I am impressed by the “Principle Rivers/Mountains/Lakes” map diagrams that were so popular in the mid 1800s and have been curious about how I might reproduce that aesthetic without etching on copper plates and hand tinting.
Then I saw a tweet which led me to this article in Nature Communications about the top plastic waste contributing rivers in the world and I thought it might be just the right excuse to try it out. So I focused on the top three rivers and sampled paper and ink textures from an 1850 Atlas of Physical Geography and went at it. Here is the result…
I carried on the style with the help of a throwback font from Warren Davison and some period prose.
Why? It’s fun. And I wanted to try this sort of retro diagrammetric map. But also I think seeing current data in an unfamiliar or highly dated context might help us pause and take note, while if it were presented sterilely as a table or a conventional map it may catch fewer eyes.
I showed this to my 11-year-old daughter, Willow. She asked what the boxes were. I told her each box represents plastic garbage about the weight of five cars. Her eyes widened and she said, “Wait, each DAY?”.
Here is a how-to, if you are interested in making something similar or accessing the style file or data sources, or just interested in learning how people make things.