How we memorise maps

by Andreas Koller

I’ve explored cartography in several projects before, and I’m especially fascinated by the way we memorise maps, for example how we build mental models of a city layout, and how we experience and remember space.

A recent brief at RCA was to think about remapping Europe. I took this as an opportunity to make an experiment to find out how we remember maps: I asked people to draw the map of Europe off the top of their heads, without preparation or reference, within a 5 minute timespan.

Update 15. April: Added Kim Dingle’s 1990 project to the references, which I found out after I did this project.

This is a selection of 14 sketches drawn from memory:

These are some highly interesting results. Some of the participants are asian or american, and they’ve produced remarkable mind maps of Europe, some quite detailed and some reduced to the parts that are most memorable or important to them. By the way, one of the maps is mine, won’t tell you which though. I’d like to continue this investigation, collect more of these drawings and then calculate the average map of how people picture the map of their World.


This idea didn’t come out of nowhere. I’m sure there exist some investigations and surveys in exactly this direction – although I haven’t found them yet. However, I had the awesome Brandmarker project in mind, in which the Austrian art collective monochrom asked people to draw well-known brand logos.


Coca-Cola. Brandmarker by monochrom. Source:

Also, Kim Dingle’s project „United Shapes of America“ influenced this project. In it, she let grad students draw the shape of the United States.

United Shapes of America by Kim Dingle

United Shapes of America by Kim Dingle

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