Typography/Topography: Ork Posters Tackles Los Angeles
Those Thomas Guides work well when you’re trying to wend your way through LA, but they sure aren’t as pretty as the Los Angeles typographical map designed by Jenny Beorkrem, founder of Ork Posters. “It is a poster, and less so a map,” Beorkrem says.
What began as a small-scale project of turning her homebase, Chicago, into a map for her own walls has turned into a popular way to show city pride for urbanites throughout the country. Beorkrem has also designed typographical maps of Brooklyn, Manhattan, Boston, and San Francisco. Then came Los Angeles.
“Every Ork poster is restricted to city limits, but with the case of LA I decided to include the separate cities that were wholly within the LA city limits for aesthetic reasons,” explained Beorkrem, “to avoid a bunch of holes in the design.” And even with the inclusion of cities such as Culver City and Beverly Hills closing up the gaps, there’s still a long tail of city heading from South Los Angeles to San Pedro. “The shape of the city in and of itself is pretty, well I guess goofy.” And it’s difficult to disagree.
So how did Beorkrem determine the boundaries of LA neighborhoods and separate cities surrounded by LA? “I had several (people, online, and paper) references I used to help design the borders and get them as accurate as possible. It is a subjective topic, so it will never really be ‘right’ unless the city has released an official neighborhood map.” There is enough contention in city politics as it is, and given LA’s occasionally unclear neighborhood boundaries and intense pride, don’t expect that to happen any time soon. City officials, after all, want to get reelected. So, what did Beorkrem do when her sources disagreed? “Majority rules, but I also relied heavily on the urban designer that works for the city that I was working with.”
Besides the city itself, the other star of Ork’s posters is the typeface. Beorkrem uses the same typeface, DIN 1451, in each of her posters. DIN 1451 is sans-serif (without the details on some stroke ends of letterforms) and highly legible, and was traditionally used for traffic and administrative signage in Germany and other European countries. This particular font “is more geometric than most and fits well in small spaces. Also, it’s scalable, in that a really small letter can still ‘hold its weight’ next to a larger letter.” You can see what she means by looking at the LA poster. The letters fall, upright or sideways, but always, well, tetrisized into the strange shapes of our LA neighborhoods, with different letters popping out each time you glance. Keeping each letter horizontal or vertical, the posters feel highly organized, but allowing the letters to move in different directions and sizes also gives the map a sense of vibrancy and variation. Just like LA itself.
You can visit Ork Posters to buy your own LA poster, and be sure to check out Ork’s other typographical city maps while you’re there.