If you build it, they will come.
Way back in April of this year, I was given a big (and I do mean BIG) opportunity to design the annual corn maze for P Bar Farms located in Hydro Oklahoma. P Bar is known for their giant corn maze, and in the past have featured such diverse sponsors as the Oklahoma City Thunder, Whole Foods, the Oklahoma Centennial, and Oklahoma Tourism. Because of the release of Jurassic World this summer, the farm approached the Sam Noble Museum to design a dino-themed maze. It was a no brainer to choose the Oklahoma state fossil, the Saurophaganax, as the star dinosaur. And it just so happens that the museum has a Saurophaganax on display that I could use for reference:
Beginning work on the maze was intimidating to say the least. I've never done a design this big, and it was hard to decide how large to make the elements and how to connect certain things to allow movement in the maze. The only direction I was given was that I needed to include this year's tagline, "Lost in Time," and that they wanted a "Jurassic Park feel." I immediately thought of the iconic Jurassic Park logo. I knew this was a design that would resonate with people, but the trick was to recreate it to include the Saurophaganax and the tagline they were wanting, and also make it different enough to be unique and individual in its own right.
The field where the maze would be is 10 acres, and I was given exact measurements that could be translated to the computer and scaled appropriately. Once I wrapped my head around the idea that 1 pixel = 1 foot, I was able to create the file with positioning markers every 20 feet. This would help the team later when they used GPS to cut the design into the field. It also helped me to be able to visualize the 6ft wide paths that would be cut into the corn. 6 feet = a 6 pixel stroke width. Here is the grid I started with:
Next, I drew out the text by hand, using the original Jurassic Park font as inspiration. The letters needed to connect to allow movement (the green stripe in the middle represents corn).
I used my reference photos of the Saurophaganax to design the head. The design had to be simplified to remove extra pieces of skull too detailed to include at this scale. It's truly amazing what can be done with GPS and a lawnmower these days. I didn't expect to be able to send this design to them and have it translated so perfectly into the corn but they did a great job!
Now, I'm no maze designer, and designing the intricate twists and turns of the actual maze really intimidated me. Luckily, the team at P Bar Farms have been doing this long enough to know exactly how to create a fun and enjoyable maze that actually connects and doesn't simply send you in circles or frustrate you until you cut through the corn yourself to get out! I sent my design to them and they returned this beautifully crafted maze around it:
A few small tweaks later and it was good to go. In July, it was time to cut the corn! They were able to feed my vector design into a GPS program that could guide them through every curve and turn with complete precision. I wish I could have gone out there to watch this part but the next thing I knew, I received this image and nearly jumped out of my chair from excitement!
You can see the rest of the farm below to give you an idea of the scale.
Not only did I get to design the maze, I was also responsible for all of the signage around the farm. You can check out their website for all of the fun things they do each fall: pbarfarms.com
Here is some of the signage I made, including one of the wayfinding hints that point you in the right direction if you answer the question correctly. (Do you know the correct answer?)
On Halloween, I finally got to go out to see the maze in person. Denny and some of our friends went with me, and we all had a great time trying our luck in the maze. And no, I did not bring a cheat sheet! We loved it so much we did the difficult outer route twice and the easier inner route through the letters and dino head once. I'm proud to say that our sense of direction did not abandon us, and the sun even came out to help guide us.
I hope you enjoyed this behind the scenes look into what goes into designing a corn maze. This was certainly nothing I ever thought I would be asked to do as a designer but I can now say with cornfidence that I'm up to the challenge! (Couldn't resist a corn pun)