I love maps—antique maps, impossible to re-fold tourist office maps, old gas station maps, even Google Maps. So it won’t be a surprise that I think that Archie Archambault’s handcrafted, minimalist letterpress maps are pure dead brilliant. Three years ago, the Portland, Oregon-based designer, writer and printer created a unique circular map of Portland on a 19th century letterpress machine. He has since added seven more urban maps to his collection, along with a map of our solar system.
When he was asked “can’t you just use Google Maps?”, Archie’s reply was:
A Google map is very helpful for lots of tasks. It’s good for finding the best Chinese restaurant and getting directions. But it can’t show the entire city in a totally simple, totally clear way. Believe it or not, our eyes and brains are not built to absorb that much information at once. But by graphically reducing a city to the most important elements helps us visually explore the city and install it into our minds with much more ease. I use circles because they are the most graphically simple shapes for our eye to understand. When we are faced with a barrage of circles, our brains don’t get the “dazzle effect” that kills our ability to understand a big information system. Instead, we get a holistic vision of the city’s layout and essential landmarks that sticks to our brains.
Google maps are also not people. They don’t know that the area between “Nob Hill” and “The Tenderloin” is called “TenderNob”. This is an essential conversation that must come from on-site discussions with locals.
Google maps also do not show me that “Main Street” is full of life and activity that MUST be represented on my map of essentials!
Prints of all of the maps are available at Archie’s Press online.