Data + Design Project

Jerry’s Map: Drawing an Imaginary World for 50 Years with the Outcome Determined by a Deck of Cards

Tuesday 08.13.2013 , Posted by

Jerry's Map header

It’s a video that went undiscovered on Vimeo for years, and a project that’s been evolving for decades… with no clear end in sight. Jerry Gretzinger has an obsession unlike anyone else we’ve heard of: he’s spent almost his entire adult years creating a single never-ending map using hand painted pages and a special deck of cards to determine the outcome for his imaginary populous. It’s an all encompassing personal project that greatly predates modern games like SimCity and Minecraft, and Jerry’s brilliant (some would say obsessed) mind is at the controls.

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The recently discovered video, featured here, walks us through Jerry’s highly detailed, open-edged painting that now covers 2000 square feet. The immense project began decades ago when he drew the overhead plan for a city on a single A4 sheet of paper – tiny buildings drawn with black pen. What happened when he reached the edge of the paper would influence the rest of his life – that edge looked like it could connect to other cities, growing into a project with a life of its own.

“My mother called me a ‘musser’ because I liked to mix things together,” he tells Uppercase Magazine. “I once mixed ammonia and Clorox and then took a whiff. I invented games and forced my younger brother to play them, and then got pissed off when he won.”

Now Jerry uses a specially crafted deck of cards to determine the outcome of his world, with fictitious cities like “Plaeides,” “Wybourne” and the largest, “Ukrainia.” Each day he draws cards to see how a page of his gigantic map will be modified, with perhaps the most unusual card being the “void.” With this card a blank spot is put on the map, wiping out previous details completely and opening up a world of new possibility. Watch the inspiring and original short below, then head to to learn more about this wildly original project.

An example of one panel from Jerry’s map:
Jerry's Map 1

Jerry's Map 2

The custom deck of cards used to determine the outcome of Jerry’s daily painting:
Jerry's Map 3

Jerry's Map 4

Jerry's Map 5

via reddit

Benjamin Starr

Written by Benjamin Starr

Known in some circles as the most amazing man in the universe, he once saved an entire family of muskrats from a sinking, fire engulfed steamboat while recovering from two broken arms relating to a botched no-chute wingsuit landing in North Korea. When not impressing people with his humbling humility, he can be found freelance writing, finding shiny objects on the internet, enjoying the company of much-appreciated friends and living out his nomadic nature. He is Managing Editor of Visual News. Follow his movements on Twitter:

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  1. Jerry’s Map is going to be installed at the Brattleboro Museum & Art Center ( 11/1/13 – 3/8/14.

  2. See the exhibit in person starting this November in at the Brattleboro Museum & Art Center in Brattleboro, VT. Jerry’s Map will be on view through March 8, 2014. More info:

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