Saturday, January 22, 2011

Some of the illustrations for the book I'm working on are more engaging than others. The simplest ones tend to get the most enthusiastic reception, and I understand why; they're immediately comprehensible, and they often involve animals, which are just sort of instinctively interesting to look at (this is why the average family frequents public zoos more often than it attends public statistical demonstrations--although the Albuquerque-wide "Multiple Regression Analysis and You" festivals have been making rapid gains in popularity in recent years). I'm guessing that has a lot to do with subconsciously identifying and being drawn to eyes/faces, which is why mascots are so often used to grab attention and deliver messages. Maybe I should have developed D'nae (the plucky little DNA strand who teaches every protein that they play a vital part!) at the beginning of this project.

But for now the ones I'm proudest of--the ones that take the most work and thought--often aren't given much attention when someone rifles through the pages. Their role is to introduce concepts, so it's a spoonful-of-sugar-helping-the-medicine-go-down thing. I think the reason I like them so much is that the original sources they're based on are so opaque--and making the information more accessible feeds my need to improve things. Here's a copied page from a genetics text that was recently passed on to me by the author I'm working with (I don't know whose work it's originally from, I'm afraid, or I'd attribute it).

While this illustration isn't terrible, I dislike it for a number of reasons. It's clumsy in its organization and cluttered in its content. So the first thing I did was sketch ideas for restructuring the information--something that would make the categories a bit easier to grasp at a glance:

That seemed clear enough, I thought, and used it to built a digital draft, assembling bones of the information to come, establishing a color scheme and spacing.

(Pretty nice supercoil there, right? Oh yeeeeeah)

Then I sweated over (well, neck-strained over, anyway) getting the important bits right, bright, and polished.

So there! It's not going to win any Most Cuddly contests, but I think it's clearer than the original. And prettier, if I do say so myself. And I do!

(Though not in meetings.)

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