) frameworks. This is not to say scientific or ethical approaches are problematic--they are essential to a robust understanding of cartography--nor to say that research on art and aesthetics within cartography is wholly absent--it is not, as evident by recent special issues on the topic in the Cartographic Journal and Cartographic Perspectives, the organized session on aesthetics in mapping at the 2012 NACIS Annual Meeting, and the newly formed ICA Commission on Map Design. Rather, I contend that the topics of art and aesthetics hold a relatively small place in the landscape of academic cartography, which in turn influences the way cartography is instructed in higher education; this gap in scholarship and curricula is particularly poignant when contrasted against the qualitative-quantitative balance of the professional cartographer.
It is because of this gap that I eagerly accepted an invitation to review the book 100 Ideas That Changed Graphic Design, a 2012 publication by Steven Heller and Veronique Vienne. The discipline of graphic design offers a logical pathway for injecting artistic and aesthetic perspectives into cartography. Arguably, cartographers are graphic designers, constrained to the palette of the world.
The book provides a crash course on the key influences that produced graphic design as it is known today; as stated by the authors, the goal of the book is to review the "100 big bangs in the history of graphic art that help explain...