Wikipedia Illustration: 2011 Highlights

Posted on Dec 31, 2011

Happy new year!  As clock strikes midnight and 2011 came to a close, I was working on a illustration for Wikipedia.  In two generations, I think the open-source and collaborative movements will be two of the highlights on the gravestone of our time; never before in history have people been able to come together to construct intellectual monuments with neither carrots nor sticks.

Looking back at 2011, I was surprised to find that I’ve uploaded >100 illustrations for WikiCommons (even with a thesis to write/defend, and 3 months hiatus in the Andes & Rockies).  Most of these are simple vectorization requests from the Illustration Workshop that’s nothing to write home about, but a few integrates a breadth of information into interesting figures that I ended up being proud of.  Here’s that gallery.

Chloralkali process illustrates how NaOH and chlorine gas is made by electrolysis.  This figure made extensive use of Illustrator’s symbols feature to generate the population of molecules, and the shape-builder in CS5 for simple construction of the irregular container and “solution” from elementary shapes.

Berimbau parts seeks to prepare a vector image with labelled parts.  The benefit of having information in a vector form (particularly, as a SVG) is that the file itself is a plain-text document that can be easily modified with Notepad, making translation possible with little efforts.  For this particular image, the technical challenge was in converting Illustrator’s gradient meshes to something that can be used by Wikipedia’s SVG engine.  The final process involved converting it to a raster image, Live Trace, and manual tweaking.

SSME schematic shows how fuel and oxidizer gets mixed to provide thrust for a space shuttle.  The illustration was mostly constructed with the pen tool, together with the shape-builder.  The outline layer was lifted and duplicated, with the underlayer converted to a live paint group and painted.  The time consuming part was understanding what is actually going on, given the sources were quite confusing and out of my area of expertise.

Thalamus structure illustrates the different parts of the thalamus… which is once again not in my area of expertise and required outside reading.  (Not that I remember very much about it.)  I’m very fond of expansion to show context and multiple scales.  The human image was a high-resolution raster, with pen tool tracing of outlines.

US Air seating chart – This one I’ve written about before.

Sogen Kato home floor-plan describes the discovery of the mummified body of a “100+ yr old” Japanese man, whose family hides the fact that he was dead in order to keep collecting government cheques for over 30 years.  The image was made with Google Sketchup – my first exposure to the tool.  I’d go on to learn about Sketchup in much more detail later in the year.

Wheat nutrition combines information from multiple sources into one coherent image.  The image is not as nice looking as it was executed – wikipedia’s SVG engine does not support either gradient mesh, symbols (as is), or pattern fills.  It also display SVG fonts inconsistently in thumb-nails and final rendering, and between assigning fonts from Inkscape or Illustrator – that’s one that I still haven’t figured out completely.

Overview of Spectrscopy sought to combine the elements involved in spectroscopy in one image, so that the main text can have visuals to refer to.  There’s a few implicit elements in there coming from teaching spectroscopy for a few years – I think experts would get appreciation of this that novices wouldn’t.  The shapes were constructed with the 3D functions in Illustrator, and this prompted the thought of creating the ongoing OpenChemArt project.  This diagram had been translated into several languages.

Reedbed treatment ponds describes different methods for water treatment.  This is one of the first “ambitious” images I tried to make for wikipedia, combining multiple sources of information and representing them in a coherent way.  The single-point perspective was drawn in as is – in CS5 (which I didn’t upgrade to until August) there’s a new perspective tool which might have been useful.

In 2012 I’d like to explore “messier”, painterly vectors.  It’d require some formal trial-and-error to see where the limitations of SVG in Wikipedia arises.  I’d probably also get myself into the raster realm again, since that’s likely where I’ll be when working with the iOS apps I’d like to write on the side.

4 Comments

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  1. tkanno

    You Sir are a Scholar and a Gentleman. A real hero of our time.

  2. James

    I used Google Sketchup to make a floor plan of my house, but it doesn’t compare to your drawing. Superb work, Jon. Utility AND aesthetics.

  3. mw

    you are amazing!

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