Things to Consider when Creating Illustrated Visitor Maps 

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.

Visual reference

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.

Conkers map visit

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.

Conkers map visit

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.

Conkers map visit

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.

Conkers map visit

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.

Conkers map visit

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

Illustrating a new map for Norwich Cathedral Quarter

Earlier this year I was approached by the Norwich Cathedral marketing department to illustrate a new map to help them promote the historic ‘Cathedral Quarter’ and an upcoming series of free, themed walking tours to take place in the area.

It was a great chance to have a play about with different styles of map illustration. So far the majority of my maps have involved pen, ink and watercolour, then once painted, are scanned and finished digitally. However the deadline was tight for this project so we decided to go for a simple, digital, icon based approach.

A couple of years ago, I designed an illustrated map depicting ‘Nelson’s Norfolk’. Although each part was painted individually in watercolour, then scanned and put together in Photoshop, I adopted a similar approach this time (albeit digitally) by illustrating the elements separately and dropping them onto the base image.

First of all, I worked alongside the Cathedral Quarter team to decide which of the many important buildings to depict as illustrated icons to appear across the map.

Once these were decided, I took some time to walk around the area and take reference photos of the key buildings. I then set about producing a basic roadmap framework and drawing rough illustrations of the icons, alongside a sample icon style to be approved before finalising the remainder of the map icons.

The map had to be fun and visually appealing, as well as informative, so we agreed to add in some walkers on some of the footpaths, some cycles in the new Tombland cycle lanes, busses where the major bus stops are and cars on the busiest roads.

After a few amends and the addition of road names, labels and a title, it was sent off to print and added to the website: Cathedral Walks Website

A week or so later, the organisers of the walks and I gathered at Fye Bridge for a press release and to have our photo taken with a giant copy of the map to go in the local press.

The tours proved hugely popular and all booked up within days. Here’s hoping they do some more!

The Making of GoGoDennis

This Summer, Norwich will be taken over by a blaze of 84 huge Dragons sculptures – the GoGoDragons. A follow on from the gorillas of 2013 and the elephants before that. 

GoGoDragons is an interactive art trail organised by Break charity (You can see their website and the excellent work they do here) and Wild in Art. Each sculpture is sponsored by a local company, and painted by a local (and sometimes not so local) artist. The sculptures all have Bluetooth sensors in them, so with the help of an app, you can complete the trail using a smartphone. You can also fill in the trail map and send it off the old-skool way to win a pair of flights from KLM. You can download the trail map here, or pick one up from the Forum, or Jarrolds.

My world map design was sponsored by Konectbus and Anglianbuses, and was inspired by medieval maps and the monsters who inhabited them. 

Continue reading “The Making of GoGoDennis”

Autumn Clutter City and Winter craft market preparations.

On September 28th, I took part in the Autumn edition of Clutter City, a local craft market held at Norwich Arts Centre. It was a fab day, and I met some lovely people, Including the super-talented Kellee Rich, and Deerly Beloved Bakery, with their tasty cakes. 
I took along a fair bit of new stock: a good few of my new little notebooks, – Mushrooms designs and Norwich themed ones – as well as a new, improved stand setup.

For a couple of weeks beforehand, I’d been preparing some screenprints of my Norwich Illustrated map down at the Stew gallery and print rooms. It’s the first time in about 7 years I’ve done any proper  screen printing. I had a brilliant time, and learned a lot. I’m definitely going to go back and do some more work down at Stew. It’s a brilliant resource for local artists and printmakers.

I’ve also been accepted for several local craft markets in the run up to christmas. 
• Sat 26th Oct – Pottergate Crafts – Rackheath Holy Trinity 
• Sun 17th Nov – Pottergate Crafts – Costessey Centre
• Sat 23th Nov – Thorpe Christmas Fair
• Fri 6th Dec – Castle craft fair
• Sat 7th Dec – Norwich Makers 
• Sun 15th Dec – Pottergate Crafts – Costessey Centre
The Courtyard garden centre cafe is also stocking a selection of my earrings too. 
I’m currently working on some new stock, and should have some new screenprints, cards, notebooks and earrings for sale soon.

‘Yesterday’s World’ Map – Behind the scenes.

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.

Once both floors were planned out, with everything lining up, I transferred the drawing onto isometric paper, where I started working upwards, plotting in the walls and walkways and making sure the map was clear and easy to read. 

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.

The final project can be seen over in my Behance portfolio HERE