Leaflets

These are one of the most common and popular ways of interpreting the environment. They can relate to the whole area or to a part of it, perhaps to a single trail designed to follow a particular theme. Leaflets also provide a form of souvenir and something to refer to later.

The text of the leaflet can be related to points on the ground, such as plants, views or cultural artefacts, by means of photos or drawings that identify them, by points on a map of the route, or by numbered posts along the trail. The posts will have no meaning to visitors without the leaflet, and spotting the next post and interpreting what it relates to can become an exciting game for children.

The design of an effective leaflet is a specialist task, and it should be undertaken by a skilled graphic designer once the trail alignment, interpretative script and marker post locations have been decided. Special photographs, illustrations and maps might be needed for the leaflet. Some organizations maintain their own design teams, who can produce leaflets to a general house style but with localized characteristics. If external consultants are used they need to be given a good brief on the interpretative design and requirements of the leaflet.

Leaflets must be kept up to date, especially if the landscape changes suddenly, as happened after the forest fires at Yellowstone some years ago. The number of leaflets to be produced needs careful assessment; it is likely to be affected by several factors, such as the likely demand, the audience, the quality of the production, the shelf life and the budget available. Large print runs reduce unit costs but maximize overall costs. Therefore, for sites or trails with a low turnover, cheaper leaflets with a short shelf-life that can be easily revised and reprinted should be used, while glossier leaflets are likely to be confined to places with a high turnover.

Portable tape recorders

Another means of giving an interpretative message that can be up to date, and also reducing the number of artefacts on the area or the number of leaflets that have to be updated, is a portable tape recorder of the Walkman variety. These might be available to rent from an information centre, and prompt the visitor to listen to sections in accordance with marked posts set along the trail. In places where foreign visitors are common, versions can be produced in different languages. The recorders do not interfere with other people walking the trail, and are useful for blind or partially sighted people.