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Random Thoughts; Book Chapter and Working with Engineers

Posted by Janet on May 17, 2009

I’m not really sure how things get done. I’d say right now I’m in limbo–having finished taking classes but not yet fulfilled all graduation requirements. Still three more days of internship left before leaving for semi-vacation, and all this time while trying to pack, see friends, and work on a side illustration project. A week after returning, I’ll be packing again to go to another internship, this time to the other side of the country.

This illustration project I’m working on is part of a to-be-published book chapter. All the illustrations are diagrammatic, and for the most part they are already drawn. My job is simply to increase readability and make sure everything fits the publication requirements. Unfortunately, the images did not contain layers so the simple changes involve retracing a large portion of the original image. I’m also learning more than I expected to about working with engineers’ conventions.

Unlike illustrators, most engineers use different software to produce diagrams. The reasons are completely valid, but sometimes that makes it more difficult for illustrators to make all the necessary changes quickly. While designers would most likely format text through InDesign, for this project I was presented with a LaTeX document. This resulted in a day spent uninstalling an old version of MikTeX that somehow made its way to my laptop years ago, downloading and installing the newer version, and figuring out how to compile.

Other challenges include gaining some knowledge about the subject matter you’re working with. While it’s not necessary to know all the details of what’s going on in the paper, it helps to have at least a general idea in order to make suggestions to the client on ways to convey the information better via graphics. I felt abonormally proud of myself when I caught a small error in the original diagram, and again when my client decided to trust me completely to convert the units on his graphs.

Perhaps the most overwhelming part of this project is the sheer number of diagrams that needs to be redrawn. In less than three weeks I’ve retraced and reformatted nearly fifty diagrams. Although not the most difficult, it is the largest number of pages per client I have worked with so far. I’ve heard from more experienced illustrators that a book deal is the way for illustrators to become extremely skilled at a certain media. Books usually require a consistent style. With enough diagrams to keep you busy for months, it’s not surprising that people can crank out illustrations pretty quickly near the end.

It’s time to go back to the diagrams, or maybe just pack a little more and sleep. Vacation is calling.

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