A custom made floor plan, why?

A custom made floor plan, why?

“You actually have no idea when entering or exiting the area what the area is like”.The neighborhood police officer’s comment totally surprised me. I took part in a placemaking session in Rijswijk. That is improving a place, by walking around with all those involved and harvesting ideas on the spot. My role was to ‘give the best ideas good text and images’. Delightfully pompous, could easily be put on a tile. For a moment I was very satisfied. Until, in injury time, the neighborhood policeman opened her mouth:
“We don’t even know who the tenants are in this area, sometimes.” And, “this place might just need a floor plan.” Wow.

What? A floor plan?

One of those paper maps with pictures of pizzeria’s around it. Boring! Everyone has Google Maps on their phone to find a restaurant, right? So why would a city district or business park create its own map anyway? For marketing purposes. Showing what’s there to do.

  1. A map on sign or brochure is welcoming. Visible, readable, approachable. Even if it is digital.
  2. This is not about navigation, it is about overview. ‘What is there to do or see here, approximately?’
  3. A map proves that your area is a whole.
  4. The most important: a floor plan is a carrier of your identity.

Definition: a floor plan is an orderly drawing of a location that raises or adjusts expectations.

Visitors have already seen the place on Google Maps, but conveying the “feel of the place” cannot be done with Google Maps because it is universal, American too. The floor plan is marketing, your first chance to let people know the identity of a place. It’s a communication tool, which like all other corporate identity elements conveys how you want to be seen. Such a floor plan can be cozy, or hip, or sleek, or energetic. Or just very beautiful. That always works wonders with visitors.

What characterizes our place?

You have to decide together what to put on the map, with what emphasis and what details. It must be correct, of course. Real estate people, tenants, municipality and marketing people need to talk to each other about this. Convenient if the floor plan designer is right there. No, not “convenient,” it’s a must. And invite the neighborhood cop too, you now know why.
And what happens when residents, users and administrators see such a floor plan? They say, “that’s our place!”

Our place!


Floor plan for marketing the ArenAPoort area in Amsterdam-Zuidoost. Meant to “show what’s out there,” and that it’s all right nearby. Created as Booqi ( small foldable map for marketing) and web page.


Floor plan of the library of the National Council for Art History Documentation. Note the beautiful sofa in the waiting area and the gender-neutral toilet icons. Details!


Location marketing

A bicycle route along wet Friesland. Map colored in pencil for an educational, warm-blooded effect. (created for IVN Fryslan)

Elaborate floor plan for the Stedelijk Museum, in the very strict corporate style. If you want something beautiful that can be put on the wall.
(Commissioned by Mevis & Van Deursen)

Two from a series of 12 wine region maps. Refined, for the book by sophisticated wine merchant Okhuysen. These kinds of maps have to be hand-drawn, to become specific.



Location marketing

Floor plan of the Villa ArenA shopping mall. The building is rendered, true to the direction of the walkways, not true to reality. This is the only way you can see all the stores and display all the names.


Kind of rustic. Map of Elswout Estate.

Location marketing

Area map for a series of informational signs for a water board. The water should all be on it, the rest be left out except for the landmark places. There may also be layers on top with inundation or drainage areas.

Location marketing

Schematic representation of obstructions in Zaandam, occurring during lock reconstruction. (For BAM via Roel Stavorinus)


Location marketing

Floor plan for Kunstfort Vijfhuizen. Not only does it look military, but it is also easy to multiply using a xerox machine.

Cultural heritage. You don’t see it until you see it

Cultural heritage. You don’t see it until you see it

Most heritage looks like old stuff.
And it is. Until you prove that it is relevant, that it has something to tell us.
Best start by putting future heritage visitors into the right mode, for example by making heritage visible in educational materials for schools. It should contains basic knowledge: once we were at war, Holland has a coast, Germans were afraid and built bunkers. And then you show those bunkers.
The usual way to show stray concrete in the dunes is to add a plate with a number (Aggregate bunker type M183). That’s something like “Still life with pheasant, oil on canvas, 1665” on a museum sign. What do you expect people to do with that?

Get your audience in the right mood in 4 steps

Step 1: reveal the connection with a simple question

All those loose bunkers in the dunes have different roles. You can see those roles when you ask a simple question, such as “there’s an English warship coming, what needs to be done to be able to shoot at it? Then you’ll see binoculars (and a high point), fire control (and thus officers), loaders (crappy job), aiming (technology), ammunition storage (that thick bunker), and lots of concrete (yes, those English shoot back).

Step 2: “…and what else do you need?”

We shot at the ship. That will make you hungry. So close to the bunker complex is also a kitchen, a mess hall, men’s quarters. You have to supply those, that’s why there’s a road.

Step 3: “and what do you have to do for that?”

To pave that road, we pull all the clinkers from the streets of IJmuiden, leaving only sand. And when the soldiers’ food runs out, it is not the soldiers who have to go hungry, but the civilians. To defend the bunkers on the land side, we place cannons. And oh yes, we demolish houses to clear the line of fire, and lay barbed wire and minefields. Living in IJmuiden anno 1943.

Step 4: “and what does that have to do with me?”

Says one student, “I still think it’s stupid, such a lesson about old stuff. It’s nice weather outside, we’d rather go swimming!” Let an 80-year-old IJmuiden resident tell where they went swimming then. In the canal? You couldn’t, there were mines there. In the sea? You couldn’t, on the beach you would get shot. So, straight home from school, through those streets of sand. If your house was still there. With the personal story, you will get the class’ attention.

Now that the class has been warmed up with prior knowledge, the students are ready for a field trip. Because heritage still makes the most impression in real life.

Let’s go!

Projects by Explanation Design (my previous company)

atlantikwallindeklas.nl (interaction design by Ruben Daas, digital stuff by Studio Alloy, style by Manon Den Hartog)
stellingvanamsterdam.nl (interaction design Ruben Daas, digital stuff whizzweb.nl)
mediaspoor.nl (interaction design Ruben Daas, corporate identity Manon Den Hartog)

What to show your audience, in what order? That question must be resolved. Then, like in this digiboard lesson, you still have to figure out what the students should do next. In this case: drag the correct term into the box. For this conversion of knowledge into action, you need specialists, both to conceive it (interaction design, in this case by Ruben Daas) and to get it working technically on all those different devices in schools (done by Alloy, an excellent digital agency)

A look inside Fort Vijfhuizen: the officers and soldiers, where do they sleep, what are they wearing, what hangs over their beds? Clicking on this “school record” will take them to short assignments.


Heritage educational visibility

Digital educational materials should be easy to use, as well as suitable for short and long lessons at different levels. Whether it works, you have to find out in the field.


To reiterate the importance of interaction design, this sketch shows what you need to take a shot at a ship from near IJmuiden.

Heritage educational visibility

This is what the interaction designer makes of it: only after the crew has each been given their tools (a radio, a grenade, a scope) the gun can be fired. Interaction design by Ruben Daas.

Heritage educational visibility

Animation also works well. When the enemy comes we flood the place (left) and remove the structures from the line of fire (right). Each animation in this series follows the same pattern: ‘what do we do when the enemy comes?’ (From: Stellingtour, a game about the Defence Line of Amsterdam)


Heritage educational visibility

From the educational material for the Defence Line of Amsterdam: how much food should you bring into a Fort per week?