Exercise: Giving instructions

Exercise: Giving instructions

The most reliable and universal way to give directions is through a map. In most cases visual communication is really effective, quickly understandable and it crosses the limits of the spoken language, that can be sometimes a barrier.

I found a very useful reference book, On the Map, by Simon Garfield (2012), which helped me to figure out some basic notions about cartography.
The history of maps tracks the need of the human being to be oriented, to find directions and to understand the shape of the world. The earliest maps were found as Prehistoric cave paintings, in Europe and afterwards in Babylonia’s clay tablets. But the biggest change in ancient cartography came later, in Alexandria of Egypt at Ptolemy’s court.
But a particular map inspired me in this case: it was created in the mid XIII century by a monk named Matthew Paris and it is officially the first route map we know about.
It is a strip map from London to Jerusalem and the most interesting fact is that it is interactive, with movable pop-up leaves and little panels, with additional details and explanations.
Together with this fantastic ancient map, I was intrigued by the idea of labyrinth. It has always been fun to solve those little labyrinth games we can find on newspapers and I thought that it could be interesting to use it for this exercise.
My idea was in fact to fuse together map and labyrinth, a real itinerary and a fun game.
I found a couple of examples of maps explaining itineraries browsing my personal visual reference:

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Serving to the purpose of creating an illustration which gives directions to my house, my first step was to take as a reference a real map of London (using Google maps) and mark an route supposing my starting point is Trafalgar Square and my home is located in Finsbury park.

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I verified the various steps and came up with the decision that I needed a shorter journey to better fit my purpose, so I finally opted for the itinerary from King’s Cross station to Finsbury Park.

Google maps

Next step was to extrapolate the biggest roads and streets from the real map and, the most difficult part, to close the various access ways to create a unique possibility to get from start to destination.

To make the game a little more intriguing rather than obvious, I added more streets without referring to the real map.
I finally wrote the name of the streets (corresponding to the map) so that once completed, the itinerary would explain exactly which way gets to Finsbury Park.

It was pretty difficult for me to create this labyrinth and yet I am concerned that is too easy to solve or that I missed some other possible way to get to destination.
However, I am quite satisfied with the outcome, considering that there have been moments when I really got stuck.
I asked two people an opinion about my illustration and I received different feedbacks: both of them said that the labyrinth works as an illustration but only one person said that it is a very good idea and serves the purpose very well, while the other one feels that the itinerary is not clear and that the labyrinth looks like a randomly picked piece of map.


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