URBANARA

Tony Rodono, map maker

Earlier this week we celebrated the launch of our art collection by sharing an interview with URBANARA curator Emily Lynam. This week we’re introducing you to map maker Tony Rodono – responsible for our inspiring city maps selection, Tony established the business with his wife Katie following the birth of their first child. Originally working as a sketch artist while counting traffic in his self-made business, Tony found a way to transfer his skills as an artist into a new passion. Today the couple make fine art map prints of over 700 locations and counting. We spoke with Tony to find out what inspires him while creating each map.

Do you find that the patterns that a city map forms (chaotic, sparse, calm or clean, for example) necessarily represent the mood of each city?

Great question. I don't necessarily see a correlation between patterns and the mood of a city, but I'm sure many do. The mood of a city is subjective so the viewer may see how they feel about a city. I do however see connections between the pattern of a city and the stories behind those patterns. Newer cities in the U.S. tend to be organized grid systems while ancient cities in Europe tend to be more random and chaotic. The stories about how the cities were built are directly to related to how they look and I like uncovering those stories.

What is your working process when creating a new map?

We first take a look at different open source maps sources of the city and research the area to understand what geography we should include in the print. Then we create the various vector layers that create each piece (roads, land, water outlines). This is done digitally, most often by hand - there isn't an automated process that achieves the visual result that we want. The work doesn't look like at at this point, just a bunch of shapes. Then we take the shape layers and add color, texture and subtle shadowing. This brings the work to life. We run proofs on our specialty paper stock that includes subtle metal flake. The use of this stock adds additional depth and pop. Once approved, we send the final print to production.
Seeing a piece of paper transform into a representation of someone's life is pretty amazing.

Have you visited many of the places you have made maps of?

Yes, it's always best to visit each location prior to developing a print. This gives us the best sense of the place, which helps us to our job better. But we unfortunately can't visit every place. We have over 700 locations, so that amount of travel would be impossible.

What inspires you to make a map of a particular place?

We develop a map when we see demand from customers or when I personally think it would be something fun to explore. We're working on a series of "space" maps right now - maps of the lunar landing sites and manned space missions. These wasn't demand for these, but I thought it would be a fascinating series to develop.

The inspiration to create your map making business came when your daughter was born. Do you still love what you do?

Yes, I do. Everyday we're working on something different and we never know what requests we will receive. We do several custom pieces each week for customers, usually of places that are the most important in their lives. Listening to their stories and developing a print that their families enjoy for the rest of their lives is a very rewarding process. We recently completed a print marking all the cities a couple lived during their early life and 50 years of marriage. It even included icons where their children were born. Seeing a piece of paper transform into a representation of someone's life is pretty amazing.  

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