There’s a whole host of good, useful stuff out there on the internet for designers and illustrators. Here are seven sites I’ve found pretty useful: Continue reading “Seven fab resources for designers”
Visitor maps play an important role in any visitor attraction. They provide an instant overview of the site on arrival, help visitors to easily navigate the area, promote walks, highlight services (e.g. toilets, shop, café), encourage people to visit key areas, and make a lasting visual impression of the site.
They’re usually found on welcome boards near the entrance, on information boards around the area and in visitor leaflets and guidebooks, allowing people to navigate on the move.
Although their main purpose is to help visitors to find their way around the site, they also need to be visually interesting and to enhance the visitor experience. They need to convey all the relevant information, in a clear, engaging manner to get both kids and adults excited about what the site has to offer.
With that in mind, I’ve come up with a list of things to consider when creating (or commissioning) a new visitor map. I have used my recent illustrated map of Conkers Discovery Centre as an example.
Understand the brief
This one is pretty important. There are lots of things to consider when being briefed (or briefing) an illustrated map.
Area – Make sure you know the area that needs to be covered by the map.
Format / Purpose – What will the map be used for? Is it just for large format visitor/welcome boards, or also in leaflets? Will it be used on a website for online promotion too?
Size – How big will the artwork need to be. Will it need to be provided at different sizes to cover Web use, leaflets and larger signage?
Deadline / Schedule – When does the map need to be finished? You need to consider time to do the illustration, send and collect client feedback at various stages, and to output for print (or send to a designer). If you’re commissioning, you need to take into account any lead time that the printers have. You may also need to consider that the illustrator/designer may be busy and not able to start the work immediately.
Illustration Style – Make sure you agree to an illustration style before the map gets underway. Pick some examples out of similar styles, so both parties know what is expected.
Key Sites and Points of Interest – Make sure you know which areas need highlighting.
Colours – Will the map have to fit into any current branding? Is there a particular colour palette or fonts that should be used?
Any other specific requirements – Does the map need a key / numbers? Does it need to specifically appeal to children? Does it need to sit in a particular design/shape?
If you are replacing an existing map – Ensure you know what wasn’t working with the old one, and make sure that this issue is addressed within the new map.
Visit the site
Take lots of reference photos, make notes, draw sketches, talk to the staff and visitors – anything to help you build up a clear picture of the area from the ground up. You gain a lot of understanding from walking around the site that you can’t get from aerial imagery or other maps.
Depending on the time of year of your visit, you may not be able to get enough info from your trip (I visited Conkers in the winter, when the trees were bare, some of the key areas hadn’t been built, and others weren’t open.) You will need to get your hands on as much supporting imagery as possible to work from. Other maps are also very useful. Any other maps of the area, including past visitor maps can help you understand the site and area a bit more. Look for online maps, Ordnance Survey maps, and any other supporting material to help you build up a good picture of the site.
Plan the map – what goes where?
I start by mapping out the different areas and pathways, to get a ‘base map’. For Conkers I used two sizes of paths, highlighting the main and the smaller walkways. You can jot down the locations of the key sites to make sure they’re in the correct places. Once this base map is done, I usually send it to the client to make sure they’re happy with the underlying map.
Populate your map
Once the ‘base’ map is approved, I start adding in the ‘points of interest’. I will rough these out and drop them into their places, occasionally tweaking the base map a little so they fit and the pathways are not obscured. Once the roughs are approved, I’ll do an inked version and finally add colour, giving the client a chance to see and approve the illustrations after each step. I will also add in some trees to indicate wooded areas.
Adding in a key / labels
Sometimes adding in lots of labels can make a map look very messy. I’ve taken to adding in a numbered key to a lot of my maps that have multiple areas and points of interest. This keeps the map clutter free, so labels don’t cover the map and fight for attention. The placement of the key will depend on the shape of the map, and usually tucks into an empty spot in the page. I tend to add in icons for services such as toilets, shops and cafés to keep them visually separate from the key areas. When working on the Conkers map, I combined the use of a key with labels for the few major areas around the site. This gave the labelling a sense of hierarchy.
Once the Conkers map was approved, I handed it over to their graphic designer who had been commissioned to design their leaflets and signage for 2016. He dropped the map into his designs and replaced my fonts with the ones he was using for the design work.
You can see the finished visitor map in the final design of the 2016 leaflet. By making sure you understand the brief, the requirements and the area, you can ensure you have an attractive, informative, readable map.
You can download the new visitor leaflet as a PDF from their website, and the new signage can be seen around site.
This post was originally published as a guest blog post on the PSLplan blog
It’s pretty much 4 years since I went freelance now. It’s been a brilliant, rewarding experience, and I couldn’t imagine going back to working a ‘proper’ job. I’ve learned a lot since I started out, so I figured it might be a good time to round-up a few of the things I’ve learned so far:
- Working from home is tough: It’s hard to get used to being alone all day, it can get pretty lonely and having no-one to bounce ideas off can feel a little frustrating at times. Studio pets are great though and I’ve found it’s been really helpful to get out and see people too. Building up a network of friends and like-minded freelancers to meet up with, swap stories and experiences and even collaborate on projects and exhibitions with helps it feel a bit like you’re part of a bigger community.
- Time Management: You’re your own boss and if you want to get paid, you have to keep on track of your own time and put in the hours. Luckily there are ways to combat this, I’ve found tools such as Toggl really useful for keeping track of my time throughout the day and on different tasks and projects.
- Keep a record of your projects: It’s a great idea to keep a spreadsheet with all your jobs listed – it’ll help you keep track of clients, jobs, income and invoices, you could even add columns for time taken on a project, purchase order numbers, and any outgoings too. It’ll help you with your tax return at the end of the year, and make quoting for similar projects much easier.
- Manage your finances: Life as a freelancer is full of ups and downs, you’ll have a dry spell, wondering whether this is it, then several huge projects will come along at once. To make it easier on your finances, it’s a good idea to put some money aside during the good times, to see you through any rough patches. It’ll make it a much more bearable experience and you can get on with self-initiated work and self promotion without worrying too much about the next pay cheque.
- Creating extra income streams: A great way to use spare time is to work on creating extra income streams. Extra income streams support your freelance work and once set up, they can drip-feed you a bit of extra money every month. Examples include an online shop and selling prints and products, having products in local shops, teaching, tutoring, and creating stock imagery, eBooks, or resources.
- Create a routine: I’ve found it pretty hard to get set into a daily routine if I’m honest. BUT once I found one that worked for me, I found it a great way to make sure I get stuff done and make time for certain tasks. It means I start work at a reasonable time and stop work before having dinner. It also means I make time for a bit of downtime too.
- Downtime is important: It’s really important to take time out for yourself, to relax, unwind and generally take stock. You’ll feel better, happier and more inspired for it. I’ve struggled a fair bit with this, but over the past year or two, have realised that there’s more to life than work.
- Do some exercise: It makes you feel better, healthier, happier, more productive and it’s so easy not to do when you’re busy working from home. Last year, I got a Fitbit and realised how little I moved. I’ve since built going for walks (often taking a photo on the way as a little creative task) and doing a bit of exercise into my routine and have felt a lot healthier.
- Make time for personal work: It’s really important to make time to do some self-initiated stuff. It fuels your creativity, enables you to play, experiment and try out new ideas and ways of working. It can often lead to some of your best client jobs, and new ways of working can feed into client work too.
- Nurture client relationships: Clients are the lifeblood of your business and word of mouth counts for a lot. A lot of my newer clients have come from recommendations from existing ones, so it’s really important to make a good impression.
Earlier this year, I was approached by the lovely chaps at Creative Sign Co. to produce a visitor map of ‘Yesterday’s World’ – an attraction/museum based in the sunny seaside town of Gt Yarmouth. It’s a fab collection, showcasing old packaging, tradesman’s tools and lots of other weird and wonderful objects. They have a great display of old cameras and even an apothecary too.
Now the project is all finished, I thought it would be nice to share some of the process here.
After a couple of site visits, conversations and hundreds of reference photos, I got to work sketching out a plan of the building, the rooms and areas both upstairs and down, onto squared paper.
I altered the plan on both floors to accommodate the 3D nature of the map, ensuring all areas could still be seen. Once the detail was all roughed in, I scanned it and dropped the drawing into a rough indesign layout and sent it off for approval.
After a couple of inevitable tweaks, I was able to start inking up the final drawing. Using the lightbox I traced over the rough in ink, with crisp lines, adding in more detail as I went. Once inked the drawing was ready to be scanned again, imported into photoshop and coloured up digitally.
For the colouring, I used solid colour layers with vector masks for each of the large areas – the floor, walls etc. This makes the colours far easier to alter once it’s all coloured up. When the base colours are all down, I started painting in the detail, shading etc and when finally happy with it, I dropped it into the indesign layout again, and sent it off to the client for approval.
Once approved, I made the file ‘print ready’ and sent it off to the client.
It’s brilliant seeing the illustrations you’ve worked on in their final environment, in this case, printed as 2x massive panels, to be placed both inside and outside of the attraction, as well as on a printed map and as a downloadable file from their website. This was one of my favourite jobs so far and I had a lot of fun and learned a lot whilst doing it.
Although I had a couple of clients already set up, one of my major fears now was that they would stop giving me work for whatever reason. I was a tad worried about keeping all my eggs in the same basket. So I set about planning how to get some more. It started off gradually, but as the year has progressed, I’ve been gaining more clients. Mostly my enquiries have come through social media, chance meetings, and on the back of personal projects that I’ve undertaken. I feel pretty lucky that I’m yet to implement my plan… though it’s there, waiting, for when I need it.