When the designer shows up in the design

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I want you to imagine the American Midwest.

Don’t think about what it looks like as a landscape — instead, imagine you were to put the Midwest on a map. What would it look like geographically?

Have you got it?

Some of you may be picturing the Midwest like this — the way the Census defines it. It includes North Dakota and South Dakota, as well as Wisconsin, Illinois and Indiana.

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For others, things may look a little different. Here are just a few published maps of the Midwest, from an educational resources site, an interior design council and a manufacturing company:

Sometimes the Midwest is only states bordering the Great Lakes, sometimes it’s larger. Sometimes Kentucky counts as the Midwest, other times it’s in the South. We assume the Midwest is a generally fixed and stable thing, but that’s not the case. It turns out that there are lots of Midwests.

What would happen if we mapped out all the different Midwests that came to mind for you and for others? What would that look like?

This is exactly what cartographer Bill Rankin did in 2013. He overlaid 100 published maps of the Midwest. Here’s what they all look like together:

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