Saturday, March 2, 2013

The New Walt Disney World Guide Maps

NOTE: Thank you to Attractions Magazine and The Dis for their high quality old and new maps. Visit these sites for more examples.
Click for larger version.
Ground Zero for how the parks are advertised, perceived, and their tone is the Guide Map. The elaborateness of the maps corresponded with the scale, direction, and focus of the Walt Disney Company at that time. Sure, that's somewhat crazy to think, but where else does factual information, direct guest satisfaction, advertising, and park operations meet in a non essential manner?

This coming week starts a new age of Walt Disney World Guide Maps, one that seems to have learned from the mistakes and problems of the previous, while embracing new design and technology.


  • Death By Labels

Magic Kingdom, November 2012. Click for larger version.
Last generation of WDW Guide Maps decided the best way to vomit out labels on an over designed map. Can you even tell where some of these things are? Most can't. The numbering and lettering schemes are confusing and hap-hazzard. What is the logic in the flow? Letters, numbers, and symbols are so prevalent they block out important features and designs of the park, ignore their actual locations, and focus on what should be there and not what actually is. Look at the Magic Kingdom park hub, which alone has 3 icons where the Partners statue is!
  •  Unimportant Features
Disney Hollywood Studios, November 2012. Click for larger version.
Last generations of park maps added unnecessary 'action' points and features that did not aid in park guidance at best, and offered visual confusion at worst. See the DHS map above, how does it help a guest trying to find where Hollywood and Vine is that Indy Stunt Show; Lights, Motors, Action!; Catastrophe Canyon; AND Fantasmic! are all exploding with fire at the same time? The hat blocks out one of the park's biggest ride, and it has an unnecessary glow. The Muppets area, with one attraction, two shops, two restaurants, and one of the most popular meet and greets, is small due to forced perspective. Yet we have detailed trees and pavement designs in the foreground that do not help with guest travel in the park.

The AT-AT in the room here is the focus on eye candy and action over visual guidance.
  • Up is Down, Cats and Dogs Living in Harmony
Epcot, November 2012. Click for larger version.
Where is Innoventions East or West, without trying to find the badly placed labels? Based on the old Epcot map, well... who knows. By choosing an isometric view, not only are important landmarks hidden and backs of buildings focused on, with Epcot, it doesn't show true north and south. This usually isn't a problem (see Disney Hollywood Studios), but when you start labeling and directing people based on compass directions you're setting yourself up for failure. (To be fair I think Disney attempted to change the West and East to Green and Blue, but it never took on.)
  • Scale

Animal Kingdom, November 2012. Click for larger version.
The running theme of my criticisms and qualms come down to the use of artistic license of scale. Important features are over scaled and highlighted, while minute details that might not directly be an attraction but do help with navigation get muddled. Everest is not the actual size of nearly every of land, but it is the 'biggest' attraction at Animal Kingdom. The hat doesn't look 300 feet tall, so why should it be on the map.


Animal Kingdom, March 2013. Click for larger version.
As an extension of the My Disney Experience mobile app, the new maps are a step into the new decade of design. The new philosophy seems to be on physical information (this is what the buildings look like and are located) over label based information (FIND MICKEY HERE! EXPLOSIONS!).
  • Logical Labels 
Magic Kingdom, March 2013. Click for larger version.
Numbers only! Reduction on unnecessary icons and symbols! Only restaurants and attractions are numbered and the amount of symbols used is drastically reduced to life saving devices, restrooms, smoking areas, and characters. Photo spots, PhotoPass, parade parking, and more are cut adrift for a more cohesive visual theme.
  • Reduction of Clutter
Disney Hollywood Studios, March 2013. Click for larger version.
Okay okay, there's still ONE explosion. A significant amount of visual clutter has been removed compared to the old maps. Trees are textures & tall structures are viewed from an overhead perspective and not highlighted to stand out. Visual stimulation for stimulation's sake has been removed. Tacky fonts and logos have also been removed or scaled down (ex: no New Fantasyland in Magic Kingdom map).
  • True North & Scale
Epcot, March 2013. Click for larger version.
True north allows for directional reference; that's good for Epcot. And by getting rid of isometric views and sticking with a straight down perspective, what you see is what you get for scale and location. The scale no longer is skewed for features deemed more important. Whole attractions are not the size of lands, icons don't stand 300 feet tall, and walkways and their locations are accurately depicted. Distances and sizes are no longer obfuscated, allowing for easier traversal of the parks.


The new WDW Guide Maps are an improvement compared to the style-over-substance last generation of maps. My Disney Experience app is integrated and embraced for those looking for more information and a personalized experience (though Mickey's index finger does look freaky ET like). Overall, it's an improvement, and hopefully one signifying a shift in how the parks are viewed and advertised; less surpufulbous fluff, more what the parks actually offer.

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