Collectively Designing Icons, Feminist Vocabularies for Map Design

Authors: Meghan Kelly*, University of Wisconsin–Madison
Topics: Cartography, Feminist Geographies, Digital Geographies
Keywords: feminist mapping, iconography, map design, data feminism, map symbolization
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/9/2021
Start / End Time: 11:10 AM / 12:25 PM
Room: Virtual 17
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Mapmakers and designers typically emphasize clarity, legibility, alignment, brevity, consistency, aesthetics, and ease of use in the design iconography. Conventional wisdom in icon design, however, neglects feminist design principles that reject universality, challenge power, and situate design. Recent work in feminist icon design explores the depiction, abstraction, and erasure of bodies in icon symbolization and provides a framework for redesigning icon sets like the Mapbox Maki library. In this paper, I facilitate a series of workshops based on this framework for feminist icon design where designers used sketch mapping techniques to redesign the Maki icon set, one icon at a time. I collate the icon sketches across the workshops and analyze the impacts of feminist principles on their designs. Based on my findings, I argue that a feminist framework for icon design disrupts conventional and universal approaches to icon design. Further, the icons curated in this paper seed the beginnings of a feminist icon set gallery. In sum, feminist perspectives generate alternative graphic vocabularies for icon design and expand possibilities for feminist map design, more broadly.

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