Maps and Legends: A Personal Geography of Atlanta


Michael Booth: Atlanta Skate Map

“All maps tell stories. Stories of their mapmakers. Stories about the circumstances of their creation. Stories about their intended use…Maps are more about their makers than the places they describe. Map who you are. Map where you are. Fill the whole map wth a story or paint your favorite cup of coffee. Map the invisible. Map the obvious. Map your memories.”

From Mapping Manhattan by Becky Cooper

Savannah Colbert: Dance Atlanta

I have long wanted to do a project that centered around mapping the city of Atlanta. When I read Becky Cooper’s book, Mapping Manhattan, I got inspired. The book is an offshoot of her public art project, Map Your Memories. She gave out copies of a blank map of the island of Manhattan and invited all takers to create a personal map of  “their New York.” Cooper was inspired by Italo Calvino’s wonderful literary work, Invisible Cities.  The book is a series of portraits of fantastic and fantastical cities as told by Marco Polo to Kublai Khan. Cooper decided to create a literal version of Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities, but do it with New Yorkers. This was the origin of the Map Your Memories project.

“Polo vividly recounts tales of the cities he encountered on his explorations—one that smells of elephants after the rain, one where desire is already a memory. Near the end, Kublai Khan asks why the explorer’s tales describe cities in every corner of his empire but never Venice. Polo smiles and says: What else do you believe I have been talking to you about?” All these cities are, in fact, portraits of Venice from different points of view. “So yours is truly a journey through memory!” Kublai Khan exclaims.

Last quarter I asked students in my Message and Content class at the Portfolio Center, to use the tools of  design to tell personal and compelling stories about a section of Atlanta. Over the course of working on this assignment refined the following skills: Narrative (telling a story visually), using design fundamentals to communicate your story (spatial hierarchy, type choice and visual hierarchy), information design, successful use of visual metaphor, color, and how to create a sense of place.

Each student created a different maps of his/her chosen place or experiences (within Atlanta). Each map reveals a different aspect of their experience of the place. Here are some of the results.

Special thanks to Michael Booth, Savannah Colbert, Rachel Siegfried Philips, Jaqueline Day, Sam Jenkins and Rick Hebert for contributing their maps.

marriage map mock up
Rachel Siegfried Philips: My Marriage (in and around Atlanta)
Chinatown Food Map
Jacqueline Day: Memories of Little Chinatown (Chamblee-Dunwoody)
Greetings from ATL final-01
Sam Jenkins: First Impressions of Atlanta
MC - Map - v.4_3.09
Rick Hebert: A Loner’s Guide to Atlanta

“The world is full of things, and somebody has to look for them.”

—Astrid Lindgren, Pippi Longstocking.

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