Previously, I wrote about the planning stages for my latest poster – an illustrated ornamental map of the major West End theatres.

Getting the map and layout finalised

Having decided where my street map would begin and end in each direction, it seemed sensible to create the street plan and then roughly place the theatres to see how the spacing would work.

There would be two colours here – the roads and the spaces between the roads. I did initially try some bright and lively colour combinations, but it quickly became clear that any type would be illegible in the smaller poster sizes unless the background colour was light. So colours needed to be chosen that were not too distracting, not too dark, not likely to overpower the theatre illustrations, and not unattractive or too weedy.

I initially chose green, with cream for the roads so that the road names, when added, would be clear.

Next I drew the streets, based on Google’s maps and others, but not worrying about including too many irrelevant roads. The major ones in regard to West End theatres are Shaftesbury Avenue, Charing Cross Road, St Martin’s Lane and the Strand.

I wanted to get a corner of the Thames in as well, plus a few other important locations like Charing Cross rail station, Leicester Square (obviously essential, even though it isn’t home to any major theatres any more), Covent Garden (natch) and Trafalgar Square.

I knew that several theatres that I wanted to include were inconveniently out of range, so I planned to put them at the corners of the map.

I then saved my street plan illustration in Photoshop.

Sorting out the layout

The next challenge was placing the many theatres and seeing if they could be positioned in such a way that there would be room to write their names on the illustration. What size should the theatres be, and should this size vary depending on space?

I have already illustrated about 23 West End theatres, which is roughly half of the number I needed. I imported those images, squeezed them and put them in position – then put in grey boxes to represent the theatres I didn’t yet have.

Then I flattened the result and printed it out for a good look.

Decisions, decisions …

Looking at my map of West End theatres so far, several things occurred to me.

Firstly, if I reconfigured the street plan I might get a better result. I needed to allow more space for some of the most crowded theatres bunched together along Shaftesbury Avenue, for instance. I thought I could acheive this by rotating the street plan a little and changing the road shapes slightly.

The second thing was, as I had expected, that the theatres I had already drawn for my posters would not work on this scale.

In other words, every one of 44 (I think) theatres needed to be illustrated from scratch or substantially re-worked to look good at this smaller size. I would also need a more limited colour palette. This would hopefully create a more harmonious whole out of these every different buildings.

Back to the drawing board …