Mr. Murdoch Design & Illustration

Graham Murdoch is the man behind MMDi. Although not strictly a technical illustrator, his 3D renderings of technology and futuristic subjects for clients like Popular Science, Wired UK, Maxim and Bloomberg Markets, should win the admiration of any techie. Graham was kind enough to answer a few questions for us:

How did you get your start in illustration?
My background is graphics and it’s still part of what I do today. Four years of college then ringing bells and following up leads. It feels a LOT busier today, there sure are a lot more cars on the road!

The tools of the day were Rotring pens (there’s still some visible ink in my finger from a 0.2 Rotring that was dropped on it about 30 years ago), CS10 artboard, cow gum, spray mount, 10A scalpel blades, gouache, frisk and a Devilbiss Aerograph (which I could never do anything more than gradients and splatters with). Caught the wave of desktop publishing at just the right time. First 3D package was Alias Sketch! (yep, it came with the exclamation mark), then Bryce, onto Lightwave 3D and now MODO (formely modo) which I’ve been using pretty much from 101.

Graham Murdoch - Railgun Scramjet

What’s your favorite subject matter or type of project?
One with time, I’m slow and need lots of it. The more there is the better things get. I’m pretty good at losing it too, though.

What’s your process on a typical project?
Understand what the brief is asking for, reference, more reference, distraction, avoidance, then work, work, work. Sketching, definitely, as a real quick way of laying things out and excersing some different muscles. Hardware has always been Mac-based, from the IIcx through to today’s 27” iMac. In this room there’s also a still operational G3 running OS9, a G4 Quicksilver and a dead G5 (nice job on the motherboard Apple!).

Graham Murdoch - Formula E

 The Formula E Car you did with Popular Science is amazing. What was that project like?
The project was a dream, I have to thank the fine people at Popular Science, particularly Todd Detwiler, for letting me run with that and giving the time it needed. Finding the car’s shell with decals as a purchaseable model was such a big time saver, it meant more attention could be put into the details. As the car was still in development there was next to no reference for the under the hood stuff, so the majority of that is just artistic license. The elements are there; batteries, motor, drive train etc. they just don’t look much like that on the real car.

Graham Murdoch - Formula E Detail

What advantages does working in 3D have over 2D?
The freedom of options and the ease with which they can be realised. Camera angles, materials, lighting, the whole virtual studio thing. Being able to get a 3D print of something you’ve just made, that’s a bit like the leap TV made from black and white to colour, for me. I really should be exploring that! The disadvantage is that there are so, so many options.

The people that did this stuff with pen, brush and board, o my, un-be-(insert expletive here)-lievable!!

Graham Murdoch - Driverless Car

What do you see for the future of the medium?
The expansion of 3D printing and definitely more motion. Total absorption by digital and virtual realities. Of course, we will be assimilated.

You can find Mr. Murdoch’s work on the MMDi website and Behance.

Cutaways on Tumblr

Subaru Levorg Cutaway
CUTAWAYS on Tumblr is just that—and endlessly-scrolling gallery of automotive cutaways and ghosted illustrations. Some are new, some old, some good, some bad, but still quite an impressive collection. Sadly, most are missing credit to their respective creators.

Honda S2000 Cutaway Illustration

Honda Civic CVCC Cutaway Illustration

McLaren F1 Owner’s Manual

Mark Roberts, Design Operations Manager at McLaren, reflects on his technical illustration work for the owner’s manual for the revolutionary McLaren F1.

It’s really inspiring to see a company take it beyond technical documentation to something of a brand statement or a collector’s item. Something you’d put on a shelf or frame rather than leave in the glove box.

(via Clint Ford)

Scott Robertson’s Free Tutorial Fridays

Scott Robertson is a concept artist well known for his educational books, DVDs and workshops. Every Friday he posts a free video tutorial to his YouTube page. He covers a wide variety of topics including sketching, inking, marker rendering and Photoshop painting. What I like about his videos is that they’re not strictly technical, he’s really good at explaining the thinking and process behind everything he does.

Jim Hatch for Volkswagen

Jim Hatch - VW Beetle Cutaway Illustration

Jim Hatch recently completed this great project for Volkswagen, featuring finely detailed and rendered cutaway illustrations of their entire vehicle lineup. After the break, he shares some insight on working on a project of this scale, some process work, and lots of beautiful final illustrations.

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General Motors Media Portal

Corvette Cutaway Illustration by David Kimble

Corvette Cutaway Illustration by David Kimble © Copyright General Motors

Davvi wrote in to tell me about this somewhat hidden collection of technical illustrations and photography of the Chevy Volt. Very cool stuff, hopefully that link doesn’t disappear!

From there I found my way to GM’s excellent media portal which provides official content and high resolution images for news and editorial outlets. Digging around in the photo section yielded some awesome finds like the huge David Kimble airbrushed cutaway illustration above. Try searching for illustration, cutaway, and rendering, you’ll love what you find!

Know of any other manufacturers with public media portals? Let us know in the comments!

Presentation Techniques by Dick Powell

Presentation Techniques by Dick Powell

Presentation Techniques by Dick Powell

The second of Marc Gellen‘s book recommendations is Presentation Techniques by Dick Powell, first published in 1985. Whereas Technical Illustration – Techniques and Applications was more of a textbook of tools and techniques, this book is a practical guide to accurately drawing and rendering for the purpose of communicating design ideas. While both books are reminders of how much illustration has changed in 20 years in terms of media and style, I think this book’s techniques are well presented and still relevant today.

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Technical Illustration: Techniques and Applications

Technical Illustration: Techniques and Applications by John A. Dennison and Charles D. Johnson

Technical Illustration: Techniques and Applications

Marc Gellen was looking for recommendations for books on technical illustration on Twitter, but ended up providing me with the recommendations. Fortunately, all three books he suggested were available from my local library. I thought I’d give them a brief review here for the benefit of anyone whose public (or private) library might be lacking on the subject.

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