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Mark Adams: "We Live in An American City"

Strolling down East Passyunk Avenue, we spotted something curious in the window of Frame Fatale: a charming map of South Philadelphia, stretching from Lombard Street to Oregon Ave.; 18th Street to the Delaware River. The makers of the map—and of a similar map to the River Wards—are Mark Adams and Jason Killinger of the design collab Eyes Habit. We spoke with Adams about the neighborhood map-making process. —Lee Stabert


How did you first conceive the idea for these maps?
"We live in East Kensington and East Passyunk, neighborhoods that are rich with little-known history, unique cultural traditions and generally interesting places. We had never seen anything highlight this neighborhood-specific information in a visual way, let alone accurately and beautifully. Given our interests in topography, screen printing and history, we thought it sounded like a great opportunity for collaboration."

The aesthetic is wonderfully simple, and a tiny bit vintage. What were your inspirations?
"Some of the more literal inspirations came via our pals over at the Library Company of Philadelphia—it is such an amazing civic resource, truly a Philly treasure. We spent a fair amount of time exploring their extensive collection of historic maps and almanacs. Other inspirations are from simply living in, exploring and caring for these neighborhoods on a daily basis."

How did you decide which landmarks to include?
"For these first two maps we really just shared things that we cared about: places we frequent, things that we think make our neighborhoods unique and bits of history that we think are important and possibly a bit overlooked. In terms of the historic landmarks, we wanted to look beyond the typical colonial sites and highlight some other sides of this town's legacy."

What do you think these maps say about the neighborhoods? And about Philadelphia, a city defined so strongly by its neighborhoods?
"We hope that they grant some insight into the sheer depth of these unique neighborhoods, both historically and culturally. We live in an old American city and hopefully these maps can remind and inform people about really interesting things that have happened (or are happening!) here. We also want these maps to be resources for building community and to help people connect to and protect the green spaces, parks, libraries and common areas that surround them. There's a lot of civic pride and optimism in these prints, and I suppose the fact that we wanted to make these maps in the first place speaks to that."

The price point ($20) is great. Was affordability an explicit goal?

"Absolutely. And at the end of the day these prints are still functional maps."

Lastly, can you tell us a little more about Eyes Habit?
"Eyes Habit is the name of our design collaborative. We do design work for hire, for social change, and sometimes just for fun—but always meaningful and beautiful. We have a lot more stuff coming up in the near future. Stay informed via our Facebook page.