The Project

Map design is what I’d do if I didn’t have Tight Ship. I’ve been a map nerd for as long as I can remember. History maps, street maps, fantasy-world maps, art-project maps—you name it, I love it. I even love a terrible map if it’s presented cleverly. I love the stories about geography, geology, people, places, history, and culture that maps evoke. I even have a map-related trivial superpower:

My first undergrad major was geography—a whole story in itself—but that fell apart when I decided I didn’t want to learn calculus to do cartography. I just wanted to make maps for fun. I love the challenge of expressing a real place in a scaled-down, surreal way. Thankfully, as a designer I get to occasionally create maps, and some of those (for SBCC, NOLA DNA, and AIGA) are featured in Tight Ship’s main portfolio.

This page showcases some of my more recent map-related passion projects. I’ll add to it over time, but for now read on for three map series I’ve published via social media to keep my skills and enthusiasm sharp.

—Keir

50+2 (2016)

I had a feeling 2016 would be a contentious and bizarre election year in America, so I combined my art and design skills with my love of maps to create and release something positive about this country.

I believe it’s important to acknowledge and advocate for the value of art and design at a time when support for it in public schools is in peril. I also believe that geographic knowledge must be part of everyday education.

The “50+2” project involved creating mixed-media art pieces using vector maps and leftover paper stock, and then posting them to social media every week of 2016 for each U.S. state (and then some) under the hashtag #50_plus_2.

March Mapness (2018)

Every designer seems to go through that phase where they want to unplug from their digital tools and get their hands dirty. Every designer except me, that is. Oh sure, I’ve had tons of fun with various map illustration and mixed-media art projects, but I do love me some cold, clinical Photoshop. What would I do without it?

No, seriously—what would I do without it? 16 years into my pro design career, could I make interesting images without the digital tool I use the most? To find out, I took on a fun project I called “March Mapness” that 1) indulged my trivial superpower of hand-drawn maps, 2) burnished my atrophying illustration skills, and 3) required daily time commitments of 2+ hours to do it well.

So, I asked my friends and family for help—to prompt me with enough requests so I could create one map per day, for all 31 days in March 2018. I made hand-illustrated map doodles for each person, enhanced the maps with phone apps like PS Express, then posted those images daily to Instagram under the #march_mapness hashtag.

It was a great exercise in limitation, restriction, and boundaries—what I can I create within these parameters? Like all the daily Instagram image challenges, some results were better than others, but the good ones are really good. See the whole collection here.

Homeworlds (2019)

Lately both Julia and I have been attracted to unintentional or unconventional digital art: imagery created by accident, by artificial intelligence, or by using digital tools in ways they weren’t designed to be used. To that latter point, I created “Homeworlds,” a series of quickie satellite-like insta-maps using only smartphone imaging apps like Camera Roll, PS Express, and Instagram.

I transformed tile, linoleum, cement, and other ordinary household surfaces into sky-high overviews of planets not unlike our own. Every day in April 2019 I posted faux-coastlines, forests, deserts, glaciers, and more to the #homeworlds_2019 tag on Instagram. The process (for two particular examples from tile) looked like this:

DESERT

PS Express:
Filter: Nature, Colorful

Instagram:
Filter: Lark 75, Contrast 25, Warmth 40, Color (shadows) Red 25, Shadows -15

SWAMP

PS Express:
Filter: Basic, Invert, Light: Contrast 100

Instagram:
Filter: Perpetua, Lux 50, Color (shadows) Blue 100, Color (highlights) Yellow 80, Saturation 100, Brightness -15, Warmth 40, Highlights -15

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