I’m now selling prints of a cool graphic design project: a poster showing the rise and fall of Interstate 90 as it winds more than 400 miles across South Dakota.

You can buy them here, as an art print, framed print or canvas print in a range of sizes. Society6 will ship them to your door in a week or two.

This1 is what it looks like:

I came up with this project during one of the countless hours I spent driving across South Dakota during the six years I lived there. It’s a largely desolate highway, but broken up only by a constant stream of billboards and some surprisingly dramatic slopes.

That’s right: in “flat” South Dakota, I-90 rises more than half a mile in elevation from east to west. It also is constantly rolling up and down, with a few impressive river valleys.

You’ve encountered this topography if you’ve ever driven to the Black Hills. And now you can encounter it in your living room!

My thanks to Sharon Wegner-Larsen for her help on the project, and to everyone else who provided important insights over the years I spent honing its design.

How I did it

I used code to scrape the elevation every 0.4 miles along the entire stretch of South Dakota, and turned this into a graph. In Illustrator I styled the graph and applied a color scale based on elevation, and added annotations to identify interesting points along the road. In QGIS I made a topographic map of the state with an identical color scheme. The red lines at the bottom mark all the exits along the highway.

  1. Almost what it looks like, anyway. There’s one teeny change from this proof to what you can buy now: the label at the bottom saying “EXITS” is colored red in the final version, to make it easier to understand.