There’s what a neighborhood is called, and then there’s what comes to mind when you think of it.
A San Francisco startup has made a Seattle map of the latter.
Do you live in West Seattle, or “Hip Stores on Streets Named After Western States”? Do you commute on the Alaskan Way Viaduct or on “Collapsing Freeway”? And is Puget Sound really Puget Sound, or “That Iconic Ferry Ride with the City Skyline”?
The Seattle map-beyond-the-map, released last week, is San Francisco startup Urbane‘s ninth attempt to capture a city’s culture at the level of a local’s inside joke — one tier above tourist kitsch and one step removed from the icons anyone could recognize.
Boeing gets a mention as “Where Your Plane Comes From” and Microsoft fronts the entire Eastside with the phrase — blown up big — “Destroy all Macintosh Products.” Catchy.
But the Space Needle and Pike Place Market? Not on this map.
I stumbled on the map after clicking on a friend’s Facebook link (thanks, Marika!), and had to know who, exactly, decided what was what.
The answer: 24-year-old Trevor Felch and a small council of young Seattleites. Felch, a restaurant writer for the San Francisco Weekly and CCO of the small Urbane, lives in our rival tech hub but claims to be no stranger to Seattle. His brother was a student at the University of Washington, his cousin works at Amazon and he’s made more than a few trips up, particularly to sample the cuisine.
He gathered a few young Seattleites from around his and his colleagues’ networks to design the map — a UW nursing student here, a tech worker there — and edited more than 60 good labels down to the best that fit before publishing the finished work.
“Our intent is to make it entertaining and enlightening enough to locals but also entertaining enough for tourists to get a hang of the city,” Felch told me in a phone call.
“Espresso-toting salmon mongers” didn’t make it. But “Save our Sonics!” over Key Arena and “Gosh, Stop the Take-Off Noise” over Georgetown certainly did.
You can tell, looking at the map, that it has a particular point of view. One area south of West Seattle bears the label “Long Rows of Human Diversity.” Felch’s favorite personal contribution was inspired by a half dozen paddle-fueled treks in Lake Union. It calls Montlake “Yuppies Kayaking with Burritos.”
“We’re not out to offend anybody or tell Seattle this is your city,” Felch said. “It’s more like, this is a creative viewpoint.”
Urbane tried out a couple directions before settling on maps reminiscent of the Ork neighborhood posters you see here and there around town. Felch and CEO Kevin Chung, who both grew up in Palo Alto, considered going the mobile map app route, but found the space too saturated and dominated. Apart from the maps — Boston launched Tuesday and Denver is coming next — they hope to consult on urban planning and neighborhood branding. Chung’s background is in urban development.
The map went through a few edits but Seattleites caught one error pretty quickly: It’s Aurora Avenue, not Aurora Street. Felch said he’d get a fixed version up soon.
Other cities Urbane has taken on include Los Angeles, Washington D.C. and Northwest neighbor Vancouver, which features such areas as “Tourists Making Unsafe Decisions” and “Outdoor Forest Action, with Fresh Tree Scent.”
Mónica Guzmán is a freelance journalist, speaker and award-winning digital life columnist for GeekWire. You can find her tweeting away @moniguzman, subscribe to her public Facebook posts at facebook.com/moniguzman or reach her via email. See this archive of her weekly GeekWire columns.