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Iconoclasistas is a Buenos Aires based design duo led by University of Buenos Aires professor Julia Risler and graphic designer and comic strip author Pablo Ares. Their mission is to use cartography (maps) and other graphic art forms to create new visions of historic representation, societal growth and participation.

Building on their longstanding social justice work, the couple founded Iconoclasistas in 2006 out of a desire to create graphic resources that could be circulated among their network of activists. This resulted in maps that range from the local and literal (e.g., an overlay of a street grid peppered with icons designed to illustrate issues like safety, gentrification, etc.) to the political (a map of mining-related destruction in Argentina’s heartland).

Iconoclasistas’ maps question the dominant symbolism and ideologies and help community organizers build strategies of resistance. They are also used as tools to lend legitimacy to complaints to local governments and industries.

Iconoclasistas use maps as a medium because they are broadly understood and easily amended using icons that transcend language and educational barriers. Further, the area mapped can be a block, a territory, or a whole country.

Iconoclasistas also holds collective mapping workshops to challenge dominant perceptions about geographical, social, cultural, and political territories. The maps and posters from these workshops help students, artists, and community groups step back and get a bird’s-eye view of the interconnections between social problems.

With their alternative cartographies, Iconoclasistas has developed a graphic language, which can reinterpret social and physical space and identify nodes of conflict, thus paving the way for eventual resolution.

We had an opportunity to speak with Julia and Pablo about this process on our podcast, Social Design Insights. Listen to Episode 51 | Collective Mapping as a Tool for Social Change here.