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Using maps, graphics and photos in core strategies

The use of maps, graphics and photos can help to reduce the often lengthy and impenetrable wall of words of core strategies by better communicating information and ideas.

Thinking about whether every policy can be represented by a map also helps test the spatiality of the strategy. Here we share some of the advice relating to visual presentation given to planners over the past three years of CABE’s LDF workshops.

Use maps to understand spatial relationships

  • Use maps as a way of thinking and communicating spatially. Use them as a means of developing ideas.
  • Do strategic thinking through mapping exercises. Map where key issues fall on the ground and how places function.
  • Commuting and movement patterns often tell a story of how places function. There could be some really dynamic maps exploring these, and the spatial relationships between places.
  • Map existing character areas and then map what will change. This will represent the ideas and options spatially.
  • Avoid mapping land use and listed buildings. Transform these types of map into more meaningful things like ideas for change, character areas, views, key movement routes and communities. Signpost to where the factual information is held in background papers or web resources.
  • Continue maps beyond the administrative boundaries to fully understand the place’s role in the sub-region and how spatial relationships truly work.
  • Don’t be afraid to use tracing paper and felt tips to sketch spatial relationships and ideas. Use sketches, diagrams and cartoons to express ideas.

Use maps and graphics to help communication

  • For each bit of text consider whether there is a map or graphic that could replace the text or help better explain it.
  • Maps can show facts or concepts. Consider when best to use each type of map, and when to combine them.
  • It will make the strategy easier to read and understand if the key diagram is upfront, but make sure maps permeate the document.
  • Makes sure that key objectives are spatial by showing them on the key diagram.
  • Maps, diagrams and images help put the quality in to the core strategy, for example from landscape and character analyses.  
  • Varying the scales of similar types of map can be confusing. Consider scales carefully and vary them where appropriate to identify hierarchies, sizes and different requirements for detail.  
  • Zoom in to closer scales and show more detail to represent ideas for specific areas in the borough/district.

Use photos to bring the narrative to life

  • Use photos throughout the document to show what the place is like. Showcase the assets of the place and its distinctive characteristics through imagery.
  • Present information graphically in different and interesting ways to engage readers and encourage buy-in.
  • Images are very compelling. Permeate the document with them to demonstrate the local distinctiveness of the place.
  • Always caption images – this will provide context and explanation why they were included.
  • Use pictures to show the kind of place that is wanted.  Use photos of good examples of development of the type that is wanted from within the area and elsewhere, explaining in captions why it is good and how that will be used to set the standard for quality design in this place.