Peter Gorman’s inspiration for the illustration grew from sincere confusion while biking around. The image is circulating widely online.
Peter Gorman’s Greenwood apartment is the home base for a print operation that has urbanists all over the internet joking that Seattle’s intersections are wacky as heck.
Gorman, 30, posted an art piece to his online Etsy shop Monday, depicting 20 of the city’s complicated street crossings with minimalistic graphics. They range from Queen Anne’s seven-way stop to the busy meeting of Denny Way, Stewart Street and Yale Avenue near South Lake Union.
The design has generated a heavy response and parodies online, reflecting its universal appeal. Anyone who has traveled the city’s streets knows some intersections can require special navigation skills.
Now, Gorman is fielding hundreds of requests for the print from paying fans.
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“So Seattle was designed by a fan of the Blair Witch Project,” one Reddit post said. “The intersections of Seattle look like Chinese lettering,” someone tweeted. Gorman said he heard one person compare the icons to yoga poses.
The Etsy shop, a side hobby called BarelyMaps, hosts a series of Gorman’s original designs, inspired by geographical layouts he saw during a one-year, 11,000-mile bicycle trip across the country.
An image of small horizontal stripes in a column, with nine highlights to represent Portland’s many bridges, is among the pieces, for example.
Within hours of posting the intersection illustration Monday morning, 10 requests to purchase the print rolled in, for either $20 to $33 each depending on the size, while the image went viral on Twitter, Facebook and Reddit.
Using a printer and heavy-duty paper, Gorman prepared the 10 prints at his apartment with handwritten notes Monday night and shipped them at Safeco Plaza’s Post Office on Tuesday morning.
During the 15-minute stop for shipping — a trip before work as a data specialist at downtown’s YWCA — Gorman’s iPhone buzzed. And buzzed again.
Six more requests for the print.
Since then, he’s answered a steady stream of notifications from customers, totaling 245 as of Thursday morning. More copies of the design sold in 24 hours, Gorman said, than all other BarelyMaps prints combined.
Gorman’s inspiration for the image grew from sincere confusion while biking around Seattle as a newcomer. He made the city his home about a year ago after visiting for a week during his cross-country bike ride that began in Boston, where he lived, in 2014. Something about Seattle just clicked, he said.
Leading up to the trip, Gorman quit his job and found someone to take over his Massachusetts apartment. He headed south to Florida before going through the South to California and cutting into Canada. Each day tallied between 60 to 100 miles.
For his community back home and a new one of avid bikers online, he chronicled the experiencesin a blog with photos and short stories. At one point during his Washington stop, he met and took photos with Gov. Jay Inslee.
Since moving here, Gorman said he has been brainstorming a Seattle-focused art piece for his Etsy shop. The city’s street designs proved distinctive and somewhat challenging to navigate at the start, he said.
So, while discussing the “kooky, wacky” intersections with his boyfriend last week, he said the abstract concept came to him. They went over a few options for colors until deciding on the design with a gray background, and yellow, tan and white for the intersections.
“I feel like I can get from home to work and work to home,” Gorman said of biking. “But when I have to go somewhere new, it’s a little intimidating.”
Seattle’s street layout, in short, is a product of the city’s founders developing conflicting grid layouts. A 2012 CityLab essay describes the outcome as this:
“Downtown is like a three-car crash as the Belltown, Central Business District and Pioneer Square grids collide and buckle. Other communities that were gobbled by annexation, such as Ballard and Georgetown, added their own grids, complicating matters,” the essay says. “I’m sure everyone in Seattle has their favorite five-way, and none better than one blocked by a misshapen, view-obliterating traffic circle on steroids.”
Some of the messages from customers for the Seattle print include personal stories of people using the intersections, such as one person’s experience of having brake problems while learning to drive.
One former Seattleite, who now lives in New York, bought the illustration to remind her of the city’s quirks.
“The print made her feel so happy,” Gorman said. “They’re still coming in — constant requests.
“I’ll just keep printing,” he said.