Technical illustration

What is technical illustration?

A technical illustration visually communicates detailed information, usually of a fairly complex nature. So, it’s important that the end result should be accurate dimensionally and proportionally. It should provide a clear impression of what an object or detail is or does, to capture the viewer’s interest and increase their understanding.

Why good illustration is important

In the construction sector, a technical illustration is commonly used to show product detail, how systems work or fit together, or construction/application details. Providing a clear technical illustration demonstrates competence as a solution-provider to the specifier, contractor or installer by understanding and meeting their needs. This will enhance the experience of your audience (and, by association, strengthen your company image) and put you one step closer to winning their specification.

Why good illustration is important

The key functions of a technical illustration

Show normally hidden components

The illustration here would be impossible to photograph. This 3d rendered cutaway avoids common problems associated with photography such as lighting, colour and texture. No retouching is ever required and these types of illustration can be rotated, re-lit or otherwise altered to emphasise different elements of the construction.

Enable complex systems to appear simply and clearly

Again, the construction here would be impossible to photograph. This 3d rendered cutaway clearly shows how this window detail fits together, layer by layer.

Consistent illustrative approach over a range of brochures and systems

A multitude of illustration styles and colours can look messy and off-putting to your audience. Developing a distinctive illustrative style and then applying it consistently looks professional and ensures visual harmony across all media.

Dynamism and attraction adds value to products

Flat roofing build-ups and drainage systems (and many other construction industry products), are not necessarily very photogenic. Adding a sense of perspective and some dramatic lighting can make them much more engaging.

Products shown integrated into construction, working together as solutions

The 3D house shown includes a range of blocks all rolled into one rendered illustration. This type of ‘visual product selector’ helps communicate products as integrated ranges which work together as complete solutions.

Easy to develop into interactive animation or fly-throughs

A highly rendered technical illustration is especially suited for development into animation sequences. The ability to fly around, zoom in, or pan back, change angle and drop through solids gives ample scope to communicate the most complex of objects or to fly through complete environments.

How to commission great work

Producing illustrations that maximise communication requires a clear understanding of the target audience, and the level of technical detail they expect. An essential first step is knowing which parts need to be visually explained, whether it is a product, a system, or a construction. Accurate dimensional data is vital, and samples/colour texture swatches can be equally important if the product or system has a strong aesthetic element. Finally, it’s important to cover all the bases that might be needed for the content of these drawings. This includes types of fixings, fixing centres, colour of seals, texture of surfaces, edge detailing of panels, reflectivity of finishes and a million other things!. The more detail you can furnish at the beginning, the better the outcome.

Phil Chandler

Phil Chandler is a Designer and Director of Communication Design Partnership, a graphic design agency that creates targeted, compelling and technically accurate solutions for the built environment and understand the complex stuff first time.

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