stuff figured out nowhere else,
one 8 1/2 x 11 map at a time
Twenty years ago, Bob Firth founded Informing Design to "figure out" complex data sets with simple charts and graphs. He didn't realize at the time that he was living amidst one of the most complex information problems in the U.S.: the Pittsburgh highway network. Prodded by local engineers a few years later, he tackled "charting" a solution to that problem, producing what became one of the best-selling regional titles of all time, the Pittsburgh Figured Out atlas. Within a few years of that success, the City asked his firm to design one of the largest local wayfinding sign systems ever implemented. Fifteen years later, those big, colorful "Wayfinder" signs still guide motorists to the five areas of Pittsburgh, and then to major destinations and parking within each area.
At the same time as he was working on the sign system, Bob started to systematize his cartographic insights into a mapping tool he terms "configurational grasp mapping". Bob discovered that there is an essential "grid-ness" that is able to be found in even the most complex of road networks, including Pittsburgh's with its infamous topography. It turns out that with his tool, road maps can be packed with detail and yet still be made simple to grasp at a glance by highlighting these "secret" grids.
Then it hit him: the solutions to many driving problems (like getting around the City on Marathon Sunday or parking options for the new Consol Center) are to be found nowhere on the internet or on gps navigational devices. Interactive buttons and gps don't put the right details in the right places so you can figure out what to do. That takes good local leg work and Bob's mapping tool to make it all simple to see.
"Forget clicking on buttons and whirring and buzzing lights," Bob thought, "just give me an
8.5 x 11 I can pull from my back pocket with all the stuff worked out on it."
Thus bobsmaps.com was born, with free 8.5 x 11 downloads of solutions to the area's latest driving and parking problems. And, as an essential supplement to all the gps systems, there is news of a new handbook to "cheating" Pittsburgh highways of their annoyances and jam-ups, the bobsmaps "Pittsburgh Cheat Sheets" that's full of "secret grid" revelations of the best ways to get around the region.
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