a year, tens of thousands of people gather in Nevada's Black Rock Desert (also known as
"the playa") to create Black Rock City, a temporary metropolis
dedicated to community, art, self-expression, and self-reliance. They depart
one week later, having left no trace whatsoever,” from burningman.com.
FIDM SF instructor Lisa Hoffman has
been designing the maps for Burning Man since 2001. She discusses her process
and the evolution of the event.
Q. When did you start going to the
A. 1991 was my first trip to the Black
Rock Desert for the annual Burning Man event. There were about 250 people there
that year. Like most everyone else who goes out to the playa for Burning Man, I
came back excited and ready to invite everyone I knew for the following year. I
returned for five years in a row and saw the population double each time.
When did you start making the maps?
A. The first city plan and
corresponding map and guide were introduced in 1997. In 2001, I took over the
design of the map and guide.
Q. Since it changes each year, how
do you select a theme?
A. The map design is always based
on the art theme for the event. Larry Harvey, Executive Director of the Burning
Man Project, dreams up the theme each year. I bounce his ideas around in my
head for months before I start designing. While the design is taking shape, I
begin working with the Placement Team to collect all the data. In
the early days of designing the map I’d go to the Burning Man headquarters and
meet in the heavily guarded off limits space where a giant CAD map of the city
plan was printed in sections and taped up around the room. For years this
process of placing the theme camps and villages was done with pencil and paper.
As the Placement Team has grown and become more geographically spread out, it
has become necessary to do the mapping on computers, so the delivery of the placed
camps now comes to me digitally.
Q. Tell us about some of your
A. “Metropolis: The Life of Cities”
was the theme for Burning Man 2010. I had always wanted a reason to be inspired
by Harry Beck’s iconic London Underground map and this theme was the perfect
fit. I also really wanted to create a Black Rock City version of the iconic
roundel logo used to brand the underground. I knew a friend of a friend who
worked at Transport for London and with his help was able to get official
written permission to use the version of the circle with the open top mimicking
the shape of Black Rock City.
A. With the Rites of Passage theme in
2011 I decided to use a timepiece (see art at top) for the face of the map to suggest the
passage of time. The production process for this map was a special one because
I got to use so many resources around me. I borrowed a collection of gears from
FIDM instructor, Dale Carlton, and a beautiful collection of pocket watches
from Career Center Advisor, Julie Arnone. One particularly fabulous watch with
an intricate sculpted edge became the star of the map.
Q. Have you had any guidelines in
designing the maps?
A. One of the goals I’ve had in
doing this project is to try to make each map look different from previous
years. I feel I’ve succeeded when I hear people say they didn’t realize the
same designer has been doing the maps all these years.
Q. What do you see in the future
for Burning Man maps?
A. While I enjoy the process very
much and appreciate the freedom I have in choosing a design every year, I’ve
always felt there needed to be an end. Next year will be my 13th map
for Burning Man and it will be the last in my series. The doors will be open
for a new designer to take over. As the city and event continue to evolve, so
will the map.
Lisa Hoffman is the Department Coordinator for Graphic Design and Visual
Communications at FIDM in San Francisco. Lisa’s professional career includes
time spent as a Window Designer for Farrell’s Ice Cream Parlors; a Production
Artist, Art Director and Production Manager for various multi-media companies;
a Graphic and Textile Designer for Esprit Corporation; and, Map Designer for
the Burning Man organization. Lisa’s work has been featured at ProArts Gallery,
Diego Rivera Gallery, and the Exploratorium. For more information and samples
of work go lisatized.com.