GIS and Fine Art

My day was made brighter this morning by a Paris Metro Project by Hwan Lee, which is an Art Takes Paris project that details all 261 metro stations in Paris and the path of Hwan’s walking history. I know that it is an art exhibit and that it is an actual static map, but wouldn’t it be wonderful if interactive maps were so artistic. Frank LaFone and I have often discussed the need for artists to get involved in the geospatial process. It takes a certain eye to create a useful and aesthetically pleasing map. One that was either taught or engrained in many cartographers in the past. As the line of viewer’s at the ESRI Map Gallery and the People’s Choice Award Winner illustrates, art and maps create an enticing combination of human expression.  

There are a growing number of geospatial professionals who come from an art background. Michele Saville is a fine artist who works in GIS. She has a GIS & Graphic Design consultancy that she calls: Geographic information systems and graphic design/ joining skills for effective communication. Her Duwamish Hill Preserve Map is a good example of an artistic map that also has clarity and is functional. From companies like BonTerra Consulting to individual consultancies like Vincent Matheny of, how many fine artists can also provide advanced GIS analysis, database design, and interactive web mapping…. not as many as the geospatial community needs.

Daniel Beech from the Institute of Geography and Earth Science described GIS as an Artistic Medium. He cites geographer Dan Sui, who proposed that GIS is an example of a field that bridges the  Two Cultures of Science & Art in his work on hybrid geographies. As geospatial technologies continues to be an exponentially growing field it will be interesting to see how many individuals converge their interest in geospatial technologies and fine arts into one skill set.


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