The Uffizi palace was built between 1560 and 1580 based on a design by Giorgio Vasari. It is composed of two main longitudinal bodies, connected towards the south by a completely similar shorter side, thus giving rise to a "U" shaped complex

Challenges and objectives

The Uffizi Galleries needed new signage, as well as a simplified and easy-to-read map to be distributed to visitors together with the ticket.
An overall 2D map of the entire museum was needed, indicating the entrance of users with booked and unbooked tickets, the accessible entrance and all the different exits.
The map also had to show the distribution of the different floors, the recommended routes, those for accessibility, the open rooms, the necessary information regarding the location of the ticket offices, the services present, the stairs, the elevators, the safety indications, the rules, indications of recommended itineraries and information regarding accessibility, opening hours and prices of each museum (including Palazzo Pitti and Boboli Gardens), and the location of the museum's most important works.

The challenge

One map, many different visitors
For the Galleries it was important to provide a map that was useful and usable for a wide spectrum of visitors, whose needs and requirements could be divided into these qualities:

Fast: the average tourist who wants to get to know Florence and explore it as much as possible in 3 days. Obviously the Uffizi represents an obligatory stop, to which they can however dedicate no more than a couple of hours, in which they try to see the most requested works of Botticelli, Giotto, Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo live. The map therefore should have offered this information at a glance; it was essentially necessary to find a way to direct the user to the rooms where he can find what he is looking for without letting him wander through an infinite choice of Renaissance works, with the risk of losing what he really wants to see. The tourist's visit is defined as "Fast" and for this reason a route lasting less than 2 hours had to be created.

Accessible: People with mobility difficulties, who therefore need to understand where the accessible entrances and lifts are located. There are clearly also visitors with visual impairments; for them the museum offers routes for the visually impaired which were therefore specially marked on the map.

Complete: art-loving visitors come from all over the world to live a total experience of the museum and not miss the most important works of the Renaissance. For this type of user it was ideal to offer a "Classic" route, with a duration of more than 2 hours which would allow them to visit all the most important rooms of the museum.

Recurring: There are also visitors who want to come and visit the rooms of the Galleries several times during the year; for them the Museum offers year-long tickets called "Passepartout". This information also had to be conveyed within the map. Furthermore, the maps had to report the rules and safety regulations in a clear and efficient way, as well as being understandable regardless of the country and culture of origin.

A particular path

The visit to the museum begins from the second floor, so to begin the journey the visitor must climb the Grand Ducal Staircase which takes him to the top. Being able to visually explain that the route starts from the second floor and goes down to the ground floor was one of the important challenges of the maps.

A lot to say in a small space

To be effective, the map had to be able to bring together a lot of disparate information in a limited space without losing clarity and effectiveness. In addition to the actual map, the routes available for each type of visitor had to be codified, as well as the general flow of the visit, and the entrances by ticket type and the different exits available for the routes had to be clearly indicated.


The beganing

Before remotely starting to develop any type of graphics, we carried out in-depth research of maps in different environments, both in museums and in gardens and palaces, to better understand the artistic direction to take.

Once the moodboards were created and the graphic style was chosen, the real work began on the first draft maps, starting from the existing floor plans of the museum (img 1), made several decades ago. The first job was to simplify the lines while always maintaining high fidelity of the space and its proportions.

The design

The Icons: For the reporting of services, in addition to all the indications regarding signage, it was necessary to create a system of icons with a style in line with that of the map and branding. The icons were drawn using a line language with a very current look & feel.

Although the first set of icons presented was in line with the branding and gave a very modern and current look to the maps, it was not helping us solve one of the most imposing challenges in front of us. As mentioned, the museum hosts people from all over the world, with different cultural and linguistic backgrounds; for this reason the iconography had to be as international as possible. The director of the Uffizi, as a German living in Florence, understood this need perfectly, and it was he who suggested that we look for a solution like the one found in an airport, with icons of an international character, simple for everyone to understand because we are get used to seeing them everywhere. We thus began the creation of a new iconographic set, far from the modernity we were looking for but more empathetic to the needs of a vast and different market. Many of the icons are exactly those used internationally, but they have been redone with a specific grid and following a rigorous system of dimensions and spacing.

This new set of icons then became the basis of the signs and posters inside and outside the museum, not only at the Uffizi but also at Palazzo Pitti and the Boboli Gardens.

The plans and routes

Finding a clear way to represent the different plans and paths was not an easy challenge.
We started with an isometric representation of each floor following the first graphic style we had chosen for the design, modern and architectural in nature. As much as we liked it, it was not suitable for all types of visits and users.

The second attempt instead started from an illustration of the inside of the courtyard of the Uffizi Galleries but with a false perspective, therefore more open, to be able to show all the information regarding the entrances, the ticket offices and the exits, but above all the 2 “Fast” and “Classic” routes.
This map serves to offer general information and solves several communication challenges on its own.

The floor plans: The first and second drafts of the map were made with an architectural mood, very clean, linear and modern. Using the branding color gold for the lines and backgrounds and a black for the icons and text indications.
Draft number 01 was arranged inside the brochure with all 3 floors visible on the same side and the works in the last quadrant. In draft number 02 we decided to place the ground floor on the other side of the brochure, as it is a space without works to see but widely used as signage. We therefore left more space for planes 1 and 2 and, in doing so, turned the sheet 180 degrees. Having thus more space, we were able to connect the works to the rooms in a more visible way.

Although the design of this first floor plan was liked, it responded to different needs and solved some challenges successfully, it still did not seem in line with the final objective. It may be that the overall look & feel was too cold; although we are talking about an important institution, this does not mean that communication must necessarily be of a formal, modern and serious nature.

We then started looking for a friendlier style, more in line with the Boboli map that had already been approved and printed, where the vector and colored illustrations made the map much more accessible for all types of users.

This is the result of the style update of the new floor plans. As you can see, the style has a less cold approach, still using the gold branding color, but applying it in a different way, i.e. using a light gold for the background and a darker gold for the structure. A shadow and colorful illustration of the Arno River has also been added; the final look & feel is now more sociable and light.

The use of images of the most important works connected to the rooms had already been hypothesized in draft 02, to speed up interaction with the user once inside the museum, but instead of connecting them directly inside each room, we created a system to see the routes “Veloce in blue” and “Classico in fuchsia” as if it were a subway line. By specifying the route in the plan and placing the most important and unmissable works found in each room under the map of each floor.

The map is in the testing phase; will be given to users in PDF format, via the Uffizi website. We hope to collect feedback from people to possibly improve the user experience.

The final result

The brochure contains all the information relating to the Uffizi Galleries: an introduction to its history, opening hours and ticket prices, and all the rules to be followed by visitors.
Furthermore, there are floor plans of each floor and an illustrated representation of each route. There is also an additional map that shows the position of the Uffizi in relation to the rest of the historic center of Florence and explains how to reach the other museums that form the Uffizi Galleries complex.

Dimensions: The final brochure follows the format set for the Boboli Gardens map; the open map is an A2, then folded twice crosswise leaving a final closed format equal to an A5 sheet.

Paper: All maps are printed on 100% recycled paper. This decision was proposed from the beginning of the project and supported collectively by the entire Uffizi team, especially by director Schmidt. Despite knowing that the costs would be higher than average, the director was aware of the environmental impact and preferred to help reduce the environmental footprint of the product as much as possible.

Next steps: Alongside work in the physical world, it would be a great opportunity to enrich the digital experience with an interactive map. It would be a fully explorable virtual space, so that the visitor can enjoy updated information on any device he wants to use.

The information architecture would pass through DatoCMS, so all the content would be centralized. This would allow all experiences to be updated simultaneously, from the app to any VR experiences, with just one click. This would also apply to the paper version: imagine for example the temporary exhibitions which, updated on an app, would also be synchronized in the print file for the paper version.

Special thanks:

The support of the entire Uffizi Galleries team was fundamental during all phases of the project, and in particular the architect Antonio Godoli, together with Bianca Maria Landi, Angela Pintore, Maria Spanò and Andrea Biotti, who directed us towards the ideal solutions for the specific use case of the Garden, always proving available to clarify all our doubts. Together with them, we must thank director Eike Schmidt for the trust placed in us in entrusting us with this important task.