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by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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By Jason Snell

A marmot in a Swiss topographical map

Zoey Poll, writing for Eye on Design, on the curious hidden items found in Swiss topographic maps:

Watching a single place evolve over time reveals small histories and granular inconsistencies. Train stations and airports are built, a gunpowder factory disappears for the length of the Cold War. But on certain maps, in Switzerland’s more remote regions, there is also, curiously, a spider, a man’s face, a naked woman, a hiker, a fish, and a marmot. These barely-perceptible apparitions aren’t mistakes, but rather illustrations hidden by the official cartographers at Swisstopo in defiance of their mandate “to reconstitute reality.” Maps published by Swisstopo undergo a rigorous proofreading process, so to find an illicit drawing means that the cartographer has outsmarted his colleagues.

I love everything about this story, which is about design and craftsmanship and organization—and master craftspeople adding a tiny bit of personality and whimsy to their work. They’re pushing against the system in the most gentle and creative ways. It reminds me a bit of how programmers, back in the early days, delighted in placing easter eggs in obscure places.

[Via Paul Kafasis.]