Park Unigrid Brochures: Working With Us

Assortment of brochures for national parks including Christiansted, Flight 93, Fort McHenry, Petrified Forest, Nez Perce, Rosie the Riveter, Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, and Tuskegee Institute

The National Park Service (NPS) Unigrid Brochure Program at Harpers Ferry Center (HFC) is responsible for developing, producing, and delivering Unigrid brochures and other interpretive publications for parks. These publications:

  • Inform and orient park visitors

  • Supply critical safety, stewardship, and regulatory information

  • Include accurate, custom-designed maps; modern and historical photos; and original illustrations

  • Feature compelling text that makes parks relevant for all audiences

  • Serve as the official expression of the park, its resources, and the responsible use of those resources

  • Reflect the national significance of the park

In a typical year we produce about 23 million copies of printed Unigrids for the 423 official NPS units. We also offer braille versions and provide templates for parks to create large-print brochures. Keep reading to learn how to work with us.

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We work with parks to create new Unigrids and reprint and update existing Unigrids. Although each project is a little different, most follow the general processes outlined below. HFC teams for most projects include a writer-editor, designer, cartographer, and image-acquisition/use-rights specialist. All projects include multiple reviews to ensure a high-quality final product.

No matter the type of project, collaboration and good communication between park staff and the HFC team are essential to the project’s success.

New Unigrid Brochures

New Unigrids average two years from project kickoff to delivery in the park, but many factors affect how long a project takes. Each project is unique. Factors like custom illustrations, image acquisition, the nature of reviews (internal or external), availability of park staff, park partner preferences, and changes in park staff or management can affect that timeline. Some projects may take three or more years. In all cases, we know that the final product is an important piece of a park’s outreach to visitors. We make sure it’s done right—that it meets the needs of park visitors and the park—the first time.

  • Park identifies need and contacts HFC (email Unigrid Brochure Program)

  • HFC logs request and sends planning questionnaire (download planning questionnaire - 19KB DOCX)

  • Park fills out questionnaire and is placed in the project queue

  • HFC selects projects based on their order in the queue (first-come, first-served)

  • HFC assigns team to project and kicks off the project with the park

  • HFC schedules site visit (in person or virtual); park identifies point of contact, gathers necessary information, and develops schedule for site visit

  • HFC team prepares project brief outlining plan and timeline; park reviews and approves project brief
    • Once the HFC project team and park staff establish a sense of the scope and thematic priorities, the HFC team prepares a project brief that reflects the collective vision for the Unigrid, identifies the key participants (and any partners who will be involved), sets a tentative schedule (including specific milestones), outlines challenges, and includes rough ideas for possible solutions.
    • Once approved by the park, the project brief serves as a guide for the proposed layout that will be developed collaboratively—and ultimately will serve as the foundation for the finished product.
    • This step is especially critical to sustain momentum on the project and avoid repeatedly revisiting and changing important decisions reached by the park and the HFC team, which can be costly and time-consuming.
  • HFC team develops proposed layout; park reviews layout

  • HFC team incorporates comments and develops revised layout; park reviews layout (In some cases there may be more than one set of revised layouts and reviews.)
  • HFC team develops final layout; park reviews layout
  • Park approves images to be included

  • HFC acquires images and develops production-ready layout; park approves production-ready layout

  • HFC manages production and delivery

  • Park receives final product

Reprints of Existing Unigrid Brochures: With or Without Changes

Reprints may be straight reprints (no changes) or reprints with changes (from minor changes to full editorial upgrades to major redesigns). The timeline for each reprint varies. It may take six months or more for reprints with substantial changes. HFC staff will work with you to get Unigrids when you need them. You can help ensure you have a sufficient supply by tracking your park's Unigrid usage with inventory forms submitted twice a year (April 6 and October 6).

For straight reprints:

  • Park identifies need and contacts HFC (email reprint manager)

  • HFC confirms order details (quantity, shipping instructions, account information)

  • HFC manages production and delivery

  • Park receives final product

Reprints with changes have a few more steps:

  • Park identifies need and contacts HFC (email reprint manager)

  • Park compiles and shares changes

    • List and number text changes on a Word document and mark and number them on a printed or digital brochure

    • Roughly draw changes on the map and send reference materials like shapefiles

    • Provide high-resolution image files, if applicable

    • If using a marked-up brochure, scan or take photos and send them via email or mail the marked-up brochure to HFC

  • HFC assigns team to project and kicks off the project with the park

  • HFC team incorporates text, design, and/or map changes into the layout; park reviews layout and approves any new images

  • HFC acquires images (if applicable) and develops production-ready layout; park approves production-ready layout

  • HFC confirms order details (quantity, shipping instructions, account information)

  • HFC manages production and delivery

  • Park receives final product

Frequently Asked Questions

See the process for reprints of existing brochures, above.
The Unigrid Brochure Program pays for up to 50,000 Unigrids for each new or reprinted brochure project; HFC staff time; HFC team travel, when applicable; and the archiving and maintenance of production files. Parks pay for any quantity over 50,000 (currently about $0.07 per brochure) and shipping costs from the printer in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. For new Unigrids, we also provide copies of the text in braille (with free shipping) and a file of the transcribed edition so the park can get additional copies.
Because our appropriations pay for labor, materials, and archiving, plus up to 50,000 copies of brochures for the official 423 NPS units, the fairest method of selection is first-come, first-served. The number of requests in the queue varies because projects are constantly being completed and new requests constantly arriving. In addition, if a park loses staff or has other unexpected, more urgent demands (such as fire, flood, hurricane, COVID-19, etc.), they may request a delay. In this case, we go to the next brochure in line.
It depends on the project. Under normal circumstances, straight reprints can be delivered to parks within six to eight weeks. If there are substantial changes, updated Unigrids (reprints with changes, as explained above) may take six months or more from the time HFC receives changes to delivery in the park. Entirely new Unigrids average two years, but it depends on many things (see "Why does it take so long to a get a new Unigrid brochure?").
As with any other Unigrid brochure, it depends. When requests for a Unigrid come in from new parks (official NPS units), they are placed in the queue with other new brochure projects. While the queue is first-come, first served, new parks may get higher priority if the park is ready for the project (for example, park planning is sufficiently advanced to have established interpretive themes and park staff are available to work on the project). If HFC staff are fully booked, then we can help the park create an interim brochure by providing a template the park can use with content they develop.
There are many factors that determine how long a Unigrid brochure takes.

People: Developing a new Unigrid involves lots of people, all of whom have ideas and input: the park staff, their partners, stakeholders, and subject-matter experts. Coordinating reviews, meetings, and negotiating final decisions is time consuming. And like the HFC team, they’re all juggling many projects and priorities. Parks can help speed the process if they have well-established relationships with reviewers and processes for gathering and compiling comments.

Planning: Planning begins with a questionnaire for park staff to define the goals of their new Unigrid (see "How can I prepare for my Unigrid brochure project?" for questionnaire details). The process of discovery takes time. Some parks struggle with planning and need more time and assistance. Parks can help speed the process if they establish the purpose, goals, and objectives for their new brochure based on a solid understanding of how the brochure will fit into the overall visitor experience. What’s left out of a Unigrid is as important as what goes into it.

Seasons: The seasonality of many parks requires site visits, new photography, and other work to be done at certain times of the year based on weather, busy seasons, special events, and staff availability and changes.

Contracting: Preparing and awarding contracts for maps and illustrations takes time and must fall within the parameters of fiscal year schedules and funding. It can add six months to a year to the process.

Image acquisition: Unigrid brochures use many site-specific, content-rich graphics. Many come from small institutions that have their own timelines and schedules. Parks can help speed the process if they have a robust, well-researched collection of images and reference materials or sources.

Volume: We have about 400 Unigrid titles in our program. Each year we print about 220 different titles, totaling about 23 million copies. Exact numbers vary each year, but about 80 of the 220 are reprints with changes or new brochures; the remainder are straight reprints. The production process is efficient, and the Unigrid contract printer is fast and keeps the presses rolling, but the large volume of work means any one job may have to wait in the printing queue for a bit.

Additional Benefits: The time and effort invested in new Unigrid brochures pays dividends in the form of tangible reusable elements like new maps, photographs, artwork, timelines, and audience-centered text. The process also has intangible benefits like improved relationships with partners, stakeholders, and subject-matter experts; team-building collaboration; and consensus among park staff. By giving park staff and partners the opportunity to participate throughout the process, we can ensure their voices are heard and reduce the number of changes (and associated costs) when Unigrids are reprinted.
Whether you’re requesting a new Unigrid or a reprint with or without changes, the first thing to do is identify a point of contact for the park. It should be someone with sufficient time to dedicate to the project—someone who will coordinate with the HFC team, consolidate park reviews, answer questions, make decisions on behalf of the park (or find the right person to do so), and more, in a timely manner.

For reprints, we ask that the park provide a consolidated list of requested changes and a marked-up brochure (hard copy or digital).

For new brochures, the planning questionnaire will get you thinking about the information we need to get started. We recommend that you gather several staff members from different divisions to develop thorough, complete answers. It may be helpful to use park resources like interpretive plans and foundation documents as a starting point. It’s an opportunity for the park to reach consensus on your priorities for the project. The more planning and thought you put into the project in the beginning, the better off the project will be.

The planning questionnaire addresses audience characteristics; purpose of the brochure; interpretive themes; visitor information (ways you provide information, such as a park newspaper and website); special subjects, subthemes, and other considerations; maps; photos, illustrations, and other visual materials; partners and reviewers; and key park contacts. Download planning questionnaire (19KB DOCX)
Braille: Our braille editions transcribe the text of all park Unigrid brochures for visitor use. HFC provides parks an initial print run of braille booklets and all the files parks need to post these editions online and order more hardcopies. Let your staff and visitors know of their availability; visitors may keep their hardcopy braille booklets. Braille readers can also check out hardcopies through the Library of Congress, National Services for the Blind and Physically Handicapped. Park staff can find Unigrid braille and text files on our SharePoint site (available on the NPS network only). To learn how to convert more of your park publications into braille, please refer to HFC’s Braille Publication Guide.

Large-Print: We provide templates for parks to use to create their own large-print brochures. Templates are available on NPGallery (available on NPS network only).
Most likely, we do! We store digital versions of past Unigrid brochures for official NPS units. If you’re not from a park, then we probably don’t have the file unless we worked with you to create that product.
For existing brochures: Parks can translate brochure text and captions in-house or work with partners or contractors to get translations. Some parks have worked with the Government Printing Office (GPO), which will put out the project for bid and select a contractor to work with you. Check with your local GPO. (Note: We’ve heard that the Virginia Beach GPO office, 757-490-7940, has generated enthusiasm among parks servicewide for excellent customer service and work quality. They provide one-stop shopping, including translation to fit the existing layout, production, printing, and distribution.) We can provide design and text files that you can give to the contractor.

For new brochures: When parks have a large audience that speaks another language, it is possible to create a bilingual brochure through the Unigrid program. For example, the recently completed Palo Alto Battlefield NHP brochure is in both English and Spanish. Park staff are responsible for providing translated text and captions once the English text has been finalized. If you’re planning a brochure project, be sure to bring this up early in the process, as there are a number of considerations like limited space for text and the relative length of the second language, which will have to be edited to fit.
In some cases, depending on staff availability, we are able to accommodate special projects beyond park brochures. Past products include a World Heritage Sites Unigrid, Santa Fe and Trail of Tears national historic trails Unigrids, and documents like the NPS Centennial Final Report. Requests are added to the queue. As with all the new jobs, the park or program is asked to complete a planning questionnaire (see "How can I prepare for my Unigrid brochure project?" for questionnaire details). When a team is available, we create a direct charge authorization (DCA) to estimate first-year labor costs for a writer-editor, designer, cartographer, and image acquisition specialist. The second-year DCA includes remaining work plus printing. Please contact the Unigrid Brochure Program to talk about your project.
Several templates are available to help NPS staff design and produce publications within the NPS Graphic Identity system. You can find templates for large-print brochures, rack cards, site bulletins, newspapers, posters, and more on NPGallery (available on the NPS network only). We also maintain both the HFC Editorial Style Guide and the Spanish Style Guide with common usage and style decisions to help as you develop your own interpretive media.

Additional Resources

History of Park Brochures and the NPS Unigrid

Park brochures have existed in some form since the early days of the national parks. Not surprisingly, there have been many changes over the years—some for the better and some not! The brochures we create today are part of the revolutionary Unigrid system that launched in 1977. Explore the origins of the Unigrid.

NPS Style Guides

We maintain the HFC Editorial Style Guide for staff from HFC, parks, and NPS programs; contractors; and others who prepare NPS interpretive media. While not intended to impose a strict house style, it includes recommended usage and style decisions developed in the interest of NPS-wide consistency.

The Spanish Style Guide provides guidelines to help translators, contractors, interpreters, rangers, writers, and editors working on NPS Spanish-language publications, museum texts, film scripts, subtitles, audio descriptions, outdoor wayside exhibits, and signs.

View or download the style guides.

Brochure showing design of park Unigrid folders with red and black text and an image of a fort

Brief History of the Unigrid

Explore the history of national park brochures, known as "Unigrids" for the shared grid system that provides structure for design and print.

Braille interline page showing text and braille

Braille Publication Guide

Find guidelines for producing quality products that meet braille transcription and NPS graphic identity standards and other requirements.

Image of cell phone with headphones around it on white background with text for Yosemite

UniDescription Quick Guide

Discover the UniD system, which allows for multiple outputs to make audio-described "Unigrid" brochure content accessible.

Last updated: May 20, 2021