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Design with impact: Wendy Brawer, designer and founder of Green Map System

Over the last year Tacit Tacit has been in regular contact with Wendy Brawer and her team, as she nurtures the development of the new Open Green Map 2 platform.

Wendy is based in New York and the GIS collective building the platform (Alexandra Casapu and Bogdan Szabo) are in Berlin. Green Map makers helping to test and refine the platform, which is at Beta stage, are located all over the world, including Dunoon!

Global collaborations are normal for Wendy. Over the last 25 years she has supported the development of Green Mapping projects in over 65 countries.

Green Mapping is a simple, but powerful idea that grew out of Wendy’s design practice and her ongoing commitment to sustainable development.

“I made our common future my primary client and made it my mission to expedite progress towards sustainability by creating vehicles for social change”

Wendy set about developing a simple icon system, co-designed with people making community maps. The icons articulate information about a range of local assets and challenges from green businesses to recycling points, low carbon transport, food and biodiversity.

There are now 170+ Green Map icons and counting. The icons combined with ongoing research, digital tools and other learning resources support a global community of Green Map makers, who feed back into Green Map System; sharing their maps and ideas with other map makers.

The process of making a Green Map which is highly collaborative and creative, empowers people. It makes them experts of their environment and community, whilst giving them a simple way to share their knowledge and broker new conversations about what sustainable development means to them locally.

Wendy is a bit of an inspiration to us; a female designer, leading a collaborative project that engages people from diverse cultures and communities in design, learning and local activism.

1. How do you describe yourself and your design practice?

Eco-designer + Mapmaker + Social Sculptor + locally, I’m also a placemaker, activist and everyday cyclist. Mobility, waste reduction, renewables and the greening of public space are key areas - social equity, wellbeing and climate health are key goals.

Long ago, I made our common future my primary client and made it my mission to expedite progress towards sustainability by creating vehicles for social change. My eco design practice created the first Green Map, and it catalyzed the global collaboration that became the nonprofit organization, Green Map System. 26 years later, I’m still awed by what people have created under this banner.

2. What makes a map a Green Map and what is the main goal of Green Mapping?

Every Green Map is locally made, regardless of medium. Each project is unique and all use Green Map Icons to highlight local nature, culture, social justice and sustainable living resources. Green Maps create a fresh perspective that engages people and guides them to take action in their own community and places they visit.

Both a verb and a noun, the locally-determined mapping process is capacity-building and can be inclusionary or top-down, linked to a major event or a community-wide transition. Many Green Mapmakers go on to create multiple map editions, experiences, and even careers that increase the potential for a healthier future.

3. Who are Green Mapping tools designed for?

These tools are for people who love their home place and want to promote positive projects and places, often including challenges to wellbeing and environmental justice. Our professional, community and youth map making tools are adaptable and open source, like OGM2, our second Open Green Map platform. All are free to use non-commercially: as licensed under Creative Commons 4.0, please credit Green Map System and share alike. Contact us if you have a commercial purpose in mind.

4.Your design practice is globally collaborative. How do you make the process of collaboration open and inclusive?

I was given the initials WEB at birth, and I see all things as connections. I like to work together and iterate and evolve. My role includes connecting projects and sharing strategies and outcomes, then assessing them as we create new tools. Every project has helped another succeed. Each has helped me, too!

5. Can you share a good idea that you think contributes to #positivegrowth?

[Short and sweet] Mutualaid


We are looking forward to working with Wendy on Green Mapping projects in Scotland and beyond. If you want to find out more about Green Mapping go here>

Take a look at:

COP26 Glasgow Green Map which is being developed by the Glasgow Eco Trust.

Wendy will be in Scotland later in 2021, taking part in events in the lead up to COP26.


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