Behind the Scenes of the Iowa Travel Guide

I’ve not pulled an all-nighter since my college days. (And those, ahem, were quite a while ago.) But there I was at 12:30 a.m. in early December 2013 carefully scrutinizing a page of the Iowa Travel Guide to make sure the colors were just so.

I am, however, getting ahead of myself. The real work of the Travel Guide started long before early December. In fact, initial planning work on the Travel Guide began in June.

We added inspirational editorial spreads to the latest edition – something we’d never done before. In August we started brainstorming what topics we’d feature as well as the attractions and destinations we’d include. Then we hired a photographer to criss-cross the state, capturing images for the spreads as well as the rest of the guide.

Editorial Layouts

In the meantime we pulled listing information on the nearly 800 attractions, 200 bed and breakfast properties, 500 campgrounds/cabins and 600 hotels that would be included from our website. The look of the entire guide was revamped by using more images and fresh typography.

Travel Regions

Then the proofing started. Every word of the 176-page travel guide was reviewed. Every. Word. Symbols were checked to make sure if the listing had a hotel icon, for instance, that there really was a hotel in that city. Edits were marked, made and checked…and rechecked…and rechecked. Ads and photos were positioned and re-positioned.

In October we launched a contest asking our Facebook fans to submit photos for possible use on the cover. More than 600 images were submitted! We narrowed the options and developed three separate cover options. Facebook fans voted for their favorite cover in November, choosing one that showcases 13 destinations from across the state.


November 21 was deadline day – the day we were to turn the entire guide over to the printer. Five of us huddled around a conference room table meticulously checking the index of the guide, making sure if the index said Project Art Church was on page 48, that it really was on page 48. (It is, go look!) We discovered a few listings that were in the guide, but not the index and were able to make those changes before the deadline. Whew!

photo 1

Which brings me back to December and the nearly all-nighter at the press facility. Our first look was the cover at about 8:30 p.m. After nearly 45 minutes of tweaking the amount of magenta here or cyan there, we achieved the color we wanted (and which would serve as a baseline moving forward). Then we waited for the first look at the inside of the guide – which wouldn’t come for a few more hours. And that’s how we ended up inspecting pages at 12:30 a.m., and virtually every three to four hours after that until all pages were printed. All 125,000 copies of the guide were printed in three days.

The guides were then trimmed, bound, packed and shipped. And now they’re available for you! The free guide can be ordered online at, by phone at 800.345.IOWA, on Facebook or picked up at any of Iowa’s 19 Welcome Centers. An online version can be found on the website as well.

Jessica O’Riley | Tourism Communications Manager

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