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Making of…road schematics

Information Design

July 2, 2013

Making of…road schematics

We have three road schematics on the go at the moment so it seems a good time to show you some of the work that goes into making them.

Construction drawings and any available aerial photography is spread out on the floor to show us the road.

We drive along the road if its local or ask an interstate buddy to go for a drive to photograph any new features or check on something that isn't clear in the drawings. This proved useful recently where drawings appeared to show a road going under the freeway when in fact, it went over the freeway.

No doubt the client would have picked it up but we like to be as sure as we can before we send the schematics off to clients to check.

David's civil engineering background kicks in as he works out what the drawings are showing. Road details are marked up on the print outs using different colours to identify the various components of the road.

The drawings are given a final inspection by Thunder, the hairiest and most affectionate member of staff.

Then its onto the computer for a preliminary layout which proves if we have understood the drawings correctly and included all the components. It is in this preliminary layout that the schematic starts to come to life.

Schematics differ from maps in that they are not accurately proportioned, distances between items are relative and shapes are indicative rather than accurate. A schematic needs to tell a story that is easily understood by whoever looks at it, There needs to be a connection between what is shown and what is expected and that may be quite different to showing what is real. So working out what it is that will communicate accurate information, how much to leave out and what to include is all part of the process of creating each schematic.

The preliminary layout is adjusted to become an accurate representation of the road and the details like line markings, gantries and lums are added. The design of the detail has been done to make sure the people monitoring the road understand what the physical conditions are e.g. is there a solid barrier between lanes or can I send an emergency vehicle across that section?

Finally landmarks are added. These are an important tools for helping the people monitoring the road to orient themselves – just the same way they work for motorists on the road. The design of the landmarks is done to convey as much information in as small a file size as possible. Here we work out what is the minimum amount of information required to recognise that landmark and what is unnecessary detail. We use icons to convey the same information across all schematics so that there is transparency of language throughout the industry so that staff moving from one company to another can still read the schematics.

Schematics are a visual language. We developed this visual language for roads which started with the language of intersections and developed to maintain recognisable road shapes even when straightened out to fit a horizontal layout.