Magazine article Eye : The International Review of Graphic Design

Pin Point

Magazine article Eye : The International Review of Graphic Design

Pin Point

Article excerpt

Jack Schulze praises the 'US space programme' of mapping

Google Maps is one of the most omnipresent and recognisable elements in the visual landscape, with such a consistent graphic language that it is hard to think of a parallel. Who would think to parody an A-Z now when referring to the language of urban maps?

Although Google refers to its outputs as distinct, each of their hyper-functional browser-based tools represents a limited surface of the broader Google system, whose mission statement is 'To organise the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful.' Yet it would be a mistake to see Maps as distinct from Search; it is a single graphic representation, shaped around the value of a solution to a wayfinding problem.

Google derives nearly all of its revenue from sponsored links (recently renamed 'Ads') associated with its core search engine. The company's mission to resolve all information into a form it can deliver to you in the shortest possible time is one of unparalleled technical complexity. This is comparable to eradicating polio, or the US space programme - a fantastic voyage across the new frontier of information. Other online maps exist but none achieves the unified simplicity and scale of familiarity enjoyed by Google Maps.

The 'graphic design' of Google Maps cannot be characterised in traditional terms. The language is too entangled with the behaviours of the generation of the data and the way it is delivered. When a Google map appears, it is an animation on pause; each tile like a single frame in a stream of data, ready to twitch into life. …

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