October 09, 2022.

Join us again as the editorial team and some of our guest judges take a deeper look at a few of the maps featured in the Atlas of Design Volume 6. In these segments, we offer personal opinions about what makes each map interesting. We do not speak for the authors, nor are we offering an Official Atlas of Design Opinion. Instead, we just want to take a moment to engage with these intriguing works and offer you all a chance to think more deeply about what’s going on in each one, which is one of the goals of our project.

The following thoughts are from Nat Case, of the Volume 6 editorial team.

Kjempsavor Ayars by David Nuttall

Most maps are leveraged by the world they depict. Whether the map is of a fictional place or a real one, the story is illustrated by the map. The narrative we care about is elsewhere: the map is a guide and a support to our understanding.

David Nuttall’s work flips this basic mode of dealing with maps. There is no separate story. There is no actual world to reference. His maps are the fiction. They exist solely for themselves, and if the viewer sees a story emerging from them, that’s on the viewer, not the creator. The maps are pure world-building. I find this exciting and fascinating.


David’s maps do wear the sorts of stylistic suits of clothes “regular” referential maps use. They studiously use stylesheets from particular eras and schools of cartography. And the “places” mapped, like most historical fiction, has strong roots in actual geographies. The patterns of settlement and transportation, the way landforms relate to one another: David knows his stuff. And so this map, “Kjempsavor Ayars,” looks like the Faeroes… and the Shetlands, the Outer Hebrides, or the islands of Norway. And the map artwork looks a lot like a kind of map-making from the early mid-20th century, where old schools of hand-lettering and drafting met an ever-more-engineered modern world. But, and this is such a puzzle to know what to do with: It’s not actually of anywhere. There’s no stories to back you up about this bridge or that ferry route, the Viking history of that settlement or the modern fishing industry at that port. It suggests there ought to be a history like that, but it unexpectedly leaves you with that job.


You can find more of David Nuttall’s work on his website Artimaps.