Nowadays, it is challenging to distinguish an atlas as such from its function. The reason for this misunderstanding is that it is a broad term because this type of document developed a lot over the centuries until it lost its originally clearly defined identity. Today, the term includes many different visual languages, and is not just about geography. The very evolution of the atlas somehow caused it to lose its precise definition. In the course of the years, human and technological progress brought about and increased the complexity of the world, producing millions of data and a plethora of information as well as bringing the earth to a critical point in its history. While this complexity is growing, in parallel, there also is a need to clarify it. An atlas is a format able to do this because it encompasses many different possibilities and, thus, can explain both the complexity and the links hidden behind things and arguments. So, today, we are not accustomed anymore to look at big geographical atlases the way we still did when we were studying, but instead face this hybrid publication that includes images, text, infographics, data visualization, etc. It is no longer just a collection of maps as it was in the beginning. Somehow the atlas became a format that can be either digital or analog, with the only difference that it has to perform differently, that it offers a solution and provides authors and designers with a lot of possibilities to deal with different topics. Especially because, today, an atlas is not definable as such because of its geographical content but because of the attitude the authors have towards the content.
The project will investigate the structure of an atlas through letterforms. Originally, letterforms were signs and this, they still are today. They were able to represent the world and, especially in early publications of maps, cities were designated by a letter. Over the years, letterforms changed their forms, time after time, just as atlases did; and depending on which typeface, each letter changed its shape. In the atlas shown, all the possibilities contained in letterforms will be explored through a specific structure that is one of the most frequent ones used in atlases today. It provides the reader with an overview and then, chapter by chapter, delves deeper into an analysis of the content, providing the reader with a possibility to form an idea at the end. The study of the letterforms will show different perspectives of letters, attempting to let readers explore these shapes for themselves by collecting information. The goal of the publication is to confront readers with the main question of “what is an atlas like today?” and try and discover, through the treatment of letterforms, how an atlas works. Another important point is that the product, in contemporary times, that we are most often in front of is a display and, thus, our way to look at things has changed. Today, an atlas seeks to create a mixture between a typical atlas book and our contemporary way of observing and exploring things.