For the past twelve years, FIDM/Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising Graphic Design Instructor and Bay Area artist Lisa Hoffman has designed the official map handed to all attendees of Burning Man, and this year, she has embedded a unique puzzle game directly into the map’s design that allows attendees to explore, interact, and do things they might not have done otherwise.
What is a Burning Man? According to the official website, “Trying to explain what Burning Man is to someone who has never been to the event is a bit like trying to explain what a particular color looks like to someone who is blind.” For one week each year, over 60,000 attendees from all walks of Earth make the journey to Black Rock Desert to participate in this experimental community, “which challenges its members to express themselves and rely on themselves to a degree that is not normally encountered in one’s day-to-day life,” the website states.
Due to the vast array of camps, villages, medical locations, bathrooms, and other various locations, a new map must be designed each year to help attendees navigate their way through Black Rock City. This year, Hoffman has embedded an interactive puzzle game into the map’s design titled “Cult of the Hat,” which is based around Burning Man 2013’s official theme, “Cargo Cult.”
To participate, attendees will solve a series of puzzles printed on the map, each of which requires a certain amount of historical knowledge or problem solving abilities using visual clues. The further attendees get to solving the puzzle, the more they will learn about the Cult of the Hat. Hoffman also designed a different game titled “Oracle Machine” that comes as a separate handout. This game is meant to be played differently with the hopes that participants will interact with strangers in a fun, game-like way.
This combination of map and game is a perfect example of how great design can effectively serve multiple functions at the same time. Besides using the map as a navigational tool, attendees will now be using it as a form of entertainment. This will make a greater impact on the user, their ability to remember the content, and the frequency at which they access this content.
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