Paula Scher: “The maps convey a spirit of place”

Scher has created a new study of her map paintings, which are data visualisations of how she sees the likes of population, transportation, geography and climate in the US.

PS_Maps_2014_U.S.A. Airline Routes
U.S.A Airline Routes

Pentagram partner Paula Scher is returning with a new New York exhibition of her map-painting data visualisation project, which this time focuses on the USA, covering topics including population demographics, transportation systems, geography and climate.

Scher’s map-drawing began in the early 1990s as a way to express how she sees the world through image and type.

Speaking to Design Week Scher says: “This entire exhibit focuses on the USA; I have never had an exhibit where I focused purely on one place.”

“Infographics as expression”

She sees the maps as neither artistic expressions or infographics but rather “infographics as expression”. Together the maps “convey a spirit of place as we understand it,” she says.

In the new U.S.A series, some of the maps are 2m-tall and feature hand-painted boundary lines and colourful layers of place names and commentary.

While they’re not cartographically accurate, they do show Scher’s personal understanding of the diversity of the US.

Where it all started

In part, she puts her fascination with maps down to her childhood. Her father was a civil engineer for the United States Geological Survey which specialised in photogrammetry – the use of photography in surveying and mapping to measure distances between objects.

He developed a device called Stereo Templates that corrects the distortion caused by aerial photography.

Scher says it is this which led to her obsession with hierarchies of information and how they can often be distorted and rearranged to emphasise particular content.

Discover more:

• Paula Scher speaks from Design Indaba

• Pentagram partner Paula Scher on working from ‘an opposition to something’

USA, Paula Scher, runs from 18 February – 26 March at Bryce Wolkowitz Gallery, 505 West 24th Street, New York, 10011

PS_Maps_2014_U.S. Area Codes and Time Zones
Area codes and time zones
PS_Maps_2015_U.S.A. Interstate_1
PS_Maps_2016_U.S.A. Median Home Prices_1
Median home prices
PS_Maps_2015_U.S. Distances_1
US Distances
PS_Maps_2015_U.S. Demographics and Economy_1
Demographics and economy
PS_Maps_2014_U.S. Area Codes and Time Zones
Area codes and time zones
PS_Maps_2015_U.S. Counties and Zip Codes_1
Counties and zip codes
PS_Maps_2014_U.S. Geography and Climate
Geography and climate
PS_Maps_2014_U.S. Driving Times and Mileage
Driving times and mileage

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