A few months ago The New Republic posted a brief profile of Richard Edes Harrison, the artist-cartographer who brought polar projections, global curvature, and imaginative relief maps into America’s living rooms via Fortune magazine during the Second World War (click through to the profile for numerous pretty images). Harrison was a first and foremost an artist who favored visual impact over precision when it came to map-making. His work drove home the urgency of events through its vibrant presentation. Those polar projections made the threat to America from Japan and across the north Atlantic seem far more imminent than they had before. As Susan Schulten explains:
His startling views of Japan from Alaska and the Solomon Islands brought home the proximity of the Axis and prepared the public for a dogged fight in the Pacific. Such a view was entirely absent from traditional maps of the north Pacific, which comfortably distanced Japan and Asia from North America across a massive ocean.
It’s an interesting observation, and a good example of how innovative graphic design can shape geopolitical perceptions.