If you’ve ever been to Sydney in January, then you’ll know that the Sydney Festival is a big deal. Running for almost the entire month, it brings together the very best in the arts from around Australia and the world – music, dance, performance and more. So I was more than a little bit excited when I was commissioned to produce this thematic “route map” of highlighted events, to be used both online and in the Festival’s printed program/brochure.
While the Festival had produced a route map along similar lines in 2014 (left), they were looking to improve upon it and tie it in a little more with their overall branding, so they reached out to me for assistance. My original connection to Sydney certainly helped me get the job, I think!
The brief was quite open – I was given the branding colour palette (which is modern and bold, very appropriate for transit map design!), the fonts to use (Helvetica Neue Condensed), and an Excel spreadsheet of the “route lines” and “stops” with some required “interchange stations” noted. The order of the rest of the stations was left up to me – whatever was needed to make things fit nicely onto the required paper size (296 x 190mm, a little smaller than an A4 sheet).
It only took me a very few preliminary sketches to work out exactly what I wanted to do. The Festival Express line was described as the “essential selection”, so it made perfect sense for it to be a circle line, joining and linking all the other lines. This line had ten stations, with seven of these interchanging with other lines. I spaced these stations evenly around the circle, with an angle of 36 degrees between each one (360°/10 = 36°). This led to the first major design problem that I had to solve – getting these equally spaced stations in the right position so that I could use standard 45-degree route line angles for the rest of the map. Fortunately, this was solved easily by simply rotating all the stations nine degrees clockwise around the circle (36 + 9 = 45), as seen in the following GIF:
Now that the central circle was defined, I could use it and the “key station” as shown above in pink to help define a solid grid to build the rest of the diagram. It’s easier to show this in an image than it is to describe it:
Of course, the final placement of all the route lines was a bit more of a “trial by error” process than this, but the grid was instrumental in helping me make decisions! I also used the grid for the initial placement of station markers, although these were often moved around a bit to fit some longer event names in.
The previous route map had placed each event’s relevant page number from the printed program inside the station circles, which made them quite small and difficult to read. I moved them off the route lines and into colour-coded boxes next to the station labels. I had a bit of fun at interchanges, where the outline of the box becomes a gradient between the two or three colours of the intersecting route lines.
The map only went through a couple of iterations before being signed off on and accepted by the Festival, more than a week ahead of schedule. Personally, I really couldn’t be happier with the final result, and the client absolutely loves it as well.
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