Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Travel Guidebook Redesign Case Study pt 3

In 2004, I was given the task to do a complete redesign of the famous Sanborn's Travelog guidebooks. In my first article, I wrote about the projects problem areas and my proposed solutions. In my previous article, I discussed the cover redesign process. In this article, I will go over the books’ revised structure and page layout design.

My page layout design
The first major change in each Travelog guidebook was to restructure the content. This was a long and arduous project in itself. Sanborn’s guidebooks are a mile-by-mile description that takes the reader by the hand and leads him from Point A to Point B. It reads as if the author is the co-pilot, telling the driver to turn right or left after x-number of blocks. Each “log” mentions stores, restaurants and other landmarks the driver will come across along the way. The original structure caused the reader to flip from front to back, to front over and over again. It started each log at the center of each city and spread out, like a spider web, to the center of each adjoining city, and then continued to the next adjoining cities. The process went on and on until the region each book covered was complete. I restructured the content to follow the most common routes used to travel from each U.S. border crossing, to the heart of Mexico City. All the books heading further south would pick up several routes from the “northern books” and lead to the border crossing with Central America. To do this, I immersed myself for several weeks in Mexico maps and of course the Sanborn’s guidebooks. Restructuring the content, reduced the number of page flips the reader had to do, since now you could follow the main routes from the front of the book to the center of the book in order. When you wanted to go from East to West, you could start from the center of the book to the back. I also eliminated many unnecessary entries and updated thousands of hotel and restaurant contact information.

My map design
The second major change I made that would greatly benefit the reader, was to add a column on the outer edge of each page that contains driving instructions. This column was used to highlight specific notes and memos, as well as leave empty space for the traveler to make his own notations. On the original book design, all the notes and memos were placed within the same body text as the driving instructions and only one page was left at the end of the book to write down personal notes. The real beauty of adding this column was that it did not add any more pages to the book, and it added a great useful feature to the guidebooks. Since I was redesigning everything else, I took the time to also redraw 20+ maps per book of various cities, routes and archeological sites, using Adobe Illustrator.

My inside cover design
Another change I implemented to the interior of each book was to utilize the inside cover. I used the inside cover to house conversion tables that would come in handy for U.S. drivers not familiar with Mexico’s metric units of measures, such as miles-to-kilometers and gallons-to­-liters. Doing this helped to reduce print cost and paper waste, as the original inside book covers were left blank and the conversion tables were provided to customers on separate printed cards.

To help entice the reader to travel more, I added several articles at the end of each book that would feature interesting vacation alternatives, such as eco-tourism in a cloud forest or whale watching off the coast of Baja California. Other helpful resources added to each book were common English-to-Spanish translations and a visual directory of common road signs in Mexico.

It took months to redesign each 200+ page book from top to bottom. The entire redesign process consisted of restructuring travel log segments, drawing maps, editing the entire book, and redesigning the layout and cover art.  I also poured through thousands of images and related travel articles to complete each book. Although I had constant feed back from Sanborn’s president and managers, most of the time it felt that I was a one man Editor/Art Director/Graphic Designer.