Author Archives: ruthtavistock

Directional signage

‘Developing effective signage requires a number of things: understanding what information is required, finding a suitable way of displaying it, and finding the best place to locate it. With this in mind, think about how you’d create a series of signs to direct tourists from a local landmark to cafés in the area and to transport networks such as the nearest bus stop or train station. Use your own location or experience of being a tourist to site this exercise. What information do you need to put on your signs? How many different signs do you need and where will you put them? Think about tourists wanting to go to the landmark as well as needing to know how to get back again.’

I found this article on the MSD website – a company that specialises in way finding and signage systems…

These comments were particularly useful:

“Good wayfinding signage can make use of more innovative directional cues; the use of colours to guide, as well as shapes, symbols and even lighting can help to make a wayfinding scheme more engaging – and thus more effective. An effective method is creating a wayfinding system around a focal point or landmark, directing people towards this ’beacon’ before sending them onwards to their destination”. – Roddy Strang

I would guess that consistency is important too, so we can quickly recognise signage which is part of a group of information. I also think that visibility is about context. That is whether the signage is mean to be read by tourists moving on foot, mobility scooter and bike, or mostly by car. Obviously if the reader has time and room to linger near the sign, more information can be included.

Here’s some examples of signage – detailed maps are clearly meant for pedestrians.

Its also interesting to note the variety of materials – this wooden sign is really attractive and suits the landscape

Standard wooden sign

More urban looking signage – the black and white stand out really well, as does the information repeated from different angles

A really eye catching shape – you are instantly drawn to this unusual sign.

Pretty, but confusing (to my eye?) not sure why the decorative tile has to compete with the map?

Clear signage – reversed out in a very readable typeface… Perhaps the symbols are a little small?

A map (yup)

Very smart signage, listing all the information you might need.I like the combination of matt and gloss, it look tactile.

Interesting shaped sign. Note the colour on the under side.

This brown is of course the standard colour for local tourist information in the UK

I think there are some graphic design firms that specialise in signage for specific sub sectors – for example nature reserves and rural businesses. Im sure I stumbled across a company offering this – but I can’t remember the name (sorry!)

I took a screen shot from google (which Im probably not allowed to do but I wasn’t sure how else to do this) in order to plot the suggested locations of my signage.

I made a note of the things people would most likely want to find – e.g. the beach, food and drink etc, parking, medical help…then where people would be going to and from. I marked the location and content of my suggested signs below…

My Directional Signage

There is no train service here but I do apologise that I haven’t mentioned buses! Frankly once you are in the village it would be impossible to get lost anyway!!

Yes, I know Im being flippant.



New Leaf book store

‘A large second-hand bookshop that occupies an old Victorian terrace wants you to create a three-dimensional diagram of their store to help customers find their way around. The shop is spread over four floors: bargains and a children’s section in the basement; novels, art books, antiquarian items and new stock on the ground floor (where the main entrance is located); philosophy, poetry, literary criticism and theory on the first floor; world and local history on the top floor. The shop owner is aware that online rivals have the benefit of search engines to help customers find what they want, so welcomes any creative ideas you have to help find alternative solutions for customers seeking specific titles.

Think about the various levels within your diagram: the four floors, the sections within them, and the various book cabinets and shelves within the sections. Choose an appropriate form of three-dimensional representation to present the information you’ve been given.’

Some lovely examples of independent bookshops…

I couldn’t find much inspiration for bookshop sing, but there was some great inspiration from looking at how libraries signpost areas.

This is great, colourful, clear, and makes brilliant use of the wall, and the available 3 D space.

Stylish and simple – very clever

As you can see this is an art shop – but i imagine the outside of our fictional book shop could look something like this? Its quirky and fun, and appears to be random but its well thought out

I also found some good ideas for section dividers. The animal silhouettes are perfect for children. The red dividers could of course be colour coded by section

The divider projecting further than the books obviously allows room for the viewer to see a section title, or how about genres appearing vertically on the book cases? It would of course depend on the layout.

How to find specific book titles – some ideas. I think it would probably have to involve something digital, as the book shop would have their titles on a database

Again, this is taken from a library, but if you are wanting to prompt customers to ask a member of staff, this sort of sign is very clear!

Why not signpost a search hub somewhere in the shop? Something similar to this?

Or what about an intercom system (perhaps in the shape of a novelty phone)  to ask the staff on another floor if a person wants further advice and assistance?!

Next job was to research isometric drawing – which Ive never done before. Luckily I had the opportunity to ask my lovely helpful cousin David. He uses £20,000 software everyday at work to produce complex engineering drawings. These can be rotated in 3D to any angle you wish. He really kindly offered to draw up anything I needed!! But that would be cheating…Sadly.

He also confirmed that a 30 degree is the standard for technical drawing, and as he never uses 45 degrees, I went with his recommendation.

Firstly I created a grid in Illustrator, which was relatively straight forward. I printed off a copy, to help with my roughs.

I worked out a general plan with pencil and paper

Ive managed to accidentally chop off the bottom of this! but you get the idea…

Next I used Illustrator to work up my images and make some changes to fix things up. The grid made me go cross eyed but it was very helpful…

I decided to take my floors up in a diagonal

I worked out a colour scheme and added the information needed.

Here it is!

New Leaf BookShop Isometric Diagram

You could also vary to diagram to emphasise each floor

I hope the colour scheme would give scope for further signposting within the shop, with larger signage to match this colour coding system.

Um. Is it OK to say Im quite pleased with this??



Intro to Isometric Drawing

Making an Isometric Grid

What is an Isometric Drawing?

Isometric Projection

Isometric Drawing & Designers (including exploded views)

Working with Orthographic Projections and Basic Isometrics–vector-893

From source to sale

‘Given the global dimension of much of our food production and processing, food miles have become a way of assessing the environmental impact of our eating habits. A campaigning organisation wants to draw attention to food miles and the excessive distances the ingredients of a fruit salad on offer in a UK supermarket have travelled. They ask you to develop a linear diagram that plots each of its ingredients from farm to transport depot to processing factory to supermarket. For this campaigning tool you’ll need to think about how to prioritise the information to show distances travelled as well as the diversity of locations and stops along the way.

Distances are as the crow flies and have been calculated using Organic Linker’s Food Miles calculator:

Your fruit salad contains:

1 Bananas from Costa Rica – 5,424 miles (8727km)
2 Strawberries from US – 3,666 miles (5898km)
3 Grapes from Egypt – 2,181 miles (3510km)
4 Apples from New Zealand – 11,690 miles (18809km)
5 Oranges from Morocco – 1,254 miles (2018km)
6 Pineapples from Ghana – 3,176 miles (5110km)
7 Sugar cane picked in Jamaica and sent to Germany for processing – 4,683 miles (7535km) – before going to London 578 miles (929km).

The salad was made and packaged in a factory outside London before being driven to depots in Manchester, Cardiff, Birmingham and Glasgow, and from there to shops all over the country.

Create a design that either deals with a specific ingredient or provides an overview of where all the elements come from. As a campaigning tool, your designs need to be eye-catching as well as presenting key information. The client wants people to be shocked by the vast distance this food has travelled but doesn’t want to be accused of making false claims – so stick to the facts.’

I had a look at how the subject of food miles has been tackled. As it is a serious subject, you can see that this is a crisp and stylish chart in keeping with the subject

Combining photography and infographic style information – I think this is highly effective

Digital infogrpahic style crisp and informative

Very little text in the first image, more text heavy in the second – depends on how long you think your viewer is going to spend looking at the images

Super sleek eh.

An accurately rendered graph – livened up by lovely use of colour

I began with a good old brain storm

Having seem all these highly polished visuals, I actually felt like a change. Its tempting to produce endless vector graphics, but I wanted to try something by hand.

Here are my roughs…I was thinking about whether to use straight lines to shape each distance – but if they don’t converge, is it possible to show where they will arrive?

Focusing on one type of fruit

Flags? Signposts showing milage??

Exploded view of London

Hmm..straight lines….

This is one of my favourites, but Im not sure I was allowed such wiggly travel lines – the data says as the crow flies?!

I would need to rotate the British Isles to sit below….this has potential

Converging lines…I was getting a bit bogged down as to how to show what happens once the fruit reaches the UK. Heres three maps, showing travel stages


I decided this was the design I wanted to work up. here it is in progress

I then got a bit stuck as to what blurb to include. My hand lettering became really scruffy scrawl and I forgot that you really need to use hand or digital lettering – it really looks off to combine the two.

I originally scanned my image, but it turned the paint colour from purple to pink (not shown), so I hauled out my camera, turned it to manual to have maximum control and was able to get a reasonable copy…

I then wasted a lot of time fiddling about digitally and getting nowhere.

Then scrawled some more, re-photographing it here

In the end after yet more fussing about, I decided to simplify to the bare essentials. I quite liked the idea of producing something that is rather scruffy and very different from the examples I found. I suspect this would need to be a lot more polished for an actual client of course!

I think I have gone too far with paring things down and not really addressed the brief. I have reached ‘arrrrgh’ stage with overthinking this. Sometimes you spend hours and hours on a project, and it doesn’t necessarily show.

So. Here’s where Im stopping in order to preserve sanity…Not my best, but I tried.

 Food Miles

Note to self maybe don’t attempt to hand render anything until I have actually worked out ALL aspects of the design!!


Research Point: Maps

‘Reflect on a range of maps, both static and portable, that represent the physical world in different ways. What information has been prioritised and what has been left out? How does this change your understanding of the map? Can you suggest ways of counterbalancing any bias or making it easier for a user to access information?


Unfortunately this link doesn’t appear to work – and I couldn’t get access via the British Library website, even when I manually found the page. Frustrating.

On searching elsewhere, I learnt that early forms of cartography are very old – dating back to Babylonian times. Im also amazed to read that the ancient Greeks were familiar with the idea of a spherical earth.

Ptolemy (approx A.D. 85-165) produced a series of world maps. His work was picked up and reproduced in the 1300s

Old maps are incredible;  they remind us just how mysterious the world was, and yet how vitally important any accurate information was for shipping, trade routes, conquest and sheer survival.

Maps were sometimes blended with spiritual or metaphysical concepts, and physical accuracy wasn’t always the main intention.

What information is prioritised, depends on the main usage of the map. Maps can be political, economic, topographic, thematic or climate based.

A thematic map – displaying specialist information

We are familiar with modern day maps that are produced as rail routes, road maps, and ordinance survey maps, showing footpaths, bridleways and the type of ground underfoot. A lot of detail requires a large amount of information per square inch. I have never flown a plane (!) but I’ve been told 25 years ago navigation of light aircraft largely involved looking at maps, and actually following large landmarks such as rivers and roads by eye!

The digital age obviously now allows us to use sat nav and google earth, which moves away from static maps.

Can you suggest ways of counterbalancing any bias or making it easier for a user to access information?

I find this difficult to answer, as I’m pretty sure folk far more knowledgeable than me have given this a lot of thought already. It seems to me that digital maps are already extremely accessible…Though when it comes to sat nav, I think we can all agree there is room for improvement. Maybe voice recognition software so we can talk back to them and point out we are now stuck in a tiny lane with a tractor parked across it and the previous road sent us through a cow shed??

The most obvious form of bias I can think of is of course the world map, first made in 1569 by the Flemish cartographer Gerardus Mercator

Gall-Peters projection – showing a more accurate view than traditional maps

Step-by-step guides

‘A high street hardware store is developing a series of instructional guides to help their customers with some basic DIY skills. The client wants them to be accessible and easy to use for a non-specialist audience – so, for example, they mustn’t be too visually cluttered.

Develop a step-by-step guide for a DIY task you’re familiar with, such as preparing and painting walls, measuring and replacing soft furnishings, or putting together flat-pack furniture. Your guide can be based in the home or garden and should describe the activity from start to finish.’

When looking for good examples of technical illustration I found the website Planet Illustration by Adrian Cartwright. The following examples are taken from his site. I feel they show a high level of technical ability.

Although printing in colour would cost more money, the use of colour really enhances these images, and I personally find them more engaging.

In this first image, I like the use of shading and the impression of glass. It combines just the right amount of realism with and accurate rendering of the relevant point of focus.

There are many points labelled here, but unity is achieved with the consistant use of angled  lines with the horizontal tips that leads us to the text.

Very crisp, yet there is the addition of ‘fabric lines’ to show us these are medical  gloves

Cut away of insulation – just the right amount of detail

As I mentioned in the previous post, this is a very skilled and specialist area. I really admire the execution, its beautifully done. If someone else could work out the steps for me, and what to show, I’d be happy to have a go at representing it. I just hate the preparation, it feels really tedious thinking about tasks in sequence. Maybe I could do one about paint drying?

Ikea do really cute instructions, which is rather refreshing…  (Have other companies copied this style? I don’t know) But I know an Illustrator who has…

… Ed Harrington Ikea style instructions for building monsters (and now I’m back in my comfort zone) Sigh.

So. What to do? Here (for what its worth) is my brain stormy moment. Not sure you will be able to read my scrawl, but I chose putting up shelves.

There are plenty of videos online that describe the process of putting up floating shelves, which serves as a starting point for my instructions. I took screen shoots to help me think about what needs to be shown, and made notes. ( have injured my thumb, hence the really extra scruffy writing)

From these images I could then think about how a video stills could translate to clear visual information – what to include and what to discard.

My Roughs

Here you can see Im working out what to show and how to show it. I decided against a hand scanning a wall, as the scanners come in quite a variety of shapes and sizes, so there is no generic representation.

It became clear that some exploded views would help. I was also trying to think how to show underneath the shelf

Also the metal rack slots into the shelf that covers it – dotted lines seemed to be the way to show this

This was my first version of a drill bit, using a 90% repeated transform. Its not very neat and when looking carefully at a drill bit, it doesn’t actually taper until the very tip

I got a bit stuck with how to render cylinders – using the pen or with 3D effects?

I considered adapting a ready made pencil from the symbols panel but I don’t think it ready suits this project

It became clear that the images only looked really crisp if I drew them entirely inside Illustrator. Any hand drawn aspects, however subtle, just don’t look polished enough for this type of project.

I spent time building all the images I needed, then made a new document and transferred each image in sequence. The layout evolved fairly logically on the computer screen along with a bit of blurb I wrote along the way. Next is the final result…

How to Build a Floating Shelf


I liked the technical drawing aspect of this task, it was challenging as I’ve never done any on computer, I really would have loved to have someone in the room with me who knows about  this stuff!

As I said, it was the planning I couldn’t stand.

When my friend Caroline was training in Equine Science, she had to do gait analysis (length of stride, rhythm & timing of movement of individual horses as a statistical outcome) Its highly technical, and I don’t think I could grasp it very well. But I would happily illustrate the sequence of leg movements in a horse, as its a great subject I’m naturally inclined towards.

In contrast it just feels VERY tedious to analyse things step by step for shelving. Its probably because the subject isn’t that interesting. Please don’t ask me how I empty the dishwasher either. Bloody hell! I just do. OK!!!’

Household instructions

‘A manufacturer of household appliances wants you to develop a new instruction guide for one of their products that describes its various components and their functions as well as providing basic instructions on use. For example, if you choose to produce instructions for a vacuum cleaner, you’ll need to represent the parts of the machine as well as explaining how to empty it or recoil the lead. Identify any safety elements you need to include in your diagram and use standard visual formats to portray them.

Think about how your user will know what each component is, how you describe any movements within the instructions, and the role typography plays within your instructions. It doesn’t matter if you’re not a confident illustrator; this task isn’t about drawing accurately, but about how you choose to present information. Illustration is just one option; you might want to use photography or explore alternative ways of communicating your instructions.’

I have been putting off this task, as I’m struggling with the brief. Its really, really boring. When friends have asked me how this course is going, and I’ve mentioned instructional manuals, they laugh. Why do they laugh? Because its so boring. Now I know this must be an area some people specialise in, and as an illustration challenge it would be a good one, as diagrams have to be spot on. But as a general task. Ugh.

I just have to get that off my chest first.

Then I had a look at my stash of instruction manuals.

What is immediately noticeable about instruction manuals is the following:

They are usually in black and white

They are not eye catching or particularly visually appealing

They usually have a contents page

They use either photographic representation or drawings (not both)

They may use hands or arrows to show an action

They usually present step by step stages

This electric shower manual contains highly detailed diagrams as some of it is concerned with installation. However the main panel is easy enough to understand. Note: no arrows or hands!

You can see that the diagrams maintain a consistent angle on the same page…On the other you can see another technique – the relevant part is depicted in a deeper grey. This is a common convention – using tone to draw our attention to certain parts.

Look! A thumb! Its the only one in the whole booklet.

A combi boiler

Exploded views. Crikey!! Complicated eh. The arrows very clearly show the result of turning in each direction with the use of a plus and minus sign.

Dvd player – again using tone for emphasis. In real life the dvd player is black, but the less relevant parts are left pale. The cables double as arrows


Here the action is indicated by arrows


Of course we instantly understand the crosses are things we should avoid, and again directional arrows show us we should rotate the knob.

I chose to look at my toaster. I set up my tripod and used the camera to take a variety of photos, then I thought I would select the ones that would best show the action. Graphic designer John McWade ( comments that its best practice to place hands in a slightly artificial gesture to best show what if being done. I did my best to do this with my hands!

From this I selected the images that best ‘told the story’ baring in mind I could always crop the pictures to focus on the most relevant part. I should have made sketches on paper but I didn’t (sorry). You can probably detect a certain amount of impatience to get this done!!

I arranged the images in Illustrator and used a boring typeface (no frills here)

There were a few things to consider – here I’ve experimented with layout but decided the images do not need to fill the page. Especially as there is excess information in the images.

Also, what size to make a cross for the stuff you shouldn’t do? I chose the smaller one so you can more easily see the image below.

Instruction Manual for a Toaster

Done. Ugh, Don’t ask me to analyse this. I can’t stand any more.




Essential ingredients

‘A research publication is running an article on our changing relationship to cooking in the home and what we consider essential ingredients. Researchers took a snapshot of what people had in their fridges and compared it to what people thought they would make with these ingredients. They were interested in looking at the kinds of foodstuffs we cook with, our reliance on pre-prepared food, and whether our attitudes to cooking are changing.

Using your own fridge’s content as a starting point, create a graphic representation that shows the relationship between the various ingredients. For example you’ll probably use milk for making tea or coffee. You might use butter, mustard and cheese for making sandwiches. And you’ll need all of these ingredients if you make a cheese sauce. How can you use Venn or Euler diagrams and/or the Isotype system to plot this graphically?

Don’t forget that this is a graphic design task not a maths exam, so be playful and visual in your approach.

You may want to do your own research into these three important representational systems before you start work on this exercise. Make notes in your learning log.’



Euler diagrams, Eulerian circles and Euler’s constant are named for Swiss mathematician Leonhard Euler (1707–1783)

The overlapping shapes are most commonly square, but not always

Cartoon Venn diagram by Randall Munroe

Isotype – International system of typographic picture education. NB My laptop keeps correcting the spelling to Isotope, which is of course something scientific and entirely unrelated!

Otto & Marie Neurath

As the title below suggests, we humans have used pictograms for a very long time (though I think the sometimes the picture suggested ‘vowel’ sounds) Modern Isotypes were of course meant to transcend language.

1964 Olympics – oh these are gorgeous!

I do find these images appealing – they are distilled down just like logos



Isotypes are entirely different from Venn and Euler diagrams, and as such I found the brief a bit confusing. The former identifies and shows quantities, the latter two relationships.

Exploring ideas

I considered developing a range of little food icons (or isotypes) based on the contents of my fridge – here’s some roughs

Thinking about recipes and relationships…

And considering diagrams

Having worked on my roughs, I decided that the brief was more about connections between food and how its used, so I decided to have a stab at some diagrams. This is a little out of my comfort zone as I would more happily develop little pictures/icons/isotypes all day long!

I started with some basic items, setting my fill to multiply to allow the overlapping colours to ‘make themselves’. We were told this isn’t a maths exercise – so I started creating offshoots (consequently this isn’t a proper Venn diagram) I simply used my notes to pick the relevant ingredients, and shuffled a bit until I was happy.

But how to connect the satellites? What kind of line? How informal should I be?

Like this?

I decided on straight lines to connect the extra circles. Here’s my first completed diagram. Some of the text is a little dark, later I tweaked it and the colours of the connecting lines to give a better sense of unity.

I wanted to add a second diagram – this time using the live paint tool (just to explore methods of building in Illustrator)

This is my nod to Euler. The typeface is Over The Rainbow (nice and informal)

(And I scrawled a little person with the brush tool because the brief said we could be playful so I had a bit of fun)

Here they are:

Essential Ingredients


I enjoyed using some bright colours, and putting this together. Maths is not my strong point so I was glad we weren’t asked to be very technical.

If I had gone for Isotopes instead Im not sure how I would have used them? They often appear on graphs and Im not clear what a graph would say on this subject?

I think this went OK – Im not sure if I have gone in the best direction, but its alright?!