How designers shape the world: A short essay on cartography, design and ideology


World maps are not truer to the reality of the world then a spreadsheet with landmass figures of each continent. Both entail measurements and estimates, but are in fact abstract descriptions of known data about our world. Since our perception is visually dominated, designers have done a great deal for our understanding of the world by visually interpreting data from narratives, philosophical debate, firsthand observation and mathematical measurement. It is understandable that during the realisation of these representations, they often had to fill in gaps to make sense of incomplete data or address constraints of the medium they were using. The translation of data into a visual representation is subject to interpreting data. Design informs data and thus creates information. In today’s data rich world, data visualisation is one of the foremost design tasks since it delivers information necessary for the understanding of our world. Most world maps are iconographical depictions which describe the shape and size of land and water. But topography has often been corrupted by incomplete or incorrect data, bad design tools, or ruling ideology.

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