|Sigma Logistic Solutions Press Release|
The importance of good technical illustrations
"Why do we need illustrations when a photograph will do?"
The Technical Illustrator
The technical illustrator is a specialist whose skills complement the technical author to help inform and instruct the reader of the technical manual. From the early days when all illustrations were produced at a drawing board using pen and ink, today's technical illustrator uses software such as Adobe Illustrator, Arbortext IsoDraw, and Corel Designer to create sophisticated, line-based, visual material.
The technical illustrator has at his disposal many techniques to help the reader to understand the product or process. There are the choice of flat views, perspective views or parallel line/isometric views; the choice of full cutaways or partial cutaways; the use of ghosting, shading or colour; and the use of different line weights. Each of these elements has a vital role to play in conveying information to the reader, and in lifting the quality of the visual image above that of using just a plain digital photograph.
The technical illustrator's skills also spread into the manipulation of digital photographs and scanned images through image software such as Adobe PhotoShop.
The Exchange of Information
In the old days illustrations were created from scratch using engineering drawings, photographs, and sketches. An important aspect of the digital age is the ability that once digital information has been created, it can be reworked, added to or amended using other software.
For example, a CAD designer can design a component in software such as SolidWorks, AutoCAD or ProEngineer and this information can then be imported into an illustrating program where it can be rotated as required, the manufacturing information removed, and shading and annotations added for it to be used in a maintenance manual. This offers major cost and time savings.
The CAD data also usually contains all the component information (e.g. fasteners, seals etc.) allowing the technical illustrator to dissect or explode the parts and the assembly order for use in parts manuals or prescriptive text as required.
Working With the Technical Author
The technical illustrator and the technical author work together to the benefit of the client and the end-user of the manual. The author identifies the illustrations, type of views, and annotations that he or she requires to accompany the text. The illustrator discusses the requirements with the author to find the best way of depicting the information, especially when callouts or detailing is required.
The illustrator searches existing material, libraries, CAD models, and then traces or creates the illustration from scratch to accurately portray the author's requirements.
The Final Word
It could be argued that creating technical illustrations is expensive and that digital photographs will often be sufficient. Unfortunately the digital photograph can itself suffer from quality issues (lighting and exposure) and does not photocopy well. Another important issue is that photographs are difficult to amend if changes have been made in the design, and photographs reflect reality - showing perspective and magnifying lens distortions (e.g. wide angle lenses cause converging vertical lines, and zoom lenses compress distance) - neither of which is suitable in good technical manuals.
A trained technical illustrator brings to the table a wealth of experience in how best to portray the views required by the technical author. The illustrator's artwork lifts the quality of the technical manual to another level - one that reflects the quality of the product, and adds value and ease-of-use to the end-user.
Sigma Logistic Solutions has been providing technical documentation solutions to the commercial and defence industries for more than 30 years. We are the largest dedicated supplier of technical documentation services in South Africa and count Armscor, the SANDF, PRASA, and Bell equipment among our many local clients; and Rheinmettal Air Defence, Kärcher, and Pilatus among our international clients.
Issued by: Sigma Logistic Solutions, Johannesburg - 2019-05-10 13:12:00