An Interview with Design Partner, Doug Wells about the Importance of Good Technical Diagrams in Communications
Wells Creative Studio collaborates with Thomson Bridge’s Instructional Design team to create visual technical content including illustration, animation and online content. Doug is the Founder of Wells Creative Studio, which provides specialist digital illustration services to enterprises across Industries in Australia and internationally. The Studio excels in creative on-brand visual solutions employing 2D and 3D illustration, animation and online content. We took some time out with Doug to get a better understanding of what makes a good diagram.
Q. What are the main problems with communicating technical information?
A. Extracting the content from the SME and grasping an understanding of the technical information, this is the first hurdle, but to give you an example this is how I liaise with the SME:
I usually have a meeting with the SME (phone conference or if possible, in person), where they often show me the visuals they have been currently using, often these are taken from google images and are not accurate and most definitely not on-brand. I get the SME to describe everything in detail, taking lots of notes. I then go away and do my own research on the technical information, sometimes coming back with questions for the SME. Once I have a grasp of the content I usually have a map in my head as to how best portray the information.
Q. How do diagrams help?
A. Accurate, engaging diagrams make complex topics easier to understand by reducing the amount of words on the page. It is proven that we learn and absorb content much faster and easier when presented in a drawing or in an illustrated form.
Q. There are plenty of high-quality pictures of technical equipment and environments available for a low cost. Can’t I just use those in a document instead of a bespoke diagram?
A. There is a fine balance when producing good technical illustrations, two main things to consider are: 1. Is the illustration on-brand (aligns with corporate colour and style requirements). This is important for project consistency and corporate professionalism. 2. Is the illustration accurate and explain exactly what needs to be understood in a minimalist way without any unnecessary elements?
This second point is important as it differentiates between an image that is just decorative and possibly just a supportive picture for the text to that of an accurate illustration that conveys a complex idea in a stand alone graphic.
Q. What types of diagrams are there? When should they be used?
A. There are many different ways to portray content, from 2D orthographic vector, 2D isometric vector, 3D cross-section, 3D perspective, even a combination or 2D and 3D for more complex work. There are no rules as to when to use specific styles/types. Depends on the client, budget and audience, but one thing always stays the same – less is more.
Q. I would need to change my diagrams for different purposes – eLearning, newsletters, procedures. Wouldn’t it be costly to have a series of diagrams?
A. When I produce a technical illustration I ensure that the graphic is versatile and set it up in a layered way that can be adjusted easily for different purposes. The illustration has longevity and can be adjusted and manipulated as the content changes.
Correct signage for approaching vehicles when workmen amend the signage for approaching vehicles when workmen are in Wind Turbine. Click on the image to enlarge.
Click on the image to view The Bridge animation.
Electricity flow for Trains. Click on the image to enlarge.
Electricity flow for Trams. Click on the image to enlarge.
Wells Creative Studio create, manage and supply internal and external graphics including process flow charts, infographics, internal templates, corporate branding, style guides and presentations for Thomson Bridge. Recent projects completed include The Bridge animation, explaining the Workforce Compliance Management Portal in a simplified stylised graphic animation. Thomson Bridge find this a very useful tool for explaining this unique system. Other on-going work include eLearning Technical Illustrations for ‘Entering Enclosures - Wind Turbines’, 3D graphic assets for ‘Safety Observer - Safe Distances Around Powerlines’. These illustrations, as outlined in the interview above, have been a key part of advancing clear, simplified communication for complex subject matter.
If you are interested in utilising these illustration services contact Thomson Bridge to discuss your requirements.
Interviewed by Kathy Gerwald. Kathy is an experienced Learning and Development (L&D) strategist, manager, designer, and mentor with more than ten years’ experience in organisational learning, VET, and higher education. Kathy’s commitment to continual industry improvement is evidenced by her role as a councillor for the NSW Australian Institute of Training and Development and as an industry mentor.