Travel Guides

(Part 5/Words and pictures/Editorial illustration/Travel guides)

Exercise – Travel Guides

I have decided to approach this exercise differently. Usually I look at research until I feel I have seen enough then try random ideas and ‘wander’ along until something develops. This is fine sometimes but in a work situation there will be time constraints. I am going to plan this exercise before I start and then stick to it without wavering off the path too far (unless an unprecedented thought occurs to make me want to change it.

So my intention is to work on this exercise as follows:

1 Have a look at each city online and decide what are the 3 main attractions in each.

2 Choose one per city then look more closely at what I choose as my main attraction.

3 Check the Internet for guidebooks to these cities or countries noting the front covers (max 3 per

4 Make a note of the style of writing native to that place if there is one.

5 Acquire 3 photographs per attraction from the Internet.

6 Create a photomontage or an abstraction digitally of ideas, one per city.

7 Do some rough sketches of the proposed covers layouts creating a ‘house style’ whilst doing so
bear in mind that handwritten text needs to be incorporated into the finished cover.

8 Choose favoured designs and produce client visuals and one mock up (may be digital)

Note. When I am doing a commissioned painting for clients (usually of their house in its surroundings and usually 1.5m x 1m), I work almost entirely digitally only painting the final piece when clients are happy with the digital mock up. For this exercise, I will probably use the same path.

Rather than doing one city at a time, I am going to do all three in parallel as then I will be able to develop a ‘house style’ for the set of books.

Thinking back to the exercise we did to design a CD cover using an abstract design I am thinking along those lines for this exercise. Most travel brochures have pretty pictures on the cover so something different should stand out from the crowd. I will not necessarily be using music, however.

1 Istanbul

Hagia Sophia. The Hagia Sophia house of worship

Blue Mosque. The Blue Mosque, built in the early 17th century

Topkapi Palace. Topkapi Palace is one of the must-see attractions in Istanbul

2. Helsinki

Temppeliaukio Kirkko – Church of the Rock.

Suomenlinna – old sea fortress was built by the Swedes in the mid-18th century as protection from Russian invaders. The castle of Finland

Helsinki Cathedral – neoclassical Lutheran church, reminiscent of ancient Greek buildings, white columns and zinc statues.

3 Milan

Il Duomo (Milan Cathedral) The massive Cathedral of Santa Maria Nascente,

Bosco Verticale, Two very green residential towers cleaning the air in one of Europe’s most polluted cities

La Scala, Opera house

The above attractions are gleaned from a variety of websites advertising the cities. Istanbul and Helsinki seem to have similar lists in the websites, however, there are dozens and dozens of attraction in Milan and apart fro the great cathedral, they vary with the different guides. I have therefore decided to use the attraction which I personally would like to visit in each place, not necessarily the most famous one.

My Choices

Istanbul – the Blue Mosque. I have never seen it in reality but have heard of it many times over the years and can easily recognise it on an arial shot of Istanbul.

Helsinki – Suomenlinna, ‘the castle of Finland’. I have never heard of this but it is the prime attraction on most travel websites.

Milan – Bosco Verticale, a sight I would love to see. Again, I have not been to Milan but having a strong personal interest in all things horticultural, this would be my first place to visit.

The three choices are shown below:

Here are some other photos of my three chosen attractions. I am looking for photos which have interesting geometric shapes or those which may have suitable sections for abstraction.

At the moment, I am liking the shapes presented by the building of the Bosco Verticale with the contrasting lines of white concrete and the green shpheres created by the foliage.

There are many circles and elipses in the interior photos of the Blue Mosque and there is potential for pattern creation in the shapes of the outlines of the five island of the Suomenlinna.

I will consider these further now:

I took the picture of the Blue Mosque interior above and traced around all of the curves as shown below..

I then processed that blue rough sketch.

Here are 5 different patterns created using the kaleidoscope function on the computer starting with the curves I drew around the arches of the mosque interior.

I think these are suitable for arranging in an interesting manner to create a cover for the Istanbul brochure.

They have a certain Byzantine feel about them.

I have created a blue background and decided on the size and shape of the booklet. I have adopted the size and shape of the ‘Marco Polo’ travel guides (11x19cms).



This is the proposed cover pattern at actual size (as shown on an A4 page).

The design is subtle but, redolent of the patterns in Byzantine art and architecture. I would expect my audience to have the visual literacy to recognise this, possibly at a subconscious level.

The colours are shades of blue as the subject is the Blue Mosque.

I think I will consider White for the text on this page but will complete the other covers first as there needs to be some coherence if it is a series of books from one publisher.

Next we will consider the Helsinki cover.


Referring back to the page with my chosen images I intend to use the one of the island to create a pattern.


See right.


I want the shape of the Islands themselves to be the diagrammatic pattern for the Helsinki front page.

I have used a similar blue background to that on the Blue Mosque design to represent the sea around the islands. The colour of the land is a flat green. The islands here are featureless as I want the pattern snd shape to be the focus.

Left is a map of the islands.

Once again, I will leave the text for now until all three booklets are designed. I chose to base this image on the map rather than the photo as the shape this way round is more suited the to long portrait aspect of the cover and therefore a better balanced design.

Finally we turn to the last image for the project; the Bosco Verticale, my chosen attraction to advertise Milan.

This image which I took from the Internet is the one which I find inspiring with regard to an abstraction or a patterned image based on reality.

In this photo are both vertical and horizontal lies crossing at regular and irregular points.

Only three colours show on the building – a dark brown/black, a silver where the light is reflected in the windows and shade of green where the foliage occurs.

The pattern created by the building is pleasing and I see no value in altering that. However, I do want a stylised finished product so, although I can replicate the straight lines of the building I intend to use ellipses – possibly just circles for the trees, bushes and shrubs. In addition, I will use the three colours just mentioned for the building and three different greens for the foliage.

I have looked at a variety of possible sections to extract for my drawing and decided on this one (left above)

On the right is the geometric/diagrammatic pattern created by the building and the foliage.

I have done a quick tracing digitally to produce this. The colour is not relevant.

I will use this rough drawing to make a digital visual to match the other two, then, as required by the client, I will produce a further finished client visual with hand drawn lettering.

This is the ‘tidied up’ version of the pink sketch of the extracted section of the abstracted photo of the Bosco Vertinale. The visual literacy is readable, the design is very slightly disjointed in my opinion but that will be overcome with the colour which I will add next.

Here is the finished pattern coloured in the exact colours of the photograph. It is an interesting visualisation of the Bosca building. The contrasting white squares give a good balance to the design with reference to space and mass. There is movement as the eye flows down the various ‘trees’ which provide a rhythm to the design. In spite of the flat texture there is a suggestion of depth offered by the use of colour, particularly in the foliage.

Now I have my three covers I need to think about the lettering.
The clients had expressed a wish for hand-drawn titles. Nonetheless if this is to be a series of travel books for a particular publisher, their name and company details will be expected on the cover.

Here are some random travel booklets from my bookcase.

All have the series name and/or the publishing company details across the front in a banner style.

I think this is an essential convention used by this genre. We are stepping outside of convention by putting patterns rather than a pretty photo on the front cover but I think in order to identify with the travel-book section, there needs to be a banner strip.

I have called the books ‘The place to go guides’ and created a simple banner label for the Brand mark.

The final part to this exercise is to create the handwritten title which is just the name of the place.

Obviously the publisher doesn’t just want a hand-drawn version of an existing font as that would be both pointless and unnecessarily expensive in time.

1 There are several possibilities here. I could use my own handwriting which is unique to me and therefore not otherwise available and that could be the ‘house style’ and used on all publications as a recognised brand.

2 I could invent a new font to use on all the publications so again there is coherence in the series.

3 I could create different distinctive lettering for each individual book somehow using a visual grammar to indicate the location. This would indeed be expensive and time consuming. In addition, there could be problems identifying a place by its script.

There are scripts which are redolent of different countries Germany with ancient gothic, all Arabic countries with Arabic script, Chinese with China, Greece has it own lettering etc. There are many websites offering ‘Greekish’ or ‘Chinese-Ish’ font which can be obtained cheaply or even free.

I am asking myself why this publisher wants handwritten script over a diagrammatic image. There is a jarring contrast of style there unless the lettering is very angular and uses mathematical shapes once again to create a pleasing effect. I think a ‘soft’ loopy script would not really suit the hard shapes of the backgrounds. At the same time a hard crisp font might be too ‘stern’ for a holiday brochure which is supposed to be happy and relaxed. Perhaps a hard font done in ‘lazy’ sloping italics would better suit the situation.

I have experimented with some handwritten titles but am not inspired by any of them. It is pointless doing a detailed drawing of a traditional angular font as there are a million to download. It has to be personal/unique and casual to fit the brief.

So after much practising I have settled on a slightly uneven capital letter design. It certainly looks hand drawn so I guess will be acceptable. As it does not particularly summon up the identity of the country, then the style will be suitable for the whole series of books , subject to a conversation with the publisher.

This is a small selection of those drawn on the Wacom tablet. I have decided that the bottom one in the red column is the one I will use but probably with a slight bolder width.

The final job is to decide on a colour before working out the correct position.

I have taken the example from the selection of red words – all hand drawn on  the Wacom tablet and processed it in the computer.

I have created an organic shape to the letters which could suggest the branches of the trees and used a melee of the colours in the design. I then rendered it as 3D to contrast with the flat background.


Here is the finished Mock-up .

It is possible the publisher may want further text adding but I would expect that to be a standard digital font such as that used for the banner.

Possibly it would be appropriate to add Bosco Verticale near the bottom. A
point for final discussions.


On a personal level, I prefer something like this Umbra BT font as it has a  quirky architectural feel to it.

Obviously I could hand draw this but what would be the point? Discussion needed with the publisher.