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

National Infographic

National Infographic is a blog written by Juan Velasco, art director of the venerable National Geographic magazine.

Velasco writes in depth about the rigorous journalistic integrity, the painstaking attention to detail, and the high-level design thought that goes into producing visuals for such an esteemed publication. The graphics department spends months producing original research, consulting with experts and consultants, and digging through data to bring a story to the surface. The amount of resources at their disposal is amazing.

Far beyond geographic maps, the graphics department produces illustrations, infographics, animations, interactive modules, videos, 3d models, dioramas and photo essays on topics such as science, technology, history, culture and economics.

National Infographic. Definitely one to keep an eye on.

Tutorial – How to Draw Hands

I can’t remember how or when I came across this tutorial on drawing hands by illustrator Joumana Medlej, but it’s been an invaluable resource. It neatly summarizes everything I’ve ever learned from anatomy books and life drawing lessons on the construction and depiction of a palm & five digits. The style is clean, concise and technical, and the examples explore the hand’s full range of motion and various viewing angles.

Bookmark it. You’ll find that it’s handy.

Oil Spill Illustration Roundup

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” “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!

The Coolest Things Already Exist – Concept Art Inspiration

Concept art is  a very closely related profession to technical illustration. Concept artists are responsible for designing vehicles, props and environments mainly for the entertainment industry, including film, television and video games. These designs require a high degree of precision, and an amazing grasp of three-dimensionality since their designs will be manufactured either to scale, fullsize or in 3D. The designs often reference actual vehicles, objects or environments to imbue a sense of near-reality. In fact, a rule of thumb is 70% reality, 30% fantasy.

Soviet Ground-Effects Tank

Soviet Ground-Effects Tank

Sometimes, though, that formula can be 100% reality.

Pictured is a Soviet-built cold war era “ground effects” tank. These things were like proto-hovercraft. They would be pushed along by jet turbines and use airfoils to force a pocket of air underneath the craft. This would allow the vehicle to hover above water (and potentially land), move with very little friction — and as an added bonus, be undetectable by radar.

Soviet Ground-Effects Tank

Soviet Ground-Effects Tank

Where do you find inspiration for your concept designs? Let us know in the comments.

Source (via Boing Boing)

Nuclear Reactor Cutaways

Candu 3 Nuclear Power Plant

Candu 3 Nuclear Power Plant by John Way

Noah wrote in to share some cutaways of nuclear reactors found on the Wired Science blog. Apparently these posters were published by Nuclear Engineering International during the 1970s and 1980s. Illustrator John Way seems to be responsible for most of them, with one by Dick Ellis, and one uncredited.

Guangdong Nuclear Power Plant by John Way

Guangdong Nuclear Power Plant by John Way

Click through to the U of NM link for very high resolution versions. Apparently there are about 100 posters waiting to be scanned so if you’re interested, keep an eye on that link!

Wired via BibliOdyssey via University of New Mexico. Thanks for sending this in, Noah!

Exploring the 10th Dimension

Let’s dive right in with the heavy stuff, shall we?

I’ve always liked this simple animation as an example of what a good infographic should be. Clean and clear, it reinforces the the information visually, providing easy stepping stones that build to a ultimately complex idea.

And you know anything that can crunch theoretical physics into digestible pieces has done it’s job well.