The Nolli Map

Giambattista Nolli created an engraved map of Rome in 1784. The significance of his map was that it depicted the city as it was travelled, showing open civic spaces. This type of depiction has been used to study urban spaces, as well as media. The University of Oregon houses an excellent interactive Nolli map site that is a great resource.

Architects Robert Venturi, Denise Scott Brown, and Steven Izenour used the Nolli map technique to show how urban spaces in Las Vegas were actually used. This was an analog version of today’s GIS with data layers, consisting of usage patterns or demographics, being superimposed on the urban landscape. Their seminal Learning from Las Vegas (1972) [revised as a paperback in 1977] spread the technique from architecture and urban studies to art history and media studies.

Sally Stein in her “Graphic Ordering of Desire” [pp.6-16] used the Nolli map to show the relationship between content and advertising in The Ladies Home Journal from 1919-1939. A reproduction of one of her maps above shows every page of the October 1924 issue with content in black and advertising in white, continuity lines showing how readers navigated the issue to read a complete article, and the positioning of the content/advertising on the page. Stein’s Nolli maps show how multivariate data layers can be efficiently and effectively portrayed, showing how readers would use the media.

Nolli Maps in Marketing

The Nolli map can be used in many marketing applications, particularly those involving:

  1. Viewers/readers use of traditional media
  2. Users’ navigation of web, social, and mobile media
  3. Shoppers navigation and engagement in retail spaces (indoors and outdoors)

The advantages of the use of Nolli map in marketing are the abilities to:

  1. Show how users/consumers actually use space/media
  2. Show multivariate data layers in an effective visualization
  3. Link users/consumers’ behaviors to outcomes (sales, profits, etc.)

Kenneth Kambara gave a short presentation on how the Nolli map was relevant to fashion merchandising and marketing at the 2012 Fashion Then & Now Symposium at LIM College in Manhattan.

  • Link to abstract [forthcoming in 2013]
  • Link to PowerPoint [forthcoming in 2013]



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