So here I am, about to create a novel story-telling vehicle filled with historical information, packaged in a beautiful design. I’m incredibly excited and eager to get started. However, before I design The Lady’s Guide, I need to know where it is going to end up: the end market will influence the style and content of the magazine.
My hope is that historic houses will be interested in offering it for sale to their visitors. To make it relevant to each specific house I aim to feature stories and ‘interviews’ from the women who lived there in the past. I know some of these houses are still in the same family, some are open as tourist attractions, some are run as guest houses and some have become luxury hotels. I just need a list of the historical houses in Munster and I’m ready to go. Simple!
Surprisingly there is no one list of big houses in Munster. A trawl of the internet reveals that the Irish Historic House Association show 19. Heritage Ireland list six. Discover Ireland offer 62 to visit and 12 to overnight in. Hidden Ireland are slightly more hush-hush and suggest 11, while Curious Ireland unexpectedly list only two. Great Small Hotels list eleven luxury Manor Houses while Trivego show a different ten. Some houses appear on only one site, while others appear on every site. Some houses are only available for overnight stays, some houses only open to day visitors.
I started making lists county by county. Then lists of guest houses compared to places to visit. I tried computer spread sheets, handwritten A2 sheets, confused three sheets to the wind sheets. – In which house did the Earl of Tyrone live? How far did Margaret White have to travel when she moved from Bantry to Longeville? How many branches were there of the Herbert family?….. I just couldn’t get a handle on all the information to assimilate. I was going crazy.
And then I remembered I was a graphic designer.
Data visualisation is part of a designer’s repertoire. Edward Tufte, God of data visualisation, describes it as turning a principle of thinking into a principle of seeing. I call it tidying and I was ready to spark joy the cr*p out of all those sheets.
I found an eighteenth century map and tomorrow will buy lots of little coloured stickers. Much like a commander of a military operation I will place stickers on the map to represent each historic house. I will use one colour for houses to stay, one colour for houses to visit and another for houses that offer both. As soon as I thought of using a map, I remembered Messrs Taylor and Skinner, two gentlemen who created road maps of Ireland. These are beautifully rendered drawings, showing mountains and rivers and places of interest along each highway and byway…..and guess what? They also list each gentleman’s place of residence.
I would write more but my hands are full, I appear to have caught a moonbeam.