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Toronto neighbourhoods mapped via word clouds

Posted by Derek Flack / November 16, 2010

Toronto Neighbourhood mapIt's always exciting to come across novel or unique maps of Toronto. In fact, just a couple of weeks ago, I wrote a post that rounded up some of my favourite examples of Toronto cartography. And, had I known about local illustrator Dave Murray's Toronto Word Maps at the time, you can bet they would have made that list.

Offered as posters and screenprints, Murray's maps are immediately reminiscent of the Ork neighbourhood maps, which were started at around the same time and also use words to chart urban space. But, upon a closer look, that's really where the similarities end. Rather than covering Toronto's many neighbourhoods in one map, Murray offers a more detailed overview of individual areas and the words affiliated with them.

Toronto neighbourhood mapHere's how it all works. First the illustrator surveys a given neighbourhood on foot and records all the words that he sees. Once this raw data is collected, he uses a computer program to transform it into word clouds, which place greater visual emphasis on text recorded more frequently. From there, Murray uses other software programs to organize the information in a manner that spatially represents the neighbourhood in question.

So far, Murray has completed maps of Kensignton Market, the Ossington Strip and West Queen West & Parkdale. On a macro level, it's pretty easy to discern each neighbourhood, but what's really fascinating is to try and pick out the differences between them based on what might be termed their "lexical concentrations." I find that certain intersections and stretches of street are easy to imagine, while others take a bit more work. But, in both cases, the identification process is fun and even a bit enlightening.

To see more of Dave Murray's maps and for information of purchase and pricing check out his website or check them out in person at Kid Icarus and Function 13.

Toronto Neighbourhood map



josh / November 16, 2010 at 11:00 am
Where's "pabst"?
kat / November 16, 2010 at 11:05 am
very cute, but parkdale technically follows north on roncesvalles to dundas west over to parkside (where it becomes high-park).
Greg / November 16, 2010 at 02:17 pm
Boom! Neighbourhood ownage.
Hausfrau replying to a comment from josh / November 16, 2010 at 02:36 pm
or Douche?
Matt replying to a comment from kat / November 16, 2010 at 02:55 pm
You mean Roncy and Dundas is technically considered Parkdale? Wow. I always think of Parkdale as ending around Pearson Ave. or so. (Probably 'cause I equate Parkdale with a certain urban grit, and the Roncy strip and surrounding residential streets feel too quaint and pleasant.) Shows what I know.
simuls / November 16, 2010 at 02:56 pm
Why do the comments always have to be so negative or smartass? These are cool ways to look and re-imagine your geography. I love 'em!
simuls / November 16, 2010 at 02:59 pm
Why do the comments always have to be so negative or smartass? These are cool ways to look and re-imagine your geography. I love 'em!
susan / November 16, 2010 at 03:16 pm
These are beautiful. I wish they were more colorful, though.
susan / November 16, 2010 at 03:28 pm
Why would pabst or douche be on these posters?
another kat replying to a comment from kat / November 16, 2010 at 03:35 pm
even a cursory check suggests that what is considered parkdale proper runs between dufferin and roncesvalles south of queen. but i guess when you design your own map you can plot the neighbourhoods however you see fit...
Scott / November 16, 2010 at 03:51 pm
I've noticed these at Kid Icarus in Kensington before. The Queen St. West one they have is diagonally oriented so maybe he's changed his design.
Matt / November 16, 2010 at 03:53 pm
Uh-oh. Neighbourhood boundary dispute.
GI Poo / November 16, 2010 at 05:45 pm
All maps lie.
jameson / November 16, 2010 at 05:51 pm
Looks pretty lame to me

Just my opinion, but it's very sparse. Can't say that single words can re-create the feeling of a neighborhood in the same vein that Ork name maps can.
some guy. replying to a comment from jameson / November 16, 2010 at 06:18 pm
"Just my opinion, but it's very sparse."

sparse? did you even bother to look at the density of the information? just because you see a lot of negative space in the queen and parkdale map doesn't mean it's "sparse". it's conforming to the geographical constraints of the neighborhood.

"Can't say that single words can re-create the feeling of a neighborhood in the same vein that Ork name maps can."

because single (or sometimes double) word names-of-neighborhoods more effectively communicate what's actually in a neighborhood? you essentially just crapped on your own argument here.
jameson / November 16, 2010 at 07:47 pm
A name invokes emotion, even purely numeric street names can create feelings. What does, FORLEASE, CIGARS, DRIVE-THRU, express about a neighborhood?

And no, Parkdale isn't a geographically constrained neighborhood, in fact outside of St. Jamestown and Cityplace, Parkdale is one of the most dense neighborhoods in the city. Not that you would garner that about a map that describes purely commercial use of land, rather than recreating the sense of place that Parkdale has.
wow / November 16, 2010 at 08:22 pm
the similarities to these and orkposters.com don't "end" anywhere... the similarities are excessive and unethical Dave.
cmw replying to a comment from jameson / November 16, 2010 at 08:55 pm
i can tell this discussion is going to get heated, i merely wanted to contribute my two cents to the dialogue.

the association anyone attributes to the name of a place, a person, a thing is due to the attributes of that place, person, or thing, what it's composed of and what qualities inhere in it. from a geographical or neighbourhood perspective, when i think of "west queen west" i think of galleries, boutiques, restaurants, trinity bellwoods, etc.—nominally, what goes into making that neighbourhood what it is. the emotion that one associates when thinking, even of a purely numeric street name (5th avenue, for example) is, for me, largely made up of what i know that street consists of. jameson, i'm not saying you're wrong by any means, i just think that you aren't recognizing that the associative, attributive qualities you get from the name of a place stem from what the place is composed of, what it's used for, etc. to me, seeing "trinity bellwoods" on the ork map is evocative of what i see in the present maps. the difference to my perception is that these maps seem more representative of what it's like to actually walk the streets or live in any of these neighbourhoods as opposed to the general and merely topographical information the ork maps present. i can get that same information from google maps. it won't be as pretty, but it will do the job.

also i'm having a hard time seeing what's "excessive" and "unethical" about an info-art piece that was completed and released prior to the ork maps having hit the presses (http://network.nationalpost.com/NP/blogs/toronto/archive/2009/04/04/reading-the-land.aspx)
William Self / November 16, 2010 at 09:14 pm
These are very cool Dave. Nice work! I love the open space and the black text on the white b/g. Less is definitely more where these posters are concerned.

I'd love to see one of these in an Upper Beach or Leslieville version!
huh replying to a comment from cmw / November 16, 2010 at 10:39 pm
ork has been doing their thing since 2007. Yes, not specifically Toronto, but still.

I think these designs are nicer and the idea is more interesting... but, that doesn't make it ok.
markdale / November 16, 2010 at 11:23 pm
but the ideas here are completely different - the ork maps are simply neighborhood boundaries within cities, where as these are the dense urban chunks of certain toronto neighborhhods.

i dont get what the big deal is. there are tons of word maps out there.
scoots / November 17, 2010 at 05:05 pm
he even uses what looks to be the exact same typeface as ork. rip. off.
EMS / November 17, 2010 at 05:21 pm
I'm a big fan of Dave's work - I bought the Kensington one at Function 13 gallery (that was the first I had heard of him) a few months ago and I love it! Based on the rest of his work that I have seen (other than the maps) I will most likely buy another piece from him.
function13 / November 17, 2010 at 06:20 pm
DAVE IS THE MAN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! goood job budddy!
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