Mark Franklin

Mark Franklin is a London-based freelance technical illustrator. During his 30-year career, he has illustrated a wide variety of subject matter for clients including Airfix, McDonalds, Tekmats, Rowe Hankins Ltd. and some of UK’s largest publishing houses.

Mark Franklin - Manned Manoevering Unit

Mark Franklin - 4D Cinema Mark Franklin - Dodge Challenger Mark Franklin - Dryer Mark Franklin - F-15 Eagle

Check out Mark’s portfolio to see the breadth of his work: Mark Franklin Arts

Todd Detwiler

Todd Detwilier - Gulfstream Jet

Todd Detwiler is the Design Director at Popular Science magazine and an accomplished illustrator in his own right. At PopSci he is responsible for fusing design, photography and illustration with stories of science and technology’s bleeding edge. As an illustrator he brings his technical aesthetic to the pages of TIME, ESPN and Washingtonian.

What’s your background? How did you get started in editorial design?

My junior year of college I secured an internship with Maxim magazine. It was the result of a funny letter I wrote to the then-art director David Hilton – who got a kick out of the flippant humor and gave me a call. I had interviews at Details and Rolling Stone as well, but Maxim offered me the internship and I moved from rural PA to New York the next week.

I was really at Maxim at the right time. Felix Dennis had brought his lad-mag over from the UK and it was lighting the magazine world on fire. It was there that I met people who would shape my career in magazines and illustration. I graduated a year later from Kutztown University and started working for Maxim full-time. Along with some junior design work, I was the resident icon artist and occasional spot illustrator. I was cheap (free) for the company, and I was just happy to have some work in print. It was a win-win really.

In 2005 I left Maxim and started working at Rolling Stone before being offered an attractive Art Director position with Hearst working on the development of a new Men’s Magazine. The project didn’t pan out and I started a freelance design career which took me around the publishing houses of New York and abroad until I settled down with Popular Science in 2011.

Todd Detwilier - Anatomy of a Water Park
What do you do as Design Director at Popular Science?

As the DD of Popular Science, I led the team responsible for the 2014 redesign, along with an overhaul of the logo and brand guidelines. On a day to day basis, I do all the typical art department work loads – hire illustrators, design pages for features and front of book, brainstorm photo concepts, etc. It’s a small but talented art team at Popular Science – and I give them a lot of credit for making the magazine smart and efficient.

Todd Detwilier - Anatomy of Home Delivery
What makes for a good illustration? What can illustration do that photography can’t?

The best illustration communicates an idea quickly and clearly with some personality. I would also add that the process of commissioning the illustration makes it a “good” illustration. If deadlines are met and the work matches what is expected – that makes everyone’s life easier.

Photography can be expensive. With an illustration you can build a world that is immersive at a fraction of the cost. You can also build uniformity with illustration that can be a struggle with photography if you are using pick-up art from multiple sources. Both have a place in Popular Science, and we are very conscience of the balance in every issue.

Todd Detwilier - Luggage Checkpoints
What do you think makes the technical illustration aesthetic so popular in magazines?

Well, it’s been around for awhile, hasn’t it?! I was just looking at an instruction manual from the 60s the other day that was amazingly drawn. My hat goes off to the illustrators that were so meticulous with ink and pen. It’s a lot easier with a mouse and “command+z”..

Regarding the aesthetic, I think the thick rules on the outside give the objects separation and weight, and the thin lines detail and clarity. People love exploded views because they can see what’s happening on the inside – something the PopSci reader loves. Ultimately, I think the style of illustration removes clutter and anything unnecessary to reveal the essence of the subject. It circles back to direct communication, free of any additional interpretation for the viewer.

Todd Detwilier - Car Buyers
In addition to your role at PopSci, you also moonlight as an illustrator. What drives you to illustrate?

I love illustration as much or if not more than editorial design. But what actually drives me to create illustrations is seeing the work of others. I’m constantly impressed with the level of design being generated by artists, and I can’t help but be inspired to create and learn.

Todd Detwilier - Ninja Warrior
What do you see for the future of publishing or illustration? Any advice for new illustrators or students?

The future of publishing is digital with print declining over the next 5 to 10 years. Illustrators need to be quick and consistent. I see enormous opportunity for illustrators in the digital News sphere. When breaking news happens, how fast can you turn out an editorial perspective, or even better – a comprehensive breakdown of what has happened or is happening. The world demands answers immediately and if you can act quickly, you’ll be very successful. Also, take your phone out of your pocket – that’s your new canvas – get used to it!

Popular Science - April 2014
You worked with Graham Murdoch on the Electric Racecar project for PopSci. What was that like?

He’s just the best. I’ve been working with him since the Maxim days and he has always made me look good. For the Formula E assignment I sent him a bunch of scrap art and he was able to build out the entire car based on the reference I sent along with his own research. When it came to “exploding” everything apart, I know he spent a lot of time meticulously unscrewing every bolt and washer. The result was amazing, and it set the bar high for everyone in the magazine.

Big thanks to Todd for his time. You can find his work at ToddDetwiler.com and on newsstands everywhere.

Ryan Kirby

Ryan Kirby - Snakebot

Ryan Kirby’s career as both an illustrator/designer and wildlife artist is a balancing act. He finds stability somewhere in between solving problems for clients like Popular Science, Outdoor Life and Field and Stream, and defining his own challenges through his fine art. Ryan took the time to answer a few questions for us about his work, education and life.

What’s your background? How did you get your start in illustration?

I’ve been drawing and painting since I was in elementary school, and my goal has always been to one day paint full time. But I also knew that once I graduated college, I would need some marketable skills to buy some time before I could paint. So I studied Graphic Design and Multimedia at Bradley University in Peoria, IL and graduated in 2005. I was a farm kid, and we didn’t have access to the software and Mac computers growing up, so college was my first experience with Photoshop, Illustrator, and any real form of print and digital media. I learned to apply my drawing and fine art skills to these programs, and did fairly well in school.

Upon graduation, I headed south of the Mason Dixon to Edgefield, SC to work for the National Wild Turkey Federation as a graphic artist and illustrator. I spent roughly seven years there learning print design, magazine production and editorial illustration. Those were good years, and I learned a lot. Eventually I started freelancing and painting on the side, always pushing myself and trying to learn new programs and techniques. Soon the freelance workload became heavy, and I had to make a decision whether to launch out on my own or stay an employee of someone else. I chose the former.

I’ve been on my own for three years now, and it’s been the best decision I’ve ever made. It’s not always easy, and as a one man show you wear a lot of hats initially, but I thrive on challenge and love learning new things. Most of my clients are in the outdoor industry, and I primarily focus on print ad design, photography post-production work, illustration and wildlife art.

Ryan Kirby - Deer Anatomy

What’s your favorite subject matter or type of illustration?

The how-to hunting pieces are my favorite. I have a passion for the outdoors and really enjoy hunting and fishing. So to illustrate a hunting scenario that I’ve lived out in real life and help a magazine better communicate that concept with a reader, that’s something I enjoy tremendously. It’s one thing to enjoy the technical side and the creative process of illustrating or painting, but to actually care about the subject matter, that’s a whole new level of job fulfillment. And I feel it shows up in my work, which is why I’ve been successful in the outdoor arena.

Ryan Kirby - Target Shooting

What’s your process for a typical assignment?

Even with good scrap material and reference photos from a client, I always like to do some more research on my own. Most of my work starts the old fashioned way with pencil and paper. Once I get a rough sketch with potential, I’ll take a cell phone pic, email it to myself and from then on, it’s all digital. If I’m working in Illustrator on a technical piece, I’ll create vector art over the top of the sketch. My humorous work though is done 100% on paper and scanned in to create a digital file for the client. In this day and age, everything has to turn into a digital file at some point to send over to the client.

Ryan Kirby - ATV

What’s the relationship between your illustration work and your fine art?

There’s a dramatic difference in the way an illustration is created vs. a fine art piece, and the business side of things is run differently as well. But artistic principles like contrast, edges, focal points, composition, color, etc. apply to both fields. For example, when I want a hard edge on my subject matter in a painting, I paint a clean, hard line with contrasting values. When I want a hard edge on a vector illustration, I simply bump up the stroke width in Illustrator and choose contrasting colors. Same concept, two different ways of accomplishing it. And as with any great fine art piece or technical illustration, the more you can refine a subject down to it’s core essence, the more you simplify it, the more powerful the resulting image.

There are differences though. My illustration and graphic design work is done on a sketchpad and an iMac in my office. It’s clean, precise, orderly. My paintings are done in a separate painting studio. It’s messy, more chaotic, a little more of a mad-scientist atmosphere. In addition, the illustration and graphic design is a service industry, where I solve a client’s problems for a fee. The painting, on the other hand, is a hard good. It’s my own creation, and after I create it I have to find a way to market and sell the piece. It’s more of an entrepreneurial venture than sitting back and handling client requests.

I’ll always do a balanced workload of graphic design, illustration and fine art. But these days I’m shifting that balance to more fine art. There’s no client revising my work or limiting what I can and can’t do. I have more ownership of the creative process, and that’s important to me.

Ryan Kirby - Outdoor Life Cover Painting
Do you have any advice for illustrators just starting out?

Absolutely. As an illustrator or designer, you are in the business of solving problems. Your clients have problems that they need solutions to, and the level of problem you can solve for them will determine your level of success. For example, I’ve taken it upon myself to learn product photography and new illustration techniques, to understand branding and retail settings, and to craft powerful messages with copy and images. If something is beyond my reach, I seek advice or hire it out. The more problems you can solve effectively for your clients, the more valuable you are to them.

Also, be great to work with. Under-promise and over-deliver. Hit deadlines. Go over the top, not because someone asked you to, but simply because you wanted to see if you could do it. You can be the most talented illustrator in the world, but if you can’t hit a deadline or you’re a jerk to work with, clients will find somebody else. And always remember: emails are forwarded and what you put on Facebook lives forever.

Ryan’s illustration work can be found at RyanKirbyIllustration.com and his wildlife fine art at RyanKirbyArt.com

Isometric Illustration Libraries

Isometric Illustration Library - Workshop Lifting

Matt Jennings has been hard at work adding to his stock technical illustration component libraries [previously]. New libraries include Workshop – Lifting, Workshop – Automobile and Office Stationery. The illustrations look well constructed, have great line quality, and are super affordable at £7.50 to £10.00 ($12 to $15 USD). If you have a relevant project, these could save you a huge amount of time.

Isometric Illustration Library -  Auto Workshop  Isometric Illustration Library - Office Objects

Industrial Artworks Technical Libraries

Chris Philpot

Open any magazine on the newsstand and inside you’ll likely find an illustration by Chris Philpot. He creates humorous how-tos, conceptual illustrations, infographics and animations for some of the biggest and best, including TimeWired, Popular Science, Outside and Men’s Health .

I got in touch with Chris to ask him a few questions about his work, how he got his start in illustration, and what the future may hold.

Chris Philpot - City of the Future

What’s your background? How did you find your way into illustration?

I wanted to be an illustrator in high school but read articles from practicing illustrators predicting the demise of the profession. I decided I should get a degree in design to ensure a more stable income. That lead me to a job as an editorial art director for about 12 years. While I grew to enjoy design, I still really wanted to illustrate so I started freelancing on the side. Five years of moonlighting gave me enough of a base to make the switch. It was a scary transition, but my wife was incredibly supportive. I’ve been illustrating full time for the last six years. It’s been great. I make more money, have more autonomy and am much more fulfilled creatively.

Chris Philpot - Visual Quiz for Esquire

What are your favorite subjects or types of project?

A technical approach is surprisingly versatile. You can add a subtle joke to dry stories. You can take irreverent or taboo stories and make them presentable to polite society. You can take a really funny story and the art can play the role of the straight man. I read a lot of Gary Larson cartoons growing up and would turn every job into a one-panel Far Side cartoon if I could. My favorite types of projects involve subjects that are fun to draw like monsters, robots and octopuses.

Chris Philpot - Oculus Rift for TIME

Your style is really consistent, how important is that? How did you develop your aesthetic?

The consistency comes from a few places. Mostly, I need to produce a lot of work to meet my income requirements each month so the volume dictates a certain formula. I try to improve with each job. If a new technique works, I add it to the list of best practices. I’ve also found that art directors are coming to me for the work they see in my portfolio. If I send something too different they often direct me back to the look and feel of my portfolio (I still send in variations if I think they’re better.) I also use a lot of 3-D models for reference. That definitely adds to the consistency, especially in the proportions of people. I’m pretty lanky so using myself as reference wasn’t working out.

Chris Philpot - Humvee

What’s your process for a typical assignment? What hardware and software do you use?

I take the brief from the client and request any missing information like story details, budget and schedule. I try to get as close as possible to a final draft by the sketch deadline. It puts the art directors and editors at ease and I think everyone is more inclined to approve things. Revisions hurt profits and the end of the time line breeds a revise-happy anxiety. This is sometimes unavoidable of course.

Regarding software, I use a lot of inexpensive models from Daz3d and Turbosquid for reference when I can and trace the renderings out of Poser or Blender with Illustrator. For hardware, I buy a top-of-the-line iMac every 4 years and use a Wacom intuos4. The tablet was the single best addition to my work flow. I’m not sure how I ever drew with a mouse.

Animation started in Flash but is now done exclusively with After Effects.

What challenges have you faced in your career? What opportunities do you see for the future?

Transitioning from a full-time job to full-time freelancer was a challenge. I worked a lot before going to the office, during lunch breaks and after I got home. Now my biggest issue is working from home with three kids. I love being available for them and I need to be productive so it’s a balancing act sometimes.

There are always opportunities for illustrators to pitch or generate their own content. When the iPad came out, everyone in the editorial world started experimenting with video for the app version of their magazines. I’ve always toyed with motion so it was a good opportunity to try something. The business etiquette series for Entrepreneur magazine (written by Esquire Articles Editor Ross McCammon) was supposed to be a simple illustration with some movement. I asked if I could take on the larger sidebar and to their credit they let me try. Once the longer video was approved they agreed to a fee I proposed. I asked a friend and former coworker Tyrrell Cummings if he would help me with the storyboards. It came together nicely and we’ve done a one-to-two minute short video each month for the last three years.

Chris Philpot - Speed Data for Car and Driver

You’ve worked with some of the biggest and best clients. Any tips for illustrators starting out?

It was uncomfortable at first, but I put myself out there with an online portfolio and 4 x 6 postcards. I was turned down by representatives so I had to go it alone. The initial images were primitive. I did jobs for friends and for the in-flight magazine I worked for at the time. That gave me enough of a portfolio on which to build.

If you’re starting out, just keep producing the work you’re excited about and make it visible. Keep updating it. The days add up, and if you stay active you’ll get somewhere. I didn’t enjoy instant gratification but I did get eventual gratification.

 

Chris’ work can be found at ChrisPhilpot.com

Connector & Fastener Libraries

Fasteners Library Power Connectors Library Computer/AV Connectors Library

Matthew Jennings wrote in to let us know about his illustration libraries. For £10-15 (USD $16-25) you get a set of fasteners, power connectors, or computer/AV connectors, all in vector format ready to use in illustrations, instruction manuals or parts diagrams. The illustrations show a nice attention to detail and line weight.

Kevin Hulsey offers a similar fastener library (USD $50), with a smaller selection of parts but a greater variety of angles.

Scoop all these up and you’ll never have to fuss with drawing a connector again!

Update: Matthew has added two new libraries. The Fixings library (£15.00) is a collection of 23 common fixings in varying degrees of rotation, and comes complete with placement guides for precise positioning. The Measuring and Marking library (£7.50) contains a variety of measurement tools. Get them here.

Industrial Artworks Fixings Library Industrial Artworks Measurement & Marking Library

Wrapping Patterns Around Cylinders

Wrapping Patterns Around Cylinders

Brett wrote in looking for a way to accomplish a diamond grip pattern wrapping around a cylinder, like the one shown above. It’s easy enough to trace a photo, but what if you didn’t have one, or it wasn’t at the right angle?

The technique I’d use is similar to mapping a label to a can.

Wrapping Patterns Around Cylinders

1. Create the artwork you’ll need. The diamond pattern matches the angle and density of the original. The black circle is the same diameter as the reference part, and is filled with no stroke.

Wrapping Patterns Around Cylinders

2. Make the pattern a symbol. Drag the pattern into the Symbols palette.

Wrapping Patterns Around Cylinders

3. Extrude the circle. Go to Effects > 3D > Extrude & Bevel. Click the Surface dropdown at the bottom and select Wireframe. This will help you orient the cylinder to the desired angle. I usually start by entering 0° for all the rotation angles, then rotating one axis at a time by grabbing the edges of the preview cube.

You may need to reposition your cylinder to line up better with a reference image. To do this, Click OK, move the cylinder as needed, then open your Appearance pallete and double click on the 3D Extrude & Bevel item. You may need to turn Preview back on.

When you’re happy with your geometry, click Map Art…

Wrapping Patterns Around Cylinders

4. Map Art. Click through the Surfaces to find the rectangular side surface. Then select your pattern from the Symbol drop down. Next, select Scale To Fit at the bottom and check off Invisible Geometry. Click OK.

Wrapping Patterns Around Cylinders

5. Change Surface to Flat Shading. Click OK. You can now edit the artwork as needed by going to Object > Expand Appearance. In my example, I changed the yellow fill to white, then drew the rest of the lineart on another layer.

Have a common problem in Illustrator? Let us know in the comments, or email it to suggest@technicalillustrators.org!

Shooting On-Angle Photos

Shooting On-Angle Reference Photos

Often the most difficult and time consuming part of technical illustration is finding good reference material. While the internet serves up a limitless selection of images, finding one at an appropriate size, fidelity, viewing angle, and unambiguous copyright status, can be next to impossible.

Sometimes it’s much quicker to simply step away from your desk and go snap a photo of whatever you need. Of course, this isn’t practical if you’re drawing a submarine or a satellite, but it can help if you’re trying to fill a scene with commonplace objects.

Where it gets tricky is matching your photo reference up to the rest of the drawing. We’ve all seen drawings badly traced and assembled together from photos taken at different angles. We can recognize this because we understand perspective. So let’s apply that understanding when shooting our own photos.

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Style versus Communication

Style vs Visual Communication

I’ve been meaning to write about style — the design and arrangement of visual elements that creates a tone or voice in an illustration, throughout a project, or across an illustrator’s entire body of work. More specifically, how style conflicts and complements with a technical illustrator’s role of visual communication.

This critique of dozens of newspapers’ adaptations of an Associated Press graphic serves as a great introduction to the topic. News graphics veteran Charles Apple dissects the minute decisions made by the various papers’ editors in the name of visual appeal, visual communication, story telling and branding.

Is technical illustration more about visual communication or style?
How do you compromise between the two?

[A Look at Tuesday’s Graphics-Heavy bin Laden Presentations]