Mapping the City: Applied’s take on an exhibition at Somerset House

Applied Designer, Chris Bounds went to Somerset House's Mapping the City exhibition this month and was inspired by a different view of maps

The Mapping the City exhibition was held at the Somerset House from the end of January to mid-February. The exhibition was hosted by Somerset House and UCL Anthropology, and in association with AbyP. Applied were there to take a look at the curation of cartographic representations, pieces of art that depict how their makers experience the city.

As a graphic designer the exhibition at Somerset House wasn’t what I expected, but in a good way. The cartographic elements I deal with on a daily basis are the intricacies of map making, based on reality and the small details of environments. It was refreshing to see this take on cartography, one that did away with fact and went straight for expression.

©Swoon, Bangkok, 2009-2012

The work exhibited provided an incredibly diverse range of what maps represent to different people. Not only how they have affected cultures, but also how a culture can affect a map. It was interesting to see maps used for creative means and not only for its navigational functionality, something often forgotten in our line of work.

©Shepard Fairey, Berlin Tower, 2011

None of the works were maps in the traditional sense but many showed the cultural importance of mapping. Elements of various cities’ metro systems were prominent in many pieces, showing how ingrained the mapping had become in their respective cultures and how people relate to them.

©Chu [Julian Pablo Manzelli], Buenos Aires, 2012

We are in a position to design pieces of information that can become part of the visual identity of a society and affect cultures within them.

©Augustine Kofie, Overcast Angeles, 2014

Many of the works pushed the understanding of what a map can be. There were pieces that were cartographic representations of an area but more conceptual, using personal experience and known stories about the area to “map” it. Some used more traditional maps as a canvas for their ideas, including walking patterns around a city and drawing maps as a memory exercise.

©Jurne, Covalence, 2013

While the exhibited works had little connection to the work that Applied produces, it was interesting to see so clearly that we are in a position to design pieces of information that can become part of the visual identity of a society and affect cultures within them.

©MOMO, Tag Manhattan, 2013 [original project 2006]