OakTech Talks Pt. 1: Guerilla Cartography

Solespace, Oakland

SoleSpace, Oakland

It’s been a busy week at the intersection of Food/Art/Technology in Oakland. On Tuesday Grits & Greens kicked off its second breakfast meeting, and Thursday night OakTech opened its 2013 talk series with “Food Innovation: How we made them…”

Held at SoleSpace, a bustling art hub ingeniously masquerading as a shoe shop, the gathering featured two innovators–Guerilla Cartography and People’s Kitchen. Both use food as a connector, both utilize technology to build awareness. People’s Kitchen will be covered in a separate post later this month.


Darin Jensen, Department Cartographer (CAGE Lab) and lecturer at UC Berkeley, introduced his latest project “Food: An Atlas”. Motivated by his interest in food and love of maps, Jensen set out with an ambitious plan on a global scale. His task was to make a book in under 7 months (from content development to printing). Foregoing a professional publisher the project was independently produced–using a grassroots (“guerilla”) network of collaborators.

Darin Jensen, "Food: An Atlas"

Darin Jensen, “Food: An Atlas”

Having previously completed the community map “Mission Possible” (http://www.missionpossiblesf.org/) Jensen was familiar with mobilizing resources. “Food: An Atlas” is a passion piece–anyone signing up understood they’d be saying “yes” with zero financial payoff. Luckily money wasn’t a motivating factor.

A successful Kickstarter funded their primary costs, a nerve-wracking process that generated over $29k. A social media campaign leveraged key influencers–including Michael Pollen who was intrigued by a “US Beer Shed” map. Backers streamed in from all over the world, a statistic that Jensen eagerly communicated–by map. One was plotted as far afield as McMurdo base in Antarctica!

Kickstarter backers

Kickstarter backers

The rest of the costs for publishing and shipping have been covered personally by Jensen. He’s hoping book sales at least break even (geography never made anyone rich). With an initial print run of 1500 soft bound books, “Food: An Atlas” will retail at $25. Bound in a 12×12 format (for easier study), any remaining proceeds will be donated to The Greenhorns.


Crowd-sourcing was an integral part of the venture. To be considered for the atlas a map needed to be a) about food and b) legible and accurate to cartographic standards (defined by Jensen’s team). Approx 90 submissions were received, and roughly 90% of them were viable. Raw materials were reviewed by project staff and corrections/suggestions sent back to each author. This painstaking process of editing and refinement yielded a completed collection of over 70+ maps for inclusion in the final book.

Initial raw maps, needed work

Initial raw maps, needed work

Food maps were gathered from across the globe–examples included the Food Surplus of Northern Italy and a world map from the UK which used the London sidewalk to accurately plot real fruit from its source. Closer to home, Baltimore City submitted a Food “Swamps” and “Deserts” entry.

A selection of maps from the book.

A selection of maps from the book.

“Food:An Atlas” is currently being printed at 1984 in Oakland, with an expected release date of Feb 14. Gotta love that.

Note: Guerilla Cartography may be running a bus tour of Oakland’s taco trucks in April (as part of their Kickstarter reward). A few seats are rumored to remain, so check their Facebook for more information. Maps will probably be provided.


Food: An Atlas – http://guerrillacartography.net/home and https://www.facebook.com/food.atlas

Further reading – http://oaklandlocal.com/posts/2012/11/food-innovative-project-brings-attention-oaklandberkeley-geographers-team

Darin Jensen – http://geography.berkeley.edu/people/person_detail.php?person=29

Oakland Local – Oaktech Events: http://oaklandlocal.com/topics/oaktech

SoleSpace: @solespace1 or https://www.facebook.com/SoleSpace

One response to “OakTech Talks Pt. 1: Guerilla Cartography

  1. Pingback: “Food:An Atlas”…Hot Off The Press | Branding in Balance·

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