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Zoos on Paper: An Investigation of Zoo Maps

Discussion in 'General Zoo Discussion' started by Coelacanth18, 12 Jul 2018.

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  1. Coelacanth18

    Coelacanth18 Well-Known Member

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    Recent discussion in the "San Diego: The Perfect Zoo?" thread, along with offhand comments and postings in other threads, has gotten me wondering about zoo maps. To many they might seem like a very minor aspect of visiting a zoo, if even relevant at all. However, an unreadable map could lead you to miss a favorite species, or even entire sections of the zoo. It could lead you to waste time walking around on winding side paths with no clear direction. It can give you confusion as to where certain animals or amenities are located. Or maybe it's functional, but you're into aesthetics and when you look at it your eyes twitch from the rage building up inside of you. Whatever the case may be, I thought it was mentioned enough that there would be enough interest for a discussion and comparison of different maps, to see what people's preferences are when it comes to designs.

    I'll start off with the San Diego Zoo map, since a side discussion about it is largely what prompted me to start this thread. I've embedded a picture in the post below. It is... overwhelming, to say the least. SDZ is a big place with a lot of stuff, and it's entirely plausible that there are *still* things missing from this map. SDZ is also known for its flare and grandiose aesthetics, and its map is no exception: lots of bold color, animal and exhibit icons that look like paintings, and a complicated three-dimensional rendering of its structures. It even lists and describes twelve different paths to take around the exhibits, with time estimates and terrain details. They certainly managed to cram a lot of useful details into it, but how understandable is it really at a first glance... or a seventh?

    [​IMG]
    PC @snowleopard
     
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  2. TeaLovingDave

    TeaLovingDave Moderator Staff Member

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    I've fixed your post for you :)
     
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  3. Coelacanth18

    Coelacanth18 Well-Known Member

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    Thanks @TeaLovingDave.

    Also a question: am I allowed to embed photos from other websites for the maps, or do they need to be from the ZooChat gallery? I ask because the maps pulled directly from the zoo's site are usually easier to view details on.
     
  4. TeaLovingDave

    TeaLovingDave Moderator Staff Member

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    I will have to check that for you :) but in the meantime perhaps it would be a good idea to embed from the zoo website *but* also provide a link to the page where the map is located so that you are citing your source.
     
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  5. TinoPup

    TinoPup Well-Known Member

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    I fully support this post ;) My one suggestion is to possibly include a link to the website/pdf for each map discussed.
    I have quite a few maps saved, and it's something I usually look at - when I was putting together my spreadsheet on animals at AZA zoos, sometimes animals would be on a map but not listed in the animals/exhibits/etc section of websites, so I always checked them. San Diego is easily one of the worst ones out there. Most of the other bad ones are terrible because they have too little. San Diego could easily make theirs better with just a few changes, like making the fonts a contrasting color in some areas and using less color and detail overall, so that wording stands out better. There's no reason whatsoever for all of that color! I don't even know what the numbered red circles are for.
     
  6. CGSwans

    CGSwans Well-Known Member

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    As Zoochat is an Australian-registered site, they would fall under fair dealing provisions within the Copyright Act. One legal use for copyright material is for “review and criticism”, which Coelacanth’s thread clearly falls under. It should be fine. I do think links to the source page would be a smart idea, though.
     
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  7. TinoPup

    TinoPup Well-Known Member

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    In contrast with San Diego, here's the other major zoo from that thread, Bronx. It is extremely easy to read and follow. The map has limited colors, allowing people to easily follow and find things. Orange is food, yellow is for "total experience" areas (ones that cost extra). The species are a darker shade of the same color as the background, allowing them to clearly stand out and be noticeable while maintaining the less-is-more color theme. Words are dark and bold. Everything is very easy to locate, whether you're looking for an animal, bathrooms, or a heart defibrillator.


    [​IMG]
    Map - Bronx Zoo
     
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  8. CGSwans

    CGSwans Well-Known Member

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    What I found with this map, though, was that it doesn’t give nearly enough sense of the zoo’s geographic scale. Distances are long at Bronx, and I knew that going there but most visitors won’t.
     
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  9. Echobeast

    Echobeast Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    Aesthetically, SDZ's map is one of my favorites as well as LA Zoo's. Both have appealing illustrations of the animals so there is no confusion as to what animal is in what exhibit unlike silhouettes which often need additional text to describe what is being looked at. There are also illustrations of the buildings which are made so that they appear to the guest on the map as they do while walking around. This reduces the chance of getting lost as all you need to do is look for one of those buildings as a landmark to find your position in the zoo. They were both made by the same company so their similarities make sense. LA's map also is a bit clearer with the paths than SDZ's map.

    [​IMG]

    Now from my favorites to by far my least favorite. If you saw the thread I made about maps a few months back, you'd know what I'm talking about. Zoo Atlanta has this monstrosity as their map. Whoever thought that this was a good idea needs to take middle school art again. What were they thinking? The illustrations look like they were drawn in Microsoft Paint by a 3rd grader. There is no consistency in the designs of the animals or the buildings. I have no idea where one exhibit ends and the other begins. The text is all over the place and rotated every which way which makes it difficult to read. I'd expect better from a roadside zoo let alone a world-class facility like Zoo Atlanta. Can someone please verify that this is not what they actually give guests to look at and that this is an old map that is no longer in use?
    [​IMG]
     
  10. nczoofan

    nczoofan Well-Known Member

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    This is the worst I have seen.
    [​IMG]
     
  11. TeaLovingDave

    TeaLovingDave Moderator Staff Member

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    Care to enlighten us regarding the collection?
     
  12. nczoofan

    nczoofan Well-Known Member

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    Jacksonville Zoo
     
  13. TZDugong

    TZDugong Well-Known Member

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    In regards to San Diego’s map, there are good elements but also a few bad elements. The illustrations are terrific, probably the Best I’ve seen in a zoo. The scale is also quite good. An area of improvement could be that the map isn’t the best for devising a route through the zoo, I got lost in the Lost Forest area on multiple occasions.

    The Bronx’s map is the polar opposite of San Diego’s, it’s no-frills and certainly not flashy, but both get the job done. I would however, like to echo @CGSwans in saying that the scale isn’t the greatest. The walk between the Aquatic Bird House and the World if Birds felt much longer than the map illustrated!
     
  14. CGSwans

    CGSwans Well-Known Member

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    Yes, I recently singled this out to @FunkyGibbon as the most aesthetically dreadful one I’d seen.

    Antwerp’s now superseded map was my favourite.
     
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  15. TinoPup

    TinoPup Well-Known Member

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    I disagree with just about everything you said and hands down prefer Atlanta over San Diego/LA. Atlanta's isn't amazing, but it is extremely easy to read, exhibits are clearly distinguishable and paths are unmistakable. The animal drawings aren't great, but you can still clearly tell what each animal is. If I need a bathroom or first aid, I can spot it on the map in less than a second. It legitimately took me several minutes to find San Diego's first aid, and I was seriously looking. Two more of your complaints, that you can't tell where one exhibit ends and the other begins and the text is rotated, both also apply to San Diego. Your complaint about the rotated text is frankly amusing. There's a total of 5 rotated words on Atlanta's, all uncluttered and easy to identify and rotated in the same general direction. I found 30 rotated phrases on San Diegos, all of which were at least 2 words for a total of 60+, going in every way possible, some to the left, some to the right, in several different colors. On what planet does a complaint about Atlanta's make sense?

    Other than maybe monkey species, San Diego's illustrations aren't easier to tell apart than silhouettes. An elephant is an elephant, a snake a snake, a kangaroo a kangaroo. The general public can't tell a small illustrated monkey from another illustrated monkey, anyway. As for the buildings looking like real life, is it that difficult to find "Zoo Restaurant #2" in it's designated area that you still need to be shown what it looks like to tell it apart? If you can even tell where the place is on the map in the first place?

    There are general rules to making maps of places for guests to follow, and San Diego and LA ignore just about every single one.
     
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  16. TZDugong

    TZDugong Well-Known Member

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    I can’t disagree more with you, Atlanta has the worst map I’ve ever seen from a major zoological institution. Whoever made it should be ashamed of themselves.

    I think you’re understating just how ugly some of the illustrations are. The Lion looks seriously deformed, the gorilla looks like a spider with a Gorilla head, the Clouded Leapord looks like a stuffed toy, the Orangutan looks like a Sasquatch, the Giant Panda looks like it’s playing the flute, and so on, I could go all day! And no, I can’t really tell what all the animals are, most notably the vast generalizations such as Owl, Exotic Birds (I can’t believe someone put exotic birds on the map), Vultures and Tamarins. I couldn’t find the first aid kit instantly, partially because the zoo map does a horrible job of illustrating it, and partially because I was too busy gawking at how ugly the Taamarin picture was.

    I can find 0 rotated words for San Diego, do you mind pointing out examples?

    San Diego’s illustrations are much better than silhouettes! Let’s say there’s a silhouette of a Tapir compared to a coloured illustratiion of a Tapir. Unless specified, you won’t know what species the Tapir is from a silhouette, but you can from a coloured illustration.

    Another general rule for a zoo map should be that it looks nice, and Atlanta fails miserably in this regard. If a 7 year old made this I’d think it was okay, but from a well respected zoological institution? Absolutely shameful.
     
  17. Echobeast

    Echobeast Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    [​IMG]

    You cannot be serious. I am having an extremely difficult time telling what I am looking at here and I know by the text that this is a tamarin. You cannot tell me that you know what this is trying to depict without looking at the text.

    [​IMG][​IMG]

    You also cannot tell me that when comparing two maps, that one with the image on the right is a better map than the one on the left.

    I was more talking about LA at that point where the only sideways writing is for the tram/service road but I'll concede that SDZ has writing that is difficult to read. But they are also on the paths where it is excusable to put writing that follows where the paths go. I'll also expand my point on Atlanta. The sideways writing is describing different habitats for the apes. There is a philosophy in design that it is better to show than to tell. It would be more aesthetically pleasing, at least to me, if there was a picture of the habitat or the viewing areas instead of writing "habitat 1". To me, it is very lazy design to just write a couple words down instead of showing me what to look for when I approach that exhibit.

    Let's experiment shall we?

    [​IMG]

    What animal is this? A warthog? A red river hog? A warty pig? Who knows by looking at a silhouette? This is from the Bronx map and is one of a couple silhouettes that do not have text underneath it to clarify what it is. This is even more annoying as many silhouettes do have text saying what it is. If I didn't know CGF from learning about it, I would have no clue as to what species it was.

    [​IMG]

    From Zoo Atlanta's map, we can see their warthog but to me, it is childish, and not in a good way. It looks like clip art. Without the text, I would also have trouble distinguishing this species. The extra text in my opinion takes up valuable space that can be used to flesh out the map. Draw the animal's exhibit, or some foliage. This design does nothing more than tell me where I can find the warthog.

    [​IMG][​IMG]

    Here are the images from SDZ and LA's maps. I can clearly tell that they are indeed red river hogs. No confusion about that. The images are of high quality and allow for the outline of the exhibits to be drawn which adds to the full image.

    If I see the Treetops pavilions at LA Zoo while walking around and I want to know what exhibits are nearby, all I need to do is find what I see on the map and then I can infer where I am from that. I cannot do that as well with Atlanta's map. The buildings are too plain and without detail, it is hard to tell them apart from one another. You may have trouble finding a restroom using SDZ's map, but I think people will have a more difficult time figuring out where they are using Zoo Atlanta's map.

    To me, a map should be both useful and aesthetically pleasing to just relax and look at. I would gladly frame both LA and SDZ's maps on my wall. I wouldn't even take home Zoo Atlanta's.
     

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  18. Coelacanth18

    Coelacanth18 Well-Known Member

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    Quite a lot of discussion in little time... more than I was expecting! I'll try to catch up some.

    First, I was without decent Internet access during the time when you posted a similar thread @Echobeast, so I did miss that convo. Thanks for linking it, I've read some of it and will do more tomorrow when I have time. Hopefully you don't mind a second exchange on the topic here!

    I would agree that SDZ and Bronx's maps are polar opposites of each other. I think Bronx's is easier to digest and read, but @Echobeast's point about ambiguous silhouettes is valid and something I had considered while preparing this thread. I'm still not of one mind on what the best way to identify animals on a map is, but these are certainly two methods of doing so.

    @CGSwans' point about the scaling issues with Bronx is valid as well; I've found this to be common of large, spread-out zoos in general. Maybe it has to do with being able to fit everything on the map and maximize space?

    I'm not a fan of Atlanta or Jacksonville's maps, but my feelings are not quite as strong about them. They are aesthetically unpleasing, but in terms of functionality they're decent.

    Something that I like and which is not present in any of these maps are exhibit boundaries. Part of me just likes being able to compare exhibit sizes easily, but I also find it useful to know exactly where each enclosure is located, as then you know how many things there actually is to see there and where all of the viewing areas are located. I think it also looks more professional. The Saint Louis Zoo does a pretty good job of that:

    [​IMG]

    Source: https://www.stlzoo.org/files/3215/2001/7960/Spring_2018_Map.jpg

    I really like this map personally. The color coding is helpful, the silhouettes are easy to distinguish, individual enclosures are shown really well, paths and amenities are very easy to identify, and from experience I know that it is accurately scaled. It's utilitarian like the Bronx map, but much more colorful and detail-oriented.
     
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  19. Coelacanth18

    Coelacanth18 Well-Known Member

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  20. nczoofan

    nczoofan Well-Known Member

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