Saturday, July 16, 2011

Tell me lys, tell me sweet little lys...

The hydrology division of Decagon Devices, Inc. asked me to work up a few concepts for a new microsite that features lysimeters.

*Caveat: I hereby offer an advance apology to any soil scientists and hydrologists for my layman's explanation of this equipment and process.  A hydrology apology.  Heh heh.  I'm such a nerd.

A lysimeter is essentially a piece of equipment (well, multiple pieces of equipment to be specific) that allows very accurate observation and measurement of a given environment.  The data is used in climate research, water management, agronomy, and soil science.

Some of this might look familiar if you've seen the posts on this blog about the drain gauge project.  The drain gauge is made by Decagon.  The other lysimeters are made by a German company called UMS.  These things are huge.  They're a meter tall.

Have I mentioned before that I love my job?  Have I mentioned how much I love technical illustration like this?  Well, this project is no exception.  I've tried to explain before the impetus of this, and maybe that's a fool's errand.  I've cited before that technical illustration is very exacting and clean, which likely appeals to certain dominant personality traits of mine.  I may or may not have been German or Swiss in a past life.

I think there's more, though.  This kind of work (specifically this project) involves drawing lots of different materials (metal, soil, plastic) which means drawing a lot of textures, surface treatments, the way light reflects off those surfaces, a variety of colors, etc.  It's challenging and there's enough variety that it never seems repetitious.

I also love utilizing illustration to make something possible that can't really be done in other mediums.  I dare you to cut a lysimeter in half so you can see a cross section of it.  It's pretty hard to do that with soil, too.  Not impossible, but difficult to be sure.  And time-consuming.  And the result probably won't be as pretty.

There's a lot of talk about illustration being obsolete these days.  As if the ease of digital video and photography make illustration into an antiquated piece of ornament.  But, as just noted, illustration can make possible visuals that you just can't create other ways.  A cross section, an exploded view of an engine, step by step processes, the inner workings of mechanical or biological systems, multiple perspectives, hypothetical situations, etc.

Let alone the imaginative realms made possible through illustration.  Illustration can show other worlds and realities.  It can be infused with personality and emotion.  Illustration can narrate and explain.  Apparently, because of the cerebral cortex, humans are the only creatures who can create hypothetical situations in their heads.  We can imagine.  And illustration is this imagination made manifest.  And all of these things make illustration completely relevant, regardless of technological advances.

I didn't really mean for this to turn into a dissertation.  But I won't apologize.  I'm sorry, but that's just the way I am.


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