End of Semester Wrap Up

[I wrote this in June but I forgot to publish it then, so the first part is a bit out of date]


Wow, it’s incredible to think that the semester is coming to end! My time here at ESAD has flown by so quickly. When I look back at how much work I’ve put into this project, especially considering where I started with a completely different idea, I feel accomplished, but at the same time looking forward I’m freaking out a bit at how much is left to do.

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I’ve done a lot of visual testing, some of which has been more successful than others. This past week has been spent mainly gathering information that was lacking or incorrect, as the design process has revealed some pretty big holes in my data collection skills. This process has been really interesting, but one thing that it has driven home to me is that I am not cut out to be an empirical researcher!


I have decided on the representing the final work as well as the process in a book. This work will be a combination creative work and reflection on the steps that it took to get to that point—failures and dead ends included.

My idea is to include elements of the process of the test projects leading up the final ‘designed’ version. Interspersed throughout the book will be 3 larger and less abstracted maps of central Porto—one of the vernacular typography, one of international students, and a personal map that focuses on my impressions of the city as a temporary resident. The book will be approximately 36 pages. In the layout, I am considering how to include a fold out map or a series of removable postcards. Or perhaps make the ‘book’ a series of folded maps that are then held together between stiff covers.


I’m not deleting the first part because I want to be able to remember it and record my process. During the last week of June I met with Andrew and we discussed my progress and especially what is left to do over the summer. He explained that it wasn’t necessary to create a separate book from the report, and that I could bundle the tests into the book, running side by side the report. Of course, we discussed that the option is still open to include a map insert, postcards, or some other kind of physical object. I think that that is an important part of the project so it’s something I will be looking into.

Furthermore, we had a chance to talk about what areas of background information to focus on in the paper–for example not to go into great detail about the history of cartography, because it’s not really relevant.

So I am all set—gulp—for a beginning of September hand in of the first draft!


Useful TED talk

As I am writing my paper (4500 words, whoo!), I found extremely useful to watch this TED talk by design writer Peter Hall. The background information on mapping is concise and I will draw from it in the Context section of the report.

Paraphrasing him here: We need to stop asking, Is the map good or bad, but what was the process, what was the agenda behind the map? The process, the mapping itself, can be quite a creative process.

The Map to Happiness

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I found this interesting project (developed by all people by Yahoo) and thought it was relevant to my project as it is about mapping intangibles and impressions. This video is the TED talk about the project.

Routing maps are being developed that take people on the happiest route rather than the most effecient. Of course, what makes you happy could be very subjective! Someone might prefer a peaceful route with lots of greenery but I might want to pass some good bakeries to pick up a treat for myself, and so on.

Visualizations + Testing

It’s so nice to be able to move from the research portion to designing and testing the illustrations. As a refresher: my concept is to take data from one location (Praça Carlos Alberto) and translate it through pre-established parameters to create visualizations.

So, how will I apply this idea? I took my 4 mini-projects (Food, Words, Colors, Activity and Smells) and determined which data is the input information. For most of them it is a combination of observations and photographs.

Then I am working out the ‘mechanism’ to translate them from data into visuals. The colors project, as I have explained, is pretty self-evident.

The others are proving more tricky. A lot of my discussion with Andrew last Wednesday revolved around how I can minimize my interventions in the design process and really allow the system to generate results for me. For example, for the food, right now I am breaking it down into separate ingredients and ‘mapping’ those. But still it seems like there is a lot of choices still being made by me.

Same situation with the smells, as you can see below.

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Then I have to find a way to ‘translate’ this information into visual by putting a system in place that can essentially run on auto-pilot. The designer is the architect of the system, but there is a certain amount of chance (haphazardness—like the project title) inherent in the final result. In a previous post I outlined how this could work for the Colors project: running the photographs through the Color Thief program generates a HEX code which I match to a PMS color. Then I will apply the PMS swatch to vertical bands who’s width is determined by the cm measurements I already gathered. This should create a miniature but proportional color portrait of the square.

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