Maps camouflaged as Tree Rings

The Mimetic Maps 2 art book is a new work of the series “Mimetic Maps” which is continuing the experimental mix of art and graphic design. Recording the process of how to simulate the topographic maps such as the well-known symbol of Japan: Mt.fuji to the colored tree ring patterns that everyone is familiar with. The unexpected similarities between tree rings and maps will be remarkable.



Topographic Tree Rings

Mt.Fuji the most famous mountain in Japan, was the first subject to be chosen for Mimetic Maps 2. “Mt.Fuji Cypress”, must be the most remarkable art piece in this collection. The topographic map of Mt.Fuji’s elegant shape portrays the wood grain as beautiful ripples. Through the original arrangements, we can see that Mt.fuji can be easily overlain against the cross section of cedar. 


Tomoyuki Koseko, Mt.Fuji/Cedar, from MimeticMaps2 (2017)

Tomoyuki Koseko, Mt.Chacha/Cypress, from MimeticMaps2 (2017)


The topographic map of Mt.Chacha, which is a volcano on Kunashiri Island can be seen as a cross section of Japanese Cypress. The surveyed area has very few landmarks and therefore very few map symbols and only simple letters can be found within the map. By the clever color arrangements, we can see the dull map become an exciting display of clear untarnished tree rings with surprisingly few cracks.


Changing the impression in a moment

The feature of this artwork is to show how ordinary maps can be totally changed simply by overlaying colored film. All the map images remain unchanged from the original online source provided by the Geospatial Information Authority of Japan.

The colored film piece is also featured on the cover of this art-book. If you strip away the film, the image of topographic tree rings would simply become an ordinary map.



By observing the details of the tree rings, you can see that the symbols and letters of the real map turn into a visual impression of noise. The contour lines and map symbols become tree rings, wood cracks and so on. This reflects the real tree ring patterns and everything alive in the nature which also has this visual impression of noise. This artwork also suggests that there are few differences between the elements of both these maps and tree rings outside of color.


Patterns from topographic maps

While I was creating this collection, I found that these artworks could be used in a variety of different applications. One of my ideas is the “tree rings pattern” could be used for textiles and wrapping paper. Looking from afar, the patterns could be seen as polka dots or could give the impression of a lumber yard. By looking closer and focusing on the details, you can find the information from topographic maps such as names of the places and symbols. This gives textiles and wrapping an especially interesting aspect compared to more conventional examples.


Tomoyuki Koseko, Dots, from MimeticMaps2 (2017)

Tomoyuki Koseko, Square Timber, from MimeticMaps2 (2017)

Tomoyuki Koseko, Bifuka town, from MimeticMaps2 (2017)


The original inspiration for this experimental graphic design project comes from Mitate ”見立て”; which is a traditional Japanese method of making something appear as something else.



Above is an example of another one of my own experiments with the Mitate style. I arranged my original illustration of Mt.fuji into a single-toned color block which the actual map originally used for its background color. From this, the shape of Mt.fuji’s illustration immediately turns into an unknown peninsula.

My art book project started from my own curiosity about the possibilities of the arrangement of the shapes in actual maps. I then noticed that the topographic map of Mt.fuji could be easily compared to the faces of a log. After many experiments with different maps and types of wood, finally I settled on what I believe to be most beautiful examples and made my art-book Mimetic Maps 2 to share it with the world.

Special Thanks: YafaKoseko&Dave guy