Design Inspiration Series Part III: Japanese Garden

This is the third part of a four part series that supplies design tips for cartographers inspired by landscape genres. The first three posts go over these three types: French Formal Garden, English Garden, and Japanese Garden. The fourth post will depart from this by seeking inspiration from the natural (non-cultivated) landscape.

A Japanese Garden is the closest to mapping design of all the genres because in its essence, the Japanese Garden is a miniature world, just like a map. This means careful attention must be paid to directing the user’s attention to certain elements, scale, and architectural integration. These concepts are discussed below.

1) DIRECTING FLOW The path as garden feature is an important part of this garden type. A path can lead you to vistas and helps keep the rest of the garden from being trod on. So to is the element of emphasis in map design. Emphasis can be achieved in many ways in map design from making the main-point a bold color, to a larger size, to setting it off from the rest through masking. The map shown here is an example of masking out the background information (context) so that while it hasn’t quite disappeared, it is obviously not the location that the map reader focuses on. Photograph taken by Clifton Olds, Bowdoin, map by PetersonGIS

2) SCALE The Japanese Garden is usually built within a small space. in it, the designer wants to give the illusion of a larger space. To create the illusion, the size of objects that are even slightly further away from focal points will be much smaller, so that they seem further away than they really are. In mapping, this scale distortion is needed when a lot of information needs to be depicted for a very small space, while outlying information is also needed. A common technique in subway maps, for example, is to make the scale larger in the dense areas and smaller in the outlying locations so that the whole system can be shown on one map in a clear way. Photograph by Melissa Wilmot, map by Jake Berman

3) ARCHITECTURE / ICONS Japanese Gardens often feature buildings or small tea houses that blend in to the landscape from the perspective of the garden walker and that incorporate the landscape when visualized from within the building. In map design, we can use this principle to ensure that the structured elements that are imposed on the maps (think of icons and labels) blend well while still being visible and maintaining their importance. In the map shown below, the icons have a definite structure but their color and rounded corners serve to integrate them into the trail and hillshade graphics surrounding them. Photograph of Ritsurin Park by wiiii, map by core GIS

  1. #1 by @mapbiquity on February 4, 2012 - 7:10 pm

    Design Inspiration Series Part III: Japanese Garden

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