The project for the map of the Uffizi Galleries began in July 2018. It was a long process of studying the Museum’s architecture and researching the graphical style to adopt in the design of the floor plans.
The challenge for the Uffizi Galleries was to provide a single map that could contain all the valuable information for visitors, routes, and rules in a clear, concise, and usable way for multiple types of visitors simultaneously.
Challenges and objectives
The Uffizi Galleries needed new signage and a simplified and easy-to-read map to be distributed to visitors along with the ticket.
An overall 2D map of the entire Museum was needed, indicating the entrance of users with booked and unbooked tickets, the accessible entrance, and all the different exits.
The map also had to show the distribution of the different floors, the recommended and accessibility routes, the open rooms, the necessary information regarding the location of the ticket offices, the services, the stairs, the elevators, the safety indications, the rules, indications of recommended itineraries and information regarding accessibility, opening hours and prices of each Museum (including Palazzo Pitti and Boboli Gardens), and the location of the Museum’s most important works.
One map, many different visitors
For the Galleries, it was essential to provide a map that was useful and usable for a broad spectrum of visitors, whose needs and requirements could be summarized into these qualities:
Fast: the average tourist who wants to get to know Florence and explore it as much as possible in 3 days. The Uffizi represents an obligatory stop. However, they can dedicate only a couple of hours to see the most requested works of Botticelli, Giotto, Leonardo da Vinci, and Michelangelo. The map, therefore, should offer this information at a glance; it was necessary to find a way to direct the user to the rooms where he can see what he is looking for. The tourist’s visit is defined as “Fast”; for this reason, a route lasting less than 2 hours had to be created.
Accessible: People with mobility difficulties need to understand where the accessible entrances and lifts are located. There are also visitors with visual impairments; for them, the Museum offers bespoke routes that must be marked on the map.
Complete: art-loving visitors come from all over the world to enjoy a total experience of the Museum and not miss the Renaissance’s most important works. For this type of user, it was ideal to offer a “Classic” route, with a duration of more than 2 hours, which would allow them to visit all the most important rooms of the Museum.
Recurring: Some visitors want to visit the gallery rooms several times during the year; for them, the Museum offers year-long tickets called “Passepartout.” This information also had to be conveyed within the map. Furthermore, the maps had to report the rules and safety regulations clearly and efficiently, as well as be understandable regardless of the country and culture of origin.
A particular path
The visit to the Museum starts from the second floor, so the visitor must climb the Grand Ducal Staircase to begin the journey. Being able to visually explain that the route commences from the second floor and goes down to the ground floor was one of the critical challenges of the maps.
A lot to say in a small space
The map had to bring together disparate information in a limited space to maintain clarity and effectiveness. In addition to the actual map, the routes available for each type of visitor had to be codified, the general flow of the visit, the entrances by ticket type, and the different exits available for the routes had to be clearly indicated.
Before remotely starting to develop any graphics, we conducted in-depth research of maps in different environments, both in museums and gardens and palaces, to better understand the artistic direction to take.
Once we created the mood boards and chose the graphic style, the real work began on the first draft maps, starting from the existing floor plans of the Museum, made several decades ago. The first job was to simplify the lines while maintaining high fidelity of the space and its proportions.
The design process
It was necessary to create a system of icons with a style aligned with the map and branding to convey precisely the wealth of services inside the Museum. The icons were drawn using a line language with a very contemporary look & feel.
Although the first set of icons presented aligned with the branding and gave the maps a modern and current look, we needed help to solve one of the most imposing challenges.
As mentioned, the Museum hosts people from all over the world, with different cultural and linguistic backgrounds; for this reason, the iconography had to be as international as possible.
The director of the Uffizi, a German living in Florence, understood this need perfectly, and he suggested that we look for a solution like the one found in an airport, with icons universally known, simple for everyone to understand.
Thus, we started creating a new iconographic set, far from the modernity sought but more in line with the needs of a vast and different market. Many icons are precisely those used internationally, but they have been redone with a specific grid and following a rigorous system of dimensions and spacing.
This new set of icons became the basis of the signs and posters inside and outside the Museum, not only at the Uffizi but also at Palazzo Pitti and the Boboli Gardens.
Floors and routes
Finding a clear way to represent the different floors and paths took a lot of work.
We started with an isometric representation of each floor following the first graphic style we had chosen, a more modern and architectural design. As much as we liked it, it was unsuitable for all visits and users.
The second attempt instead started from an illustration of the inside of the courtyard of the Uffizi Galleries but with a false perspective, therefore more open, to be able to show all the information regarding the entrances, the ticket offices, and the exits, but above all the two “Fast” and “Classic” routes.
This map offers general information and solves several communication challenges on its own.
The floor plans
We made the first and second drafts of the map with an architectural mood that was very clean, linear, and modern. We used the branding color gold for the lines and backgrounds and black for the icons and text indications.
Draft number 01 had all three floors visible on the same side of the map, with the prominent artworks placed in the last quadrant. In draft number 02, we decided to put the ground floor on the other side of the brochure; this solution gave us more room for floors 1 and 2, turning the sheet 180 degrees. Having more space, we could connect the works to the rooms more visually.
Although we liked the design of this first-floor plan, responded to different needs, and solved some challenges successfully, it still didn’t seem in line with the final goal. It may be that the overall look & feel was too cold. While we are talking about an important institution, this does not mean that communication must necessarily be formal, modern, and serious.
We then started looking for a friendlier style, more in line with the Boboli map that had already been approved and printed, where the vector and colored illustrations made the map much more accessible for all types of users.
The image below shows the result of the style update of the new floor plans. As you can see, the style has a less cold approach, still using the gold branding color but applying it differently, i.e., light gold for the background and darker gold for the structure. Shadowing and a colorful illustration of the Arno River have also been added; the final look & feel is now more friendly and light.
The use of images of the most important works connected to the rooms had already been hypothesized in draft 02, to speed up interaction with the user once inside the Museum. Still, instead of connecting them directly inside each room, we created a system to see the main routes as if they were subway lines. We specified every route in the plan and placed the most critical and unmissable works found in each room under the map of each floor.
The final result
La brochure contiene tutte le informazioni relative alle Gallerie degli Uffizi: un’introduzione alla sua storia, gli orari di apertura e i prezzi dei biglietti, e tutte le regole da seguire da parte dei visitatori.
Inoltre sono presenti le planimetrie di ogni piano e una rappresentazione illustrata di ogni percorso. È presente anche una mappa aggiuntiva che mostra la posizione degli Uffizi in relazione al resto del centro storico di Firenze e spiega come raggiungere gli altri musei che formano il complesso delle Gallerie degli Uffizi.
The final brochure follows the format set for the Boboli Gardens map; the open map is an A2, then folded twice crosswise, leaving a final closed format equal to an A5 sheet.
All maps are printed on 100% recycled paper. This decision was proposed from the beginning of the project and supported collectively by the entire Uffizi team, especially by director Schmidt. Despite knowing that the costs would be higher than average, the director was aware of the environmental impact and preferred to help reduce the product’s footprint as much as possible.
Alongside the work in the physical world, it would be an excellent opportunity to enrich the digital experience with an interactive map. This would be a fully explorable virtual space so visitors could enjoy up-to-date information on whatever device they wanted.
The information architecture would come through DatoCMS, so all content would be centralized. With one click, this would allow all experiences to be up-to-date at once, from the app to any VR experiences. This would also apply to print: imagine, for example, temporary exhibitions that, updated on an app, would synchronize in the print file for the print version.