Creating a high-quality travel guide in Affinity Publisher

Seasoned designer, writer and photographer, Andrew Revitt talks us through the creation of his latest print project—The Chamonix-Mont-Blanc Travel Guide—which he made using Affinity Publisher.

Andrew Revitt started his creative career just as web design was becoming a thing. After learning how to code, he initially worked for a travel company, then design agencies and startups, before going freelance around ten years ago.

During his time in the industry, Andrew has designed books, magazines, websites and UI’s, and has helped build brands, but in the last three years, he has been focused solely on his own projects, including Super Alpine, where he both writes and designs.

How did the Chamonix-Mont-Blanc Travel Guide come about? What inspired you to create it?

The pandemic! I’d been working on a couple of other books that I intended to finish in 2020, but then everything changed. Luckily I’d had the idea of a travel guide on the back-burner for a while. I’ve been visiting Chamonix since 1997 and have lived there for a few seasons, so had a lot of the content already. This made it a project I could finish without travelling.

The guide was produced using the Affinity suite. Why did you use Affinity for this project?

After a long time using Adobe products, I was keen to learn something new and fresh. The Affinity suite is ideal thanks to their integration, and once you’ve learned one, it’s easy to pick up the others. I’ve used Designer since it came out and recently started using Publisher for new projects. This is the first one that has made it print, and I’m pleased to report it has been a smooth transition.

Of course, not having the ongoing cost of an Adobe subscription, its intrusive updates and having software installing you didn’t ask for is also a bonus.

How did you decide what to include and the overall look and feel of the guide?

I didn’t have anything to base this guidebook on as there aren’t any other travel guides to Chamonix—only hiking or climbing ones, so I looked at Chamonix’s history and the many events that have taken place there as a starting point, then I combined all the things I’ve learned about the valley from having been there on and off for 20 years.

I looked at the other mainstream printed travel guides, but they aren’t particularly interesting from a design perspective. The most interesting ones I found were by Cereal Magazine—very clean and stylish, but lacking a bit of real-world information. I’ve tried to combine the stylish, minimal look of the Cereal Guides with more practical information.

It contains 75 stunning photographs and eight maps and illustrations. Did you produce these elements yourself?

I created all the maps, graphs and the illustration of the mountains in Designer. I did some of the drawing on the last one in Affinity Photo on the iPad. I’m not good at freehand drawing, so using the Apple Pencil was something new for me. A couple of the photographs are mine, but they are mostly taken by my partner Julia with some of the shots we didn’t have coming from stock sites.

What was your process for designing the layout? How did everything come together?

I’ve designed a couple of Publisher templates that you can buy on Creative Market—one is a minimal one, and I started with that. I like to build the book as I go—even without having finished the writing, it gives you a good idea of how much you have and where the holes are in the content.

Previously I’ve worked on custom-size books, but I went with A5 for this one, like the Cereal Guides, as it’s a nice size to fit in a daypack if you are travelling. With the smaller size, you have to take into account the readability of columns and text sizes, so I’ve stuck with one or two columns, often with just an information panel in the second column so as not to overwhelm the page. I tried to maximise all the great photography by giving it space and only putting text over it where it is appropriate.

Column layout in Affinity Publisher

Once I finished the writing and had an editor go over it, I replaced all the text in the document and then went back through adding pages and amending layouts to take it all in. I had to source a couple more photos and ended by doing an index.

From there, I generated the press-ready PDF’s (Publishers Preflight is helpful here) and got a book proof printed. Of course, there were a couple of things that looked wrong once I had the book in my hands. The cover didn’t come out as well as expected and a colour used throughout didn’t print so well, so these were fixed. I got another printed proof, and then the book went to press.

What tools/features in Affinity Publisher did you use most during the project?

This is the first book I’ve used the TOC and Index features. Previously I’ve built the TOC myself, but this book is information-dense, so it made more sense to use the automatically created one. I’ll stick with that method now, as it’s pretty good. I used StudioLink quite a bit, and this book has a few master pages for the different layouts and colour changes.

Table of Contents layout in Affinity Publisher
The timeline drawn with Designers tools in Publisher

It’s so good I forgot it was there! It is something you take for granted pretty quick. I drew all the boxes and lines using the Designer link without even opening it.

When I got the book proofs, I didn’t like the way one of the colours printed, so changing all the graphs, pages and other elements throughout was easy as you can do it in the Publisher document without having to go back to Designer and export the files again. I don’t always place the Designer files, though, and you miss this ability when you have placed a TIFF or PDF.

Andrew using StudioLink to edit the colours of a graph created in Designer
How long did the guide take to produce, and were there any challenges you faced along the way?

It took about six months to get to the printed proof, but 20 years of going there to be able to write it! I think the biggest challenge was not having the exact photo I wanted, and I couldn’t go and get it. Hopefully, we will be able to solve that for a second edition down the road.

Where can we purchase a copy?

You can buy the Chamonix-Mont-Blanc Travel Guide at SuperAlpine.co.


Andrew’s Affinity Publisher and Designer templates can be found on Creative Market. You can check out his other creative projects by visiting andrewrevitt.com.