Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Travel Guidebook Redesign Case Study, part 1

In 2004, I was given the task to do a complete redesign of the famous Sanborn's Travelog guidebooks. This redesign project would include covers, log entry structure and content layout. In this article, I will discuss the project’s problem areas, the research and the solutions I proposed. In my next article I will discuss, in more detail, my cover design and page layout.
Previous cover design
My cover design
Guidebook background:
The Sanborn’s Travelog is a famous series of six guidebooks that cover all of Mexico with incredibly detailed directions along with tidbits of history and humor. These mile-by-mile guidebooks take the traveler by the hand to his destination. Each book calculates mileage and offers suggestions for alternate routes, as well as lists customer approved hotels and restaurants.

The Problem:
The latest guidebook covers were designed in the early 1990s and had not been updated in any way. All covers had the same unattractive color combination, stale design and outdated logo. The only thing that distinguished one book cover from another, aside from the title, was a large map highlighting the books’ target region. The interior pages had little to no design elements, other than maps, which made the reading experience a bit bland. Also, the structure of the log entries were difficult to follow because they repeatedly jumped from the front of the book to the back, then to the front again.

The Research:
I spent several afternoons at bookstores watching anyone that approached the Travel section. I wrote down their gender and approximate age. At the end, I looked over each book and map that was picked up by, what appeared to be, seasoned travelers. Afterwards, I looked over other guidebooks that also grabbed my attention. I studied the front covers and noted images and color combinations. I also made many notes on features within the interior pages of all those books. To this I added several hours of online research, and at the end compiled all my notes and presented them to the president and managers of Sanborn’s Mexico Insurance.

The Solution:
The log entries would be restructured to follow known travel routes, where before they spread out from the center of each city. This would eliminate much of the traveler’s frustrations with repeatedly jumping from one end of the book to the other, than back again. Also, the interior pages would feature a side bar to clearly show where additional information would be featured and to also provide travelers with an area where they could jot down their own notes as they followed the routes, instead of flipping to the end of the book for a Notes section. The cover design would feature a large image showing a well-known destination, landmark or activity. I proposed that the cover background be a textured image that would represent the region each book was dedicated to. The map of the region would be moved to the back cover and made much smaller. It would show the routes that the individual book would follow. Each book would also contain plenty of extras, such as maps, featured articles, redesigned hotel and restaurant information, unit conversions and English-to-Spanish translations.

This guidebook redesign project took approximately one year to complete. In my next article I will go into more detail about my cover design and page layout.

Thank you,
Pete C.

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