An entrepreneur’s journey to brevity

Picture an iconic place in your capital city. There are probably around 20 to choose from. Have you selected one yet? Now, imagine you’re going to take out-of-town visitors there. How would you describe it to them? Oh, and did I mention, you’re only allowed one picture and less than 15 words?

Not easy is it? Rurik Nyström is a master cutter of word noise, in fact, he’s built a business out of this particular skill. His company RedBANG has produced maps of over 29 cities in China, Brunei, Singapore, Sweden, Switzerland, Holland and the UK. The editor in me wanted to know how RedBANG had perfected the art of writing so compactly.

They have set up a process. They identify a city’s top 20 sites and then research each one in depth. Online, they trawl through Wikipedia, history archives, travel sites, they even visit the city virtually on YouTube. They pick out key facts and identify what Rurik calls the ‘value words’; descriptive words used by other authors. These key facts and value words are then passed to a professional writer who distils them into an sms-length word-bite.

The words are important, but to Rurik what’s more important is to ‘show’ the city to a visitor. He believes tourist offices and travel guides show too much; he’s striving for the opposite. His readers, he says, are smart, short on space (his map is small and light) and short on time. Rurik’s job is to guide visitors around a city with good graphics and signage.

I ask Rurik how he developed his passion for condensing cities into a few words. In short – how did he become a mapper? A childhood spent following a diplomat father meant he was always arriving in new cities and posing the same questions as tourists. A 13-year stint as a Concept Specialist at IKEA honed his design skills. Creating RedBANG allowed him to fuse his many loves: travel, design, mapping and a passion for presenting information in an innovative, original way.

I’m still struggling to describe Beijing’s Forbidden City in a few words. I’ll leave you with RedBANG’s version:

Built 1406-1420 by a  million laborers. Home of emperors, servants, concubines and eunuchs till 1924. Includes the huge and fascinating Palace Museum. Opening hours….

For more information:






Give me more!

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