Category Archives: Exercise – Travel guides

Exercise: Travel guides

Your brief is to produce three illustrations for a series of books jackets, at the size of an existing travel guide, for the locations Istanbul, Helsinki and Milan.
The client would like you to create illustrations in which many elements are brought together in a diagrammatic way. They would also like the type to be hand-drawn in an appropriate style.

In this exercise I am to create a brief and produce client visuals for all three cities and one complete mock-up of the travel guide.

The client’s request for a ‘diagrammatic’ approach is interesting because it suggests a map – locations in the city – that are presented as destinations and precludes using a synecdoche – such as Milan Cathedral – to stand for the city. It can be one of the elements though.

There may be other diagrammatic representations than a map… such as

  • The flow of goods – showing things that move around the city from one person at another, traveller to trader to tourist etc
  • Relationship to other cities or places nearby… not necessarily as a map, could be schematic rather than to scale.
  • Historical events – showing what led to it being the place that it is today.

The hand-drawn type is also interesting because it may require integrating into the overall illustration, rather than standing apart from it. The ‘map’ solution could probably feature writing as part of its style – place names or other information – and the historical approach may require dates.




Helsinki rates very highly on the most livable cities scale as devised by the Economist Intelligence Unit. They rank places to live based on…

  • Stability
  • Healthcare
  • Culture and environment
  • Education
  • Infrastructure




Istambul (despite my initial bland notes here) is full of colour – the grand bazaar (which featured prominently in the James Bond movie Skyfall) is a huge indoor market incorporating mosques of staggering beauty.

It also sits at a very significant place straddling the Bosphorus Strait which marks the divide between the continents of Europe and Asia.

Aniconism occurred to me… in the strictest sense this Islamic proscription applies to any living creature including Humans. I wondered if a guide book that had a sacrilegious cover was wise! Carrying something like that around in Istambul might be egregious for the owner.


…is a city steeped in western history and culture. The financial centre of Italy in the far north of the country. From atop the cathedral (where they have concerts!) you can see a 180 degree view of the alps on (over) the horizon. Da Vinci’s last supper mural is in a State Museum (part of a church).


Very hard!

I’m finding this exercise very hard… why is that? I seem to be stuck trying to understand these locations – what makes them attractive to travellers? what kind of things would ‘the city’ want to show off about and which things do travellers think to be important about a city? All of these questions I  feel unable to answer or understand. I’m not a traveller myself – I find city destinations really strange because I have never felt like I’ve connected with a city unless I work in it, and even then it’s tenuous.

So what do people connect with?

This is the kind of research that I’ve found works best for me – discard all the obvious stuff and find a questions that gives me a start point to work it all out from scratch.

People connect with:

  • Local foods
  • Stunning architecture
  • Artworks (one-offs like the Mona Lisa for instance, or Eiffel Tower), Museums
  • Shopping
  • Cute, local traditions like second-hand booksellers by the Seine (and now by the Thames)
  • Birthplaces and Death-places
  • Shows
  • Historical sites

What is a diagrammatic approach? My first thought was a map… any of the above items could go on a map one way or another.





That’s what I’m going with then.




  1. Collect items in visual form that are associated with each location (Partly done)
  2. Decide the format of the book that I’m using
  3. Make a maps of the location… not too literal… what are the principal points?
  4. Make an arrangement of the items to go on a map of the place
  5. Refine map
  6. Draw client visuals
  7. Make a mock-up