Q&A: Dylan Buell explains his college football geography lesson
Earlier this week we featured a map made my designer and photographer Dylan Buell showing the location of each NCAA Division I football program in the country, along with its geographical fan bases. The map, detailed down to the county level, drew a huge reaction on Twitter, especially with Ducks and Beavers fans unhappy with Oregon’s labeling.
I caught up with Buell, a recent Ball State graduate, on Thursday to talk about the map, its reaction and college football in general. The interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.
MW: What (college football) game are you watching right now?
DB: Oh, boy. All of them. South Carolina on ESPN, then about eight games on ESPN3 between my laptop and second screen.
I haven’t been able to catch the game. How’s (South Carolina running back Marcus) Lattimore looking?
He hasn’t really been that impressive, but Vanderbilt’s defense has been tough.
So, tell me about the map. What inspired you to do that?
Well, I’ve seen a couple maps floating around, but none that really … well, looked attractive. After photography, I have a great passion for graphic design, especially with sports. I also love looking at maps, so this sort of blended several passions. … For a brief moment I thought about doing one for college basketball, but there’s no way. That would take a lot more time and be a lot more complicated. Some cities have more than one team, let alone a county.
When did you make it?
I worked on it over the span of two or three weeks early this summer.
We dug it here in our newsroom.
That’s great to hear, especially when most of the response has been negative (laughs).
I can understand some negative response because everyone has their own opinion of loyalties.
Yeah. I should have presented it a lot differently. It was never my intention to accurately display loyalties. … For almost all of these, I don’t know how each county aligns themselves. That’s part of why I didn’t try to do an accurate job. Because I had no idea. Any attempt to try to be accurate would not have worked.
Let’s talk about the process. How did you carve up the country? Just geographically?
Yeah. I used the borders of the counties and states as guides, and then just looked at which school was closest to each county. It really wasn’t that scientific. I mean, I would absolutely LOVE to do a nationwide survey to see what the actual map would look like, but that would take a ton of time and money.
Did you just put it up on your website and have it take off?
Well, I was waiting until it was closer to the season starting, and then I posted it on the college football subreddit on Reddit.com.
Then Bleacher Report got it?
Apparently. I don’t know how that happened. I imagine through all the sharing that went on one of the writers caught wind of it. They never asked me about it or talked to me about it. I just sort of stumbled upon that when visiting the website. … I mean, I’m not upset that they didn’t ask or anything. It’s not like I was trying to make money off the map or anything. I was just surprised to see it there.
What were some, if any, major problems you ran into?
The South was definitely a hassle, though the worst teams were in the states like North Carolina and Washington, where I had to color in all the islands. So meticulous. In regards to Oregon, with the two schools so close, it was more or less a split into North and South. I gave Oregon a bit more — Grant and Baker counties — due to their recent success.
What was the majority of the feedback centered on?
Inaccuracy of the territories. But I kind of expected that. In that same post where I shared the map, I also included the Photoshop file for anyone to download and edit the map to create their own, and one of just the logos. That way, if they complain, I can say, “Hey, here are the files. You don’t like it, you can make your own.” … Like I said before, I’m really not concern about the attention or recognition, though I did protect myself a bit by adding my name. So even if it is shared, at least they know who made it. … This wasn’t a project to show off my skills at Photoshop. By no means am I an expert, and a project like this is just more time consuming than difficult.
So, it was more just a fun project for you?
Exactly. When I’m not working (photojournalist), I liked to find projects like this to keep me occupied. And usually those projects revolve around sports and design. In fact, leading up that post, I created a schedule poster for each FBS team that were popular on the subreddit. (You can find the Pac-12 posters here.)
You can follow Dylan on Twitter, as well.
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