I love maps. I could spend hours in Stanfords, I love old, crinkled maps and I couldn't live without Google maps (they have saved me from many a scrape). But most of all I love poring over made-up maps in books, seeing the illustrator's interpretation of the author's imagined land.  


Here our Book Designer, Clare Sivell, answers some questions about the fascinating process of commissioning map illustrations, with reference to John Gwynne's Malice.

Could you briefly outline the process of getting a map from sketch to final, polished work?

The process of getting a map from sketch to final artwork involves a number of different stages, which all vary in length depending on the type of map being created.

The Visual

Initially the author will supply a visual that outlines all the details to be included on the map. It can come in a number of different forms, from a photocopy of an existing map to a hand drawn sketch, as was the case with Malice. The sketch for Malice included distinctions between the land and sea masses, place names, rivers, hills and a drawing of a compass.

Selecting an Illustrator

The next stage is to select an illustrator to create the map. The style of map must reflect the content and themes of the book, so the illustrator is selected with this in mind. The illustrator's previous work and their technique and method of drawing are important in making this choice. The Malice map was created through a mixture of hand drawn and digital techniques.

Initial Sketch and Refinement

The illustrator would then create an initial sketch of the map from the brief given to them. This can range from a hand drawn rough to a more finished visual using digital techniques; both would however show the style and detail to be included. On some occasions, illustrators may also supply a sample area of the map prior to this to ensure they have interpreted the brief correctly. The initial sketch would then be shown to both the author and editor for comments, including any design changes or spelling corrections. The changes would then be made by the illustrator, and the process repeated until the map is approved. The approved map is then added to the book.


What’s your favourite part of seeing a map ‘come to life’?

My favorite part of the process is when the initial sketch is supplied from the illustrator. This initial visual is the first time you get to see the author's original vision come to life in the illustrator's style. I think is particularly exciting with science fiction and fantasy books, as this can be the first time the author's ideas are represented visually, something which greatly enhances the story. I always get excited when I see these emails appear in my inbox! 

You’ve project-managed illustrators for so many of the maps in Pan Macmillan’s book. What’s the main difference for you between the creation of a map in the real world and a map in a fantasy or science fictional world?

A map drawn of the real world needs to accurately represent the geography of a place at a particular time in history. Had a building been built by a certain time? Did a river follow the same path? Was a country called something different? These are some of questions that we have to ask to ensure that a map is correct to its time and place. A map of fantasy or science fiction is a creation of the author's imagination, so the only guide is the author's visual – there are no existing maps that can be used for reference. This means the illustrator has a greater degree of freedom when interpreting the original visual supplied.

I feel that maps can really enhance a genre book, as helping build the world for the reader. Do you have any thoughts on how a good map can add to the text to enrich the reader experience?

A map is a great tool for the reader in a genre book as it helps to visualise the fantasy location. A map should be used as reference for the story, adding to its character and strengthening the reader's understanding of the story's setting. It should allow the reader to connect places, such as the proximity of an island to the main land or scale of wooded areas, as in the Malice map.