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An Insider's Guide To The Mysteries & Curiosities Of The Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Summer 2011


Winner: Applied Arts Magazine 2012 Photography & Illustration Awards; to be published, May 2012


Client: NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Role: Concepts / Design / Iillustration


With my Tiger Team:

Luke Johnson (Curation)

Erin Ellis (Design / Layout / Hand Lettering)



Collaborators: Dan Goods, Nora Mainland, Anisse Gross, Catherine Haradon


Thanks to: Cozette Hart, Becky Campos, Victor Luo, Randii Wessen, Frank O'Donnell, Joe Courtney, Hunter Sebresos




For a place that depends on logic and reason, the Lab's layout is anything but. In fact, a running joke

at JPL is that its employees need to use GPS to find their way around the Lab. For one, buildings have numbers instead of names. Secondly, buildings are ordered in the number in which they were funded, instead of by location. For example, Building 67 is perplexingly located between Buildings 238 and 138.

Intrigued by this dichotomy and wanting to know
more about JPL aside from the four walls of my
cubicle, I came up with a plan. Armed with a GPS tracking device, camera, and a trusty pair of shoes, I walked to every building on Lab in numerical order. What I thought would take a Saturday afternoon took 22 hours over the span of four days at a walking distance of 52.2 miles.

The resulting map is a reflection of this wacky
experiment, research at the Lab's Beacon Library,
and conversations with other JPL employees. The
map itself is divided into two sections. The front
is an Insider's Guide to JPL, containing information I wish someone had explained to me when I began working at the Lab.

The back provides several Walking Tours. In the same way that JPL encourages space exploration, these tours encourage Lab exploration. Whether visiting the world's most stable clock, the weavers who hand-stitch the thermal blankets for every mission, or simply finding a new place to have lunch, this ma offers a fresh perspective on the overlooked aspects of the Lab's culture that make it so unique.

The map is not meant to be an authoritative guide, but rather a conversation starter, a poster, or simply a celebration of the mysterious and curious place known as the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

— Luke Johnson