The Black Elevation Map is a data visualisation project that elevates Black cultural data

Black & Abroad collaborates with Performance Art and Tré Seals for the domestic travel platform, uplifting points of data such as Black-owned businesses.

25 February 2022


Travel and lifestyle company Black & Abroad has worked with Performance Art, the creative-data ad agency, and designer Tré Seals, founder of diversity driven foundry Vocal Type, to launch a data-led domestic travel platform that prioritises and spotlights Black cultural contributions. The project, entitled The Black Elevation Map, visualises cultural data, including Black population data, historical markers, Black-owned businesses and social media activity, “as points of interest on a dynamic, searchable elevation map of the United States”, the release explains.

The incredible project allows users to search thousands of places of interest via The Black Elevation Map site. Featuring 12 curated city guides and 10 national guides, the platform also spotlights categories such as Black-owned wineries (“Melanin Vines”), notable start-up companies (“Black Silicon Valley”) and restaurants that fuelled civil rights (“Civil Bites”). Beyond functioning as a resource for discovery, the map is taking steps towards countering the oppressive history of mapmaking.

“From redlining to modern urban planning, you don’t have to look far to see the ways in which maps have been used to marginalise, divide and oppress communities around the world,” says Eric Martin, chief creative officer and co-founder at Black & Abroad, in a release. “We wanted to help Black travellers see the country in a way that prioritises and celebrates the contributions of folks who look like us – and facilitates travel choices that deepen engagement within our community. Repurposing a traditional elevation map is a way for us to weave joy and uplift into the story, the experience and our interpretation of the data.”


Performance Art, Black & Abroad: The Black Elevation Map (Copyright © Black & Abroad, 2022)

As for the design behind the project, Tré Seals produced the typeface, Martin, which draws inspiration from protest posters from the 1968 Memphis Sanitation Strike. Seals also created an original set of icons for the project, inspired by a survey of African symbology. Meanwhile, the platform allows users numerous functions: the ability to create and email “Favourites,” an “Add to map” feature, search by city, a freestyle explore map mode and three streams showing Black travel-related social media conversations from Twitter and Instagram.

Ian Mackenzie, chief creative officer at Performance Art says: “We know the data we’re visualising represents just a fraction of actual Black cultural contribution. We see this as part of an ongoing conversation, and a conceptual counterpoint to a long history of maps created with harmful and unacknowledged biases.”

The project is the second collaboration between Black & Abroad and Performance Art. It follows their 2019 campaign, Go Back To Africa, which led to a measurable shift in sentiment and usage of the racial slur, and won nearly every major global advertising award, including the Grand Prix in Creative Data at Cannes, the D&AD Black Pencil and the Global Grand Effie in Positive Change.

GalleryPerformance Art, Black & Abroad: The Black Elevation Map (Copyright © Black & Abroad, 2022)

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Performance Art, Black & Abroad: The Black Elevation Map (Copyright © Black & Abroad, 2022)

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About the Author

Liz Gorny

Liz (she/they) joined It’s Nice That as news writer in December 2021. In January 2023, they became associate editor, predominantly working on partnership projects and contributing long-form pieces to It’s Nice That. Contact them about potential partnerships or story leads.

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