Since the start of 2019, I've been lucky enough to have a regular weekly freelance gig making illustrated maps for The Big Issue. I got the job by way of recommendation from my lovely friend and fantastic illustrator Taaryn Brench who had been doing it for a while but could no longer fit it into her busy schedule. 

Making these maps is quite an interesting and fun process so I thought it might be nice to do a little 'behind the curtain' and show off how I make them!

All the maps start off with me receiving the copy from the Art Director (AD). From there, I make a written list of all the interesting features mentioned in the copy - sometimes it's landmarks, other times it's little things the vendor has mentioned (e.g. the style of the locals, where they walk their dog etc.) that I can try to squeeze in. 


Once I've made my list, the next step is to start making a rough sketch. This is probably the trickiest part of the job - while you're primarily making an illustration, it still needs to convey all the important information that a map usually contains. You also need to consider the usual things that you encounter when producing an illustration for a magazine - things like the final size of the illustration, guttering and any type that might be in the way. It's a hard balance to strike!

Below is an example of a map that I did a few weeks ago. This is the rough that I sent off to the AD - you can see that i've roughed in all the mini illustrations and I've left space along the left hand side for the guttering and space in the top right hand corner as I know the AD likes to put copy there. 


In the end, some of the bits in this map got switched around to accomodate things like type, a picture of the vendor etc. but on the whole, the finished map ended up pretty much the same as the rough. 

Once the rough has been approved, the next step is to flesh out the details and start adding colour. For this stage, I do most of the work on my iPad and my computer. However, at this stage all the colours are very flat and there isn't any texture - as you can see from the image below!


Once I've finished all the elements of the map, I then import it into Photoshop on my computer and start tweaking colours and adding in some of my handmade textures. At this stage I can experiment a bit and make new textures if I feel the need, as well as adding any little extra details or moving things around. 

Once i've finished the map, it then goes to the AD for final approval and then it goes off to print!


If you want to see more of my maps for The Big Issue, you can check out their their website

I am always eager to make more maps so if you're on the lookout for an illustrator map-maker, please get in touch!