Design Exercise: Map Collage

Map collage "Germinate" by Sharon Rankin

Sharon Rankin

Over the last several weeks I’ve posted about maps. Today I want to present you with a design challenge centered around maps.

Before you start I suggest you review my three posts, paying particular attention to Post 3, artist’s maps. (Post 1. Post 2. Post 3.)  In addition, I urge you to review our book Design: A Beginner’s Handbook.

Create a map collage that tells a story. This could be a trip you’ve taken; a typical day; things you love (or hate); important events/people; flora/fauna that surrounds you; significant events in your life. You don’t need to be literal in your interpretation of the idea of a story. Instead, think of a story as an investigation. Perhaps you want to explore the “story” of shapes, or patterns. It’s up to you.

Your initial canvas for this exploration is the “found map.” Yard sales, thrift stores, friends – they are all good sources. You can also download and print out maps.

The map can be treated like a canvas that you draw or collage onto. You can cut it apart and reassemble it; add transparent vellum layers you’ve drawn on; attach cut-outs of text or images; weave it; cover it with small objects or map pins; attach images or text to map pins; use photo transfers etc. etc.

Possible materials are photos, text, map pins, foils, ephemera, ticket stubs, wallpaper, mail, postage stamps, rubber stamps, thread, beads, small objects…

To start – play. Let things overlap by accident. Now plan. What is the shape of the outer canvas? Rectangle; square; circle; irregular; vertically or horizontally elongated. How does the shape relate conceptually to the thing you are mapping?

What is the information you want to highlight? How will you do this? With pins? photos? text?

Don’t forget that this is a design exercise. Many of the design elements and principles will be at work in your final piece. So consider them all as you work.

The elements of design:

Dots/Points mark a location; Lines as part of a journey or delineating an edge; Shapes that form a territory; Space that is flat or deep; Texture/Value/Color for emphasis…

All these elements you use will follow the principles of design, so as you work think about balance and scale, patterns and rhythms, unity and variety, emphasis, etc.

I urge you to photograph your final piece and post it to our Facebook page.

Good luck and have fun.

Three map collages by Sharon Rankin


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