The biggest news story of the past two months is highly technical and happening beneath 5,000 feet of water. These obstacles make technical illustration the obvious medium for telling the story. Collected here are illustrations and graphics from various sources, showing their visual approach to communicating the information. (Mouseover for source, click for larger version)
The New York Times‘ illustrations are well designed and executed in a graphic style typical for newspapers. Black lines delineate the key information, both a visual strategy and a production consideration (black prints well on grainy paper in fast presses, since it’s a single plate). Deep-red lines and arrows call the eye’s attention to important details. Light colour tones provide additional information such as material, dimension/shading, or simply visual separation. A variety of views are used, elevations, isometrics, perspectives, whatever suits the content. Nice stuff here.
Infographic World‘s ambitious graphic attempts to tell the entire story, relying heavily on text, but ends up feeling cluttered, unfocused and disorganized. The individual illustrations feel underdeveloped.
NOLA/Times-Picayune‘s graphics are similar in style to The Times’, but with a much thicker line weight which makes me think they might have appeared smaller in print. The multitude of arrows really get in the way of the information. A bit heavy handed.
The Economist is a weekly news magazine, but the illustration doesn’t have much to show for the extra time (to be fair, there’s no telling what sort of turnaround time the illustrator was given).
BP employs slick [no pun intended] 3D renderings to communicate the company’s repair efforts and give the impression of openness and transparency. I have two problems with this. First, they feel expensive. I imagine BP already had a 3D model library of all their equipment for planning and presentation purposes, so this may very well be the most cost-effective visual solution for them. But the impression these polished 3D renderings give is that they’re spending a lot on visuals, when they should be devoting all their resources to the repair and cleanup process.
Secondly, 3D renderings feel like constructed illusions rather than explanatory depictions of their efforts. Maybe it’s my bias towards illustration since both are just as artifical (ie. not photographs or videos), but I find The Times’ illustrations more trustworthy than BP’s 3D world.
The New York Times. “Methods That Have Been Tried to Stop the Leaking Oil”
Infographic World. “Crude Awakening”
NOLA.com. “Oil Spill Graphics”
The Economist. “Mudslinging”
Unified Command for the BP Oil Spill. “Graphics”
BP. “Gulf of Mexico Response”
Have you seen any additional illustrations of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill? Let us know in the comments!