Sun 25 Oct 2009 by Geo_Parkin
I recently completed three quite complex Sim-City-type map illustrations for the website of US company Party City. No, I'd never heard of them either but they turn out to be a pretty big chain of superstores supplying every type of party item you could imagine, from Hannah Montana paper cups through to wedding cake decorations. They also sell a huge range of fancy-dress costumes, which is chiefly what this job related to.
I was asked to produce three separate maps that included a number of distinct 'zones' whose names were listed in the brief. The idea was that once the maps were online, they could be used as a means of navigating the wider site; clicking on 'Roman Ruins' for instance, would take the user to Gladiator costumes, etc. There were also a number of zones listed that related to specific films or TV shows (some of which I'd never heard of) that I was required represent without straying too close to the source material for fear of breaching any copyright. It's probably worth pointing out at this juncture that I only ended up doing the job because the artist originally commissioned to do so suffered a stroke a couple of weeks into it and my agent suggested me as an emergency replacement. I have no way of knowing how much, if anything, the job contributed to this poor man's condition but the possibility of a link did occur to me when I first read through the spec.
It was a real asap project and involved some stupidly late nights but I got the illustrations done and the client seemed extremely pleased. When they eventually appeared online however, their function seemed to have been completely re-considered. They reside on a separate site to the main Party City website and while they look nice enough on screen, it's difficult to discern exactly what the point of them is anymore as the concept of linking to the main site appears to have been abandoned. The only way to 'interact' with them is to zoom in/out and change the names of the zones. You can apparently post the results on Facebook too but I can't really see why anyone would do that. A link from the main site to the maps appeared for a few days but now seems to have been removed, effectively rendering the Planet Party City offshoot invisible.
It's all very strange. Having put so much work into these pieces, I'd like to think that they still might be put to some more interesting use and not simply be buried in an internet cul-de-sac. It could be that there are plans to do just that once the fancy-dress high-season of Halloween is out of the way; watch this space!
Here's the link; catch it while it still exists!
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