Intelligentsia (@Intelligentsia, 2642 N. Milwaukee Ave.), the new coffee shop in town, promises not only a good cup of joe, but a memorable coffee experience. Thanks to the shop’s striking mural depicting the streets and landmarks of Logan Square, residents can claim a sense of neighborhood pride along with their brewed beverages. The map, which occupies the back wall of the Milwaukee Avenue space, was created by Adam Jentleson and Jose Alarcon of Cartografika, who answered some questions for LoganSquarist on who they are and what they do.
What is Cartografika?
Cartografika is a geo design firm specializing in customizable cartography based here in Chicago. It was founded in late 2011 as a collaboration between Adam Jentleson and Jose Alarcon, both graduates of University of Illinois-Chicago’s Masters of Urban Planning and Policy program who wanted to change the way people experience maps by blending the art and science of ancient cartography with modern graphic design.
Tell us a little about your approach to crafting maps.
We design our custom cartographic prints using electronic spatial data viewed and processed through geographic information systems (GIS) technology. Jose and Adam are both urban planners by education, and GIS analysts by profession, so naturally GIS became the foundation of our work. Much of the design process involves researching and compiling spatial data from a wide variety of online sources, in addition to creating our own data to achieve a product that boasts both high geographic accuracy and minimalist artistic beauty.
You’ve mapped a lot of places around the world, including Amsterdam and Paris. Why did you choose to do Logan Square?
We started off with the goal to design a custom map of every single community area in Chicago, and since we both have a number of friends living in Logan Square, we thought it would be the perfect place to start.
How did your Logan Square map end up at Intelligentsia?
Intelligentsia’s marketing director approached us with the idea of using the image of our map for a mural in their brand-new store on Milwaukee Avenue. Naturally we thought it was a fantastic idea and were glad to lease them the rights to the image. The mural was installed as a vinyl decal and features the building footprints, highway and river features from the original map. We both think it turned out amazingly well and hope it continues to bring in more business.
What was the best/most fun thing about mapping Logan Square?
Perhaps the most striking physical feature of Logan Square is the way the Grand Boulevard System runs through it: first, north-south along Humboldt and Kedzie Boulevards via Palmer Square, then turning sharply east-west along Logan Boulevard. Also, the Square itself, with the Centennial Monument as the main focal point, acts as both the northern terminus of the boulevard system and a central gathering place for residents. We thought that including the image of the monument would add some character and instantly set this apart from our other neighborhood maps. We think the idea worked, as it’s one of our best sellers.
What other businesses have featured your maps?
Our corporate business often comes from the rental/real estate and urban planning worlds, but by no means exclusively. Commissions have ranged from framed wall art in office foyers to customized basemaps for marketing brochures to large-scale murals like the one found at Intelligentsia.
What kind of requests can you accommodate for customization?
The amount of customization we offer is virtually limitless. Our maps can feature almost any area on earth and include an array of geographic elements such as building footprints, water, parks, streets and transit, among many others. We invite our clients to become a part of the design process by letting them dictate certain elements such as color palette, size and orientation of the final print. We’ll also add a personal touch and highlight a particular building, road, river or any other geographic element desired.
What advantage does a map have over a photograph of a location? Why would someone prefer the former to the latter?
Maps and photos can both convey locational information to the viewer, but often from much different points of view. A map offers a bird’s-eye view of the environment, essentially location context over a vast scale. Photography provides locational context but from a much more singular point of view. Aerial photographs, however, play a huge role in our experience with GIS since they often serve as a starting point for most digital cartography. A high-definition aerial can capture virtually every tiny detail of the landscape and give the viewer a sense of “what’s there,” warts and all. It’s up to the cartographer to choose which geographic features to show (land, water, transit) in order to simplify the landscape into discrete parts and display only the most crucial information.
What do you like most about Logan Square?
There always seems to be something happening in Logan Square, from live music to great food and coffee to street festivals and markets. There’s also a real sense of community pride in Logan Square, and it shows in the way it’s been growing over the past decade or so. Simply a great destination for almost any occasion.