Look at a map of Seattle, and you’ll notice that the city has a segmented, oblong shape, a Rorschach-esque blotch. But the negative space around Seattle’s mass isn’t really negative at all: Seattle’s borders, nooks, and crannies are created by bodies of water, from the Puget Sound to the west to Lake Washington on the east, bisected by the Lake Washington Ship Canal. Elliott Bay carves a notch on the left side; Green Lake creates a cyclops eye in the northern segment.
The newest design by Peter Gorman, also known as Barely Maps, focuses on the water that occupies these parts of Seattle’s map. In Gorman’s “guide to the blank space,” he replicates the city’s shape in a four-by-five grid, outlining, circling, and filling in the area where water punctuates land.
We asked Gorman how he decided on a design that plays with negative map space—and it turns out he just kind of landed on it.
“I was just messing around with what I thought would be a draft version of the design,” said Gorman over email. “I liked the way it looked, and took it from there.”
The new map comes a year after Gorman published his “Intersections of Seattle” map, which envisions some of Seattle’s more complicated meetings of roads as minimalist icons. Since then, Gorman has designed intersection maps for other cities, including New York, Chicago, Portland, San Francisco, and Boston.
But Gorman makes his home in Seattle, and much of his work is still inspired by the Emerald City. He also sells a variety of neighborhood-inspired iconography, including a glossy-looking Alki Beach triangle and a Gum Wall-inspired map of Post Alley.
Other city-inspired art creates familiar shapes out of book titles and invents new ways to look at topography. More of Gorman’s maps can be found on Etsy.