Lonely Planet Writer

In the studio with Mike Jacobsen, illustrator for The Daredevil's Guide to Dangerous Places

Mike in his studio

The inner-child in Mike Jacobsen seems pretty chuffed with the task of illustrating our new Lonely Planet Kids book The Daredevil's Guide to Dangerous Places. We asked Mike how he set about designing a 'dangermobile' and creating characters that take young readers on a journey to some of the world's most renowned hazardous places such as Stromboli Volcano, Saltstraumen Whirlpools and The Dead Sea.

Tell us about the brief

This book is a tour through some of the most dangerous places in the world, so I was tasked with developing a couple of intrepiddangerologists called Eddie and Junko who act as guides through these hazardous destinations. The brief also required a dangermobile – their trusty vehicle which is equipped with all kinds of paraphernalia – ready for any environment. The guys at Lonely Planet were great and provided some loose sketches that were really helpful in conveying their vision without being overly prescriptive. We both felt that the designs should have an element of humour to allow for a playful tone throughout the book (music to my ears!).

How did you make a start?

I started with pencil roughs for the two characters and then finalised them on Adobe Illustrator; this allowed me to refine the shape and define the colours. I then created a series of environment-appropriate outfits that the characters could wear throughout the book. I designed the dangermobile entirely digitally as I sometimes find it much easier to be able to move elements around and experiment with proportions.

Were there any challenges?

The biggest challenge was integrating my illustration with the photographic components on each spread. I’m used to creating everything from scratch and having the control that comes with that. It was a little tricky to work out perspective and lighting at times but I feel like it all came out really nicely.

What’s the one item in your studio you can’t live without?

I’d like to say it’s all the nerdy stuff on my shelves (which my four-year-old certainly couldn’t live without), but the main thing I couldn’t live without is the copious amount of natural light I get in my new studio. I was previously in a much darker room and it makes such a difference to my mood!

How did you get into illustrating books?

I’ve been illustrating for many years and have signed up to an agency who provide me with commissions. The amount of work involved in illustrating books and the longer timelines are quite different from my usual commercial illustration work but the end result is so much more rewarding – it’s so nice to have something tangible to hold!

Mike's illustrations

Character building...
Costume designs from the book for Eddie and Junko

Examples of final spreads from the book

The 'dangermobile' in its full glory

In this fascinating round-the-world adventure, you’ll travel to 35 of the planet’s most dangerous natural places.


With a mix of photos and illustrations, amazing facts and danger stats, it’s a fun and absorbing introduction to our wild and wonderful world.