You see a lot of tutorials on here about how to do certain things in hammer, but when it comes to really combining these elements, I feel we're a bit short on supply. Here are some opinions that I have on the subject that may help you, too. Too often, we'll test maps that, while "playable", suffer from initial mistakes that can hinder design later on. These are just a few things I identify as important to layout creation and originality in making a map. 1. ALWAYS REMEMBER THE THEME! Generally speaking, your theme is where your map takes place, whether it's at a goldmine, a gravelpit, or a train station. You aren't designing a map to take place in cp_orangeland (hopefully). Think about what things would be like in your setting, and use that to guide the creation of your layout. 2. GAMEPLAY > WHAT HAS WORKED BEFORE Let's say you wanted to make a gravelpit style cp map. You could just say "oh it has a tower so I'll use one too". No. Instead, examine why the tower works. Is it the height advantage? Is it harder to attack/defend? For your map to be memorable, you need to make something that plays different while fundamentally working the same. When you design any part of your map, remember how it's going to play. 3. DON'T FORCE IT If any part of your map feels forced, out of place, or generally unpleasant to make, maybe you need to give it some more thought. 4. TREAT EVERY MAP LIKE IT'S YOUR BEST Especially for first-time map makers: of course your first map isn't going to get worldwide acclaim on a1. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't try your best to make it look professional. Get a good idea of what's worth getting tested, or prepare to be disheartened. We're all here to help each other, but feedback can seem pretty harsh sometimes. 5. BE CONSIDERATE Listen to other people's feedback. Take everything with a grain of salt. If only one person has some opinion, don't take it to be the complete truth. Be confident in your decisions, but remember, you're not making the map just so you can play on it alone. 6. NAMING This is just a personal opinion, but your map should be simple. A descriptive noun will always do it. "Exfoliation" may sound cool, but alongside maps such as "gravelpit", "well", or "coldfront", it could feel a bit out of place. I hope these musings may at least provoke some thought, and if they help you like they've helped me, I'll be glad.