Color By Number: The Gorgeous, Obsessive U.S. Maps of Paula Scher

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Maps are a supremely satisfying, intuitive way to understand the world—something about connecting information to a sense of place, in context of where we live or what we think we know about our surroundings, is remarkably powerful. Though we tend to expect maps to be purveyors of location-based truths, that’s for sure not the only way to experience them.

For Paula Scher, a graphic designer and longtime partner at design firm Pentagram by day and obsessive map painter the other half of the time, maps aren’t necessarily a way to convey literal information, but an opportunity to evoke emotions and deeper thought. Scher’s latest show, U.S.A.—featuring 10 U.S. maps frenetically painted through provocative lenses like population demographics, extreme weather, real estate prices, and more—has deliberately touched down during a presidential election year. And they’re the kind of maps that really get people talking.

 Scher has been painting these maps of “abstract expressionist information” for over a decade, and they’ve been the subject of exhibitions, limited edition prints, and a book. The new U.S.-focused series, in progress since 2014, came out of Scher painting on top of previous works and recognizing how different information overlaid on a U.S. map drastically changes the aesthetic and emotional character of the piece.

Read more: Color By Number: The Gorgeous, Obsessive U.S. Maps of Paula Scher – Curbed

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