Technical illustrations frequently feature technical documentation. But who usually creates those illustrations? Do technical writers draw them? The answer is no, there are professionals who do this work — they are technical illustrators. In this article, I’ll tell you about this profession, what they do and what types of drawings they usually create.
Who Technical Illustrator is
A technical illustrator is a specialist who has a combination of relevant education and experience. Typically, employers require either a bachelor’s degree or equivalent illustration experience. Technical illustrators should be familiar with a variety of software programs, including AutoCAD, Adobe Flash Builder, MS Office, Photoshop, and both Windows and Macintosh systems. Strong communication skills are also desired.
What are technical illustrations? Technical illustrations are illustrations that are created in order to visually communicate information of a technical nature. The main goal of technical illustrations is to explain and describe the subjects to a nontechnical audience. So, the goal of technical illustrations is the same as the goal of tech writing — help the target audience to understand technical topics.
Categories of Technical Illustrations
There are three main categories of technical illustrations, this list is based on the type of communication:
- Illustrations for a general audience. This type of illustrations can be found in the manuals for automobiles and consumer electronics. They contain simple symbols and terminology that can be understood by everyone.
- Specialized illustrations for engineering or scientific communication. They are used by scientists/engineers to communicate with their peers. Specialized illustrations usually contain complex terminology and specialized symbols. Atomic energy, aerospace and military/defense are examples of the fields.
- Illustrations for highly skilled experts. They are used by engineers to communicate with people who have strong knowledge and skills in a field but it’s not obligatory that they are engineers. You can find such illustrations in user/operator documentation.
Types of Drawings
Here are the main types of drawings in technical communication are:
- Conventional line drawings. It’s an image that consists of distinct straight or curved lines without gradations in shade or hue to represent two-dimensional or three-dimensional objects.
- Exploded view drawings are diagrams, pictures, technical or schematic drawings of an object.
- Cutaway drawings are 3D graphics, drawings, diagrams and or illustrations, in which surface elements of a three-dimensional model are selectively removed, to make internal features visible.
- Clip art images. Such images are premade images used to illustrate any medium. Clip art comes in many forms, both electronic and printed. However, most clip art today is created, distributed, and used in an electronic form.