Critical Elements of a Successful 3D Graphics Map

Over the past few years, I’ve created numerous 3D Graphics Maps for clients. These maps are featured at various events such as concerts, festivals and fairs. Marketers and event producers are catching on that an interesting visual map is a great tool to build anticipation for their event.

Not only does a 3D map guide their customers when they are on location, but they can also attract new customers and ticket sales by advertising the map online – through their website, ticket master and social media. It’s a great tool to build some anticipation for a variety of events.

But a good 3D graphic map must deliver more than just a “wow, that’s cool” factor. Like all communication design, it must be clear, accurate and pleasing to the eye. In order to achieve this result, I have found there are some key steps that each map must follow. Below, I’ll walk you through each step.

Goal and Audience

Understanding the who, where and why is important before beginning any design or illustration project.

  • Who is the audience?
  • Where will they be when they interact with the map?
  • Why do they need this particular illustration?
  • Which details are most important for the audience to understand and act upon will .
  • What do you want them to do once they interact with this map?


Once you receive details about the location and event for the map, it’s time to fire up google maps and do some research. If I am working on a location that I’ve never been to before, spending some time looking at the location in satellite mode and then down on the ground in street view will offer a better idea of proportion, distance and location.

Example of google satellite and street view

For each project the client will send over a wireframe layout of the event which outlines the location of all the festival or event elements. This will become the template to build an accurate and proportional map. If the layout from the client is poor resolution or inaccurate to the location in scale or proportion, a screenshot of google maps works just as well for a starting point.

Example of map wireframe layout from Client

Print Size and Resolution

Before diving into the software and building the actual 3D world, the size and resolution should be considered. Will the map be printed at large format and displayed outdoors? Will the map be included in a brochure? Where will it be showcased online? Each of these situations requires different specs when considering the size and resolution. It’s always best to plan the final output to match the context.

Camera Angle

It is easy to get carried away with camera angles in 3D software. I could spend hours trying out different wide angles to make the map look expansive or orthographic angles which can flatten a 3D image. But the final choice of your camera position and angle will be determined by the expected resolution (which was determined in the previous step) and the shape of the actual map. The trick here is to fill the frame and avoid too much negative space.

Examples of different camera angles

Visual Style

Is there an already existing style guide provided by the client? A style guide would include colour palettes, logos and fonts already established within the brand. This is a great way to keep the map design cohesive and aligned with the client’s brand. It also helps determine the details of the map such as lighting and time of day; along with the style of the 3D objects and the overall look and feel of the world.

Example of photo based visual style

Graphic Overlays

Overlays refer to the fonts, icons and graphics that highlight the points of interest on a map. Some examples are: food and beverage icons, washroom icons, location labels and arrows or pointers, logos, etc. These must be clear, accurate and above all else, legible. Consider the size, colour,  location and fonts of each overlay and make sure there is good contrast here.

For example, a small script font in dull grey will not work well when placed over a dark map. The font is difficult to read and the the grey colour will blend too much with the backgrounds. Overlays should “pop” and be easy to read from a fair distance. A white, bold font would work much better in this case.

Example of Graphic Overlays

There is a great deal of balance and attention to detail required to create a custom 3D graphics Map, but I’ve found these 6 elements are the most important parts. I hope this gives a bit of insight into the secret world of 3D graphics and map planning.

If you are interested in our 3D graphics maps or illustrations, head on over to our services page to see more examples and learn more.