Maps of Amsterdam and London. Citee

A U.K. designer is using open data to produce dramatic t-shirts of cities from Phoenix to Beijing.

Graphic designer Alex Szabo-Haslam had trouble finding T-shirts and other goods emblazoned with a map of his hometown, Sheffield, England (“famous for steel, great electronic music, and terrible football teams,” he says). He decided to print his own.

Using data from OpenStreetMap, Szabo-Haslam’s line of Citees shirts depicts nearly 80 cities around the globe. “The way I work is quite obsessive,” he says. “Things got a little out of hand.”

At first, maps of cities might share similarities—but zooming in on intricate details calls out their distinctive features. “The shape of objects interests me,” says Szabo-Haslam. That sentiment comes into crisp focus when the shirts depict cities bisected by or abutting bodies of water, denoted by swaths of black. Vancouver and Miami cut dramatic silhouettes, with waterfront landscapes jutting jaggedly into the water. Rivers squiggle through the metropolises of Brisbane and Budapest like gestural brushstrokes. Orlando’s many lakes give that city’s shirt a stippled look.

Other maps conjure pixels. With just a few patches of water, Phoenix assumes a grid pattern. Ditto Beijing. All of the designs strip away text and adhere to a stark color palette so that the aerial view commands attention.  

Since small-batch printing is costly, Szabo-Haslam took to Kickstarter. He quickly surpassed his fundraising goal seven-fold. Though he was surprised by the outpouring of enthusiasm, Szabo-Haslam acknowledges that maps resonate with a wide audience. “Maps are personal objects for a lot of people,” he notes. “Particularly if you can find your home, perhaps somewhere you studied or took a holiday.”

Tokyo and New York City. (Citee)

T-shirt, $38 pre-order on Kickstarter.

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. Alicia Glen speaks into a microphone at a podium inside a tent.
    Equity

    'You Can't Just Show Up': Alicia Glen on Amazon's Queens Defeat

    In an interview, the former deputy mayor under Bill de Blasio says diversity is the key to New York’s growth: “Even with all of our warts, we’re the best.”

  2. Solutions

    ‘Fairbnb’ Wants to Be the Unproblematic Alternative to Airbnb

    The vacation rental industry is mired in claims that it harms neighborhoods and housing markets. Can a nonprofit co-op make the tourist trend a community asset?

  3. Design

    How I. M. Pei Shaped the Modern City

    The architect, who died yesterday at the age of 102, designed iconic modern buildings on prominent sites around the world. Here are some that delight and confound CityLab.

  4. Environment

    A 13,235-Mile Road Trip for 70-Degree Weather Every Day

    This year-long journey across the U.S. keeps you at consistent high temperatures.

  5. Tourists walk along the High Line in Manhattan, New York City
    Life

    The Beauty Premium: How Urban Beauty Affects Cities’ Economic Growth

    A study finds that the more beautiful a city is, the more successful it is at attracting jobs and new residents, including highly educated and affluent ones.