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Cartographers’ Use of Color

Ribbon | Voice | Emotion | Blending Map Scales

“In this project we transform conventional cartography to encode for human experience and restore Indigenous voice using graphic techniques for the multiple stories, blended scales, and shifting shape and directionality that characterize the historical geography of Champlain.
MWPearce and MJHermann

To symbolize the characteristics of Champlain’s multiple journeys through the
map, his route is depicted as a ribbon, without arrowheads or directionality. This ribbon narrows or expands with the contracting and widening of Champlain’s travel experiences, and dissolves when he is lost. Without arrowheads, the reader must use the narrative to interpret the direction.

Champlain’s journeys cannot be simplified to one starting point and one ending point. He is traveling back and forth over many years, so too must the reader travel back and forth in the map. We designed this map to be entered and exited in many places.”
- MWPearce and MJHermann

The cartographers used type face choices to symbolize and differentiate the multiple identities of the stories:
Champlain’s voice (blue Garamond),
Native voices (green Garamond),
Cartographers’ voice (black Univers italic).

Champlain’s voice is quoted from his journals and speaks directly to the reader. It was important to the map makers to empower voices which have no written record. So, Native voice is represented through an imagined dialogue, sometimes speaking to Champlain and sometimes to the reader. The cartographers’ voice is also present, to fill in gaps in the narrative or simply to provide an informed interpretation of events.

Woven into the main map of Champlain’s routes are sequential insets which the cartographers used to give a greater depth of story for particular places. In these panels, the cartographers use hue and type to symbolize the emotional qualities of, for example, Champlain’s account of the conspiracy against him as he and his men are building the habitation at Quebec.



“Initially, we envisioned a single map at one scale depicting multiple stories. But
we also had to fit in multiple journeys and Champlain’s experiences at these places
resided at different scales. Sometimes he moved quickly, sometimes stayed, and
sometimes was lost.”

The identities of places were shaped by the blending of scales, as Champlain’s awareness and understanding changed over time, or a particularly intense set of events in a small space changed his perception of the region forever.
To account for this blending, we created three different scale levels in the map.

MWPearce and MJHermann


Back to Champlain Map: “They Would Not Take Me There”


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