A directory of resources inthe field of technical communication.

Technical Illustration

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Technical Illustration is the use of illustration to visually communicate information of a technical nature. Technical illustrations often take the form of component drawings or diagrams (usually isometric or orthogonal), and are sometimes viewed as a subset of graphic design or visual rhetoric.



3D: A Better Way to Produce High Quality?  (link broken)

Going three-dimensional in graphics has many advantages – at least in theory. Everyone knows how tired you will become of the same graphic element, however nicely drawn, when used over and over. Someone at the department has taken the time to get good reference-material and draws an airplane, a train or something else rather complicated, and of course the drawing gets stored for further use. The next time you need such an illustration you simply copy-paste the element into the new graphic.

VisualJournalism (2002). Design>Graphic Design>Technical Illustration


Accentuation in Technical Illustration

There are various ways to accentuate a specific part in its installation position. However in order to keep the printing cost as low as possible, it is recommended to opt for stylistic devices that are all in black and white.

ITEDO Software. Articles>Graphic Design>Technical Illustration>Color


Airbrush Tutorial: Basic Painting Technique

Airbrush is a much less forgiving endeavor than digital illustration. The first use of the airbrush started in the 1890s and was accomplished by blowing air through a tube with your mouth. With airbrush there is no command>undo. Mistakes are costly as they usually result in the need to do a separate piece of work as a patch or fix and have a printer strip it into the main image.

Hulsey, Kevin. Kevin Hulsey Illustration (2006). Design>Graphic Design>Technical Illustration


Analysis of a Diagram

Just because you like something you created, it doesn't mean it's any good or you have a big ego. But it can be useful to stop and ponder something you did that you particularly like--so that you can understand your own design priorities a bit better.

Hughes, Michael A. Humane Experience, The (2010). Articles>User Experience>Technical Illustration>Visual Rhetoric


Analytics According to Captain Kirk

By seeing all of the available data in one chart, associations, patterns and conclusions can be drawn simply by comparing the relationships as they are presented. This is something that I learned from Edward Tufte.

Bailey, Matt. Lyris (2008). Articles>Web Design>Technical Illustration>Log Analysis


Antialiasing Examples from Real Applications  (link broken)

Different graphical software applications have different abilities at antialiasing: some software is very good at it, while other software is not. Here are some examples for comparison.

IsoCalc. Design>Graphic Design>Typography>Technical Illustration


Antialiasing Explained

Antialiasing is a method of representing perfect, continuous vectors on imperfect, discontinuous display devices so that they look as perfect as possible.

IsoCalc. Design>Graphic Design>Typography>Technical Illustration


Applicability of CGM Versus SVG for Technical Graphics

As certain traditional technical and engineering applications become established on the Web, they bring with them information resources that mix text and data with significant technical graphics components. Technical graphics for such applications as aircraft maintenance manuals are characterized by high volume and complexity, stringent fidelity and interoperability constraints, and long life cycle. W3C has two standards for Web based graphics, WebCGM and SVG. WebCGM was specifically standardized for technical applications. SVG has much broader applicability. In a nutshell, the usual formula is 'WebCGM for Web-based technical graphics, SVG for graphic arts and creative graphics.' Still, the questions continue to arise. why there are two formats, and isn't it possible to use the one for the other application? When one takes a careful and detailed look at the two formats, in the context of the particular requirements of technical illustration, then specific differences emerge. This session will present such a comparison, from both the theoretical, functional perspective, as well a practical real-world (implemenations and interoperability) perspective. The comparison is based on an ongoing study that has been conducted within the CGM Open consortium and the Graphics Working Group of the Air Transport Association.

CGMopen (2003). Design>Graphic Design>Technical Illustration>Online


Applying Techniques of Textual Reuse to Graphics Using SVG and XML  (link broken)

Structured data techniques are typically applied to text-based data. Technologies like SGML and XML have allowed text-based publishing to constrain and control the creation of text-based information, increasing the usefulness, accuracy, and reuse of information.

Williams, Jim. IDEAlliance (2004). Articles>Graphic Design>Technical Illustration>SVG


The Assault on Arafat's Compound  (link broken)

An illustrative diagram to complement a news story from April 2002.

Gabel, Ed. VisualJournalism (2002). Design>Graphic Design>Technical Illustration>Isometric


The Association of Medical Illustrators

The professional objectives of the AMI are to promote the study and advancement of medical illustration and allied fields of visual communication, and to promote understanding and cooperation with the medical profession and related health science professions. Its members are primarily artists who create material designed to facilitate the recording and dissemination of medical and bioscientific knowledge through visual communication media. Members are involved not only in the creation of such material, but also serve in consultant, advisory, educational and administrative capacities in all aspects of bioscientific communications and related areas of visual education.

AMI. Organizations>Graphic Design>Technical Illustration>Biomedical


The Awesome Power of Visualization 2: Death and Taxes 2007

Visuals that provide insights come from 1) a deep understanding of the goal / objectives 2) from thinking beyond what standard trend lines or stacked bar graphs can provide. Something non-normal to grab attention and yet communicate insights (sort of already contain recommendations and action items and not just data).

Kaushik, Avinash. Occam's Razor (2007). Articles>Graphic Design>Technical Illustration>Log Analysis


Basic Photoshop Painting Techniques for Technical Illustrations

In this demonstration we will be approaching the entire illustration process in much the same way as was done before Photoshop or any other computer graphics programs where created. In the non-digital world, you would start with an inked line drawing on illustration board.

Hulsey, Kevin. Kevin Hulsey Illustration (2006). Design>Graphic Design>Technical Illustration>Adobe Photoshop


Basic Principles Of Perspective Drawing  (link broken)

Any good technical illustration starts with well-executed line art. If you are working from any type of reference other than a CAD output in the desired angle, you will need to have a strong fundamental understanding of the principles of perspective drawing.

Hulsey, Kevin. Kevin Hulsey Illustration. Design>Graphic Design>Technical Illustration>Isometric


The Beauty of Data Visualization

David McCandless turns complex data sets (like worldwide military spending, media buzz, Facebook status updates) into beautiful, simple diagrams that tease out unseen patterns and connections. Good design, he suggests, is the best way to navigate information glut -- and it may just change the way we see the world.

McCandless, David. TED (2010). Presentations>Graphic Design>Technical Illustration


Better Posters: Does Embellishment Improve Graphs?

It looks like the opening (quoted above) overreaches what the study actually does. The research only looks at backgrounds, but “chart junk” comes in many other forms: pointless 3-D effects, crazy colour schemes, excessive gridlines, cutesy cartoons, and more. The summary of this research in no way provides a scientific basis to argue, “I like the 3-D effect, and science supports it’s easier to read!”

Better Posters (2009). Design>Presentations>Technical Illustration>Charts and Graphs


Bézier Curves

Computer graphics programs offer you a variety of different tools and functions for your work as illustrators. One function that is provided by all graphics programs is the so-called Bézier curve.

ITEDO Software (2002). Design>Graphic Design>Technical Illustration


Bring Data to Life: Art and Information Can Complement Each Other  (link broken)

Using Photoshop, Illustrator, and Freehand to create better charts, graphs, technical diagrams.

Abes, Cathy. MacWorld (2001). Design>Graphic Design>Technical Illustration>Charts and Graphs


Build a Tweet Map with SVG

Divya Manian of nimbupani.com reveals how to create dynamic visualisations using Polymaps, a library that makes it trivial to create and manipulate map data in SVG.

Manian, Divya. .Net Magazine (2011). Articles>Graphic Design>Technical Illustration>SVG


La Catastrofe del Trasbordador Espacial

El lamentable accidente del trasbordador Columbia ha propiciado la creación de innumerables gráficos para explicar lo que pasó. Revisamos la importancia de la visualización en este accidente y, especialmente, en el del Challenger en 1986.

Dursteler, Juan Carlos. InfoVis (2003). (Spanish) Articles>Risk Communication>Technical Illustration


The Challenges of Technical Illustration for Customer Documentation in the High Tech Environment   (PDF)

As emerging computer technology and new graphics software packages allow for the creation of illustration and design by individuals without formal training, traditional illustrators from the “pen and pencil” era are continually challenged to compete in the industry. Choosing a career path in the technical documentation field presents a unique set of challenges for the technical illustrator and designer. This paper identijes the role of a technical illustrator and the tools and skills required for success in a high tech environment.

Moore, Donna Lynn. STC Proceedings (1997). Careers>TC>Graphic Design>Technical Illustration


Chart Junk? How Pictures May Help Make Graphs Better

New research shows that highly embellished graphs and charts may actually help people understand data more effectively than traditional graphs.

Science Daily. Design>Graphic Design>Technical Illustration>Charts and Graphs


Choosing the Right Graph   (PDF)   (members only)

When it comes to graphing data, most professionals show little method or creativity. They typically limit themselves to a small repertoire of graph types and select from it on the basis of habit, if not sheer ease of production. Similarly, the many books on graphing devote much attention to graphical integrity and readability, but little or none to graph selection. We developed a methodology to help engineers, scientists, and managers choose the “right graph” on the basis of three criteria: the structure of the data set in terms of number and type of variables, the intended use of the graph, and the research question or intended message. The first and third criteria allow one to construct an effective two-entry selection table.

Doumont, Jean-luc and Philippe Vandenbroeck. IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication (2002). Design>Graphic Design>Technical Illustration>Charts and Graphs


Classic Computer Manuals from Apple and IBM

Apple's first user manual was largely the creation of Ronald Wayne, Apple's third founder, recruited from Atari by Steve Jobs for a 10 percent stake in the new company. Wayne not only wrote the entire 10-page booklet, he also drew the intricate cover logo depicting Isaac Newton beneath an apple tree.

Honan, Mathew. Wired (2008). Design>Documentation>Technical Illustration>History



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