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GIS as a Form of Art

Compilation of 3 maps representing the GIS as Art Map Monday release from GIS Services.

By Justin Sorensen

It has been said that “Art is in the Eye of the Beholder”, and when you really think about it, it’s true. We all have different interpretations of what art is as well as what we like and what we don’t like. Art can represent anything that expresses the creative imagination and ideas of the creator, whether it be paintings, sculptures, and photographs or even modern and physical forms such as music, film, or dance. The idea of different forms of art led me to think about how GIS maps and data might be viewed as such. For today’s Map Monday release, we will examine one method in which I see GIS interpreted as a form of art.

An example of GIS as Art representing New York City.                       An example of GIS as Art representing London.                       An example of GIS as Art representing Florence, Italy.

When thinking about GIS as art, I have always found cartographic maps to be an artistic form of communication. Why is this? When you breakdown a cartographic map, the comprising elements are truly artistic in nature. The maps themselves are an artistic form of storytelling, sharing information and a visual representation of geospatial locations in creative and engaging ways. Take for instance the maps developed for this week’s Map Monday release…a series of transportation network maps representing well known locations around the world. The creation process is quite simple, utilizing openly available transportation data for each location and presenting that data in a visually compelling manner.

Where does that form of artistic nature come into play? Take a closer look at the maps developed for New York City, London, and Florence…what do you see? Certainly the maps themselves are simply fun to look at and help us visualize how each location is set-up for travel, but beyond this basic interpretation, a story is being shared. It’s the story of real life individuals, how they move around their physical space, how they are organized and dispersed, and how they interact with the world around them.

Art is in the eye of the beholder? Absolutely, so add to that list GIS maps and data, because there is more to these artistic representations than you many initially perceive.

Interested in similar projects representing GIS as a form of art? Check out these past Map Monday releases:

Interested in creating or collaborating on a similar project? Please visit the GIS Services website to connect with me:

About Map Monday Releases from GIS Services

Throughout the semester, GIS Services has released bi-weekly maps on a variety of topics, demonstrating ideas and uses for incorporating geospatial technology into projects and research you are developing. To view our collection of maps, projects, or to learn more about the geospatial services offered through the J. Willard Marriott Library, please visit the GIS Services website @

Happy Mapping!

Justin Sorensen | GIS Specialist
Creativity & Innovation Services / GIS Services

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