NATIONAL PARK BROCHURES
Over the years, variously named General Information Regarding, Circulars of Information, Official Map and Guide, Rules and Regulations, Guidebooks, Mini-folders, and simply Park Brochures, besides memories, probably the number one memento from anyone's park visit is the park brochure.
The earliest park brochures were produced annually, consisting of multi-page booklets that gave a brief introduction to the park, rates for lodging and transportation services within the park, and rules and regulations. A "color" map (1 or 2 colors) was eventually added in the centerfold and more information about the park and its notable features were added to help expand the park visitor's understanding and appreciation.
Over the ensuing years park brochure designs evolved into many different formats. A need to reduce printing costs resulted in a switch from guidebooks to a smaller pamphlet format, which came in many different sizes and, in time, became more colorful.
Since 1977 the designs of all new brochures have been based on the "Unigrid System" format, created by designer Massimo Vignelli in collaboration with the National Park Service's Harpers Ferry Center's design staff. A modular grid system for layout of text and graphics, black bands at the top and bottom of the brochures, and a standardized typeface are the defining features of the Unigrid system. Standard map formats complete the presentation, helping to establish a uniform identity for National Park Service brochures.
Today, the official park brochures are known for their reliability, thoroughness, visual appeal, and standard design elements that contribute to the National Park Service graphic identity. As park visitation increases and personal services decrease, the onsite portability of publications gives them a significant role in providing visitors with interpretive, logistical, and safety information.
In the Web pages that follow, most of what is shown are simply the brochure covers, helping to illustrate the evolution in design of the myriad styles which have been produced over the decades. As we approach the Centennial of the National Park Service (in 2016), the actual contents of many of these brochures will also be included simply by clicking on the brochure cover. In the case of the Unigrid brochures, the National Park Service elected to contract with professional photographers to produce the photos which are contained in those brochures; sadly, in most cases due to a lack of funding, the contracts did not include permission to include electronic display of their copyrighted works. This is the reason why the complete park brochures are not online on the National Park Service website, and as such, are also not in the public domain. These Unigrid covers are being shown solely for educational purposes.
Many National Park Service units also have accompanying Park Handbooks (Historical or Natural History). Most of the older Handbooks are now online, whereas the newer handbooks are not in the public domain (also due to photograph copyright restrictions).