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Helen Capewell
OCA Learning Log
Student Number: 522802
Degree: Illustration
Current Level: 2

Giving Instructions


They are everywhere!

Everything that requires an action will most likely come with instructions.

During my initial search for instructions, I began with collecting illustrations I thought related with the exercise. I decided on making instructions on how to make a cup of tea. I don't know how to play an instrument and directions for my home didn't interest me. So I jumped in on this exercise like almost every other. Internet searching. I just wanted to see what this could look like, what other people came up with for illustrating instructions artistically. I've had to make instructions through work in the past but these have either involved photo demonstrations or simple black line directions. Here's a quick example of an instruction manual that I've created for roller skates chassis kit.

Rio Roller Chassis Kit:

So going in on this exercise was interesting, and exciting. I wanted to do something I hadn't done before! I pulled some inspiration from Pinterest and put together a moodboard:

I've put a heart next to the illustrations I was drawn to most at this stage. I liked the simplicity in the image on the left middle row, and I loved everything about the illustration on the bottom right. But before I went further, I wanted to do some research on instructions.

So why do we have instructions?

I discovered a book which was almost like an encyclopedia for instructions. Providing an amazing insight to the world of instructions and revealing how dependent we are on them. "Open Here - The Art of Instructional Design - Paul Mijksenaar and Piet Westendorp." takes a look back on the visual instructions that help us to solve the most basic problems of each day. It highlights how much we learn at an early age and how much is intuitive. I enjoyed the example it provided, if we had never seen a boomerang before but was given this peculiar shaped wood to use, would we know what to do?

Everything we have grown to know how to use, was once told how. We were shown how to use a phone to make a basic call, from there, some how our intuition has shown us how to use the never ending upgrades a phone now supplies us with - often without looking at instructions. It's so bizarre! It's almost as if each generation is born with a new intuition, and it's mostly revolved around technology and its fast paced growth.

Visual instructions are everywhere. We need them to know how to operate a product. As times progress, much of the knowledge is indeed intuitive. Kids are knowing how to operate something without reading instructions, but yet they still exist, and they will always exist! Which leads me to my next reason as to why we have instructions. Insurance.

"Franz Kafka actually wrote instructions for the operation of dangerous industrial machinery in order to prevent accidents and thus reduce the number of claims made to the insurance company where he worked." Page 13, You Can't Go Wrong - Open Here.

Providing instructions with a machine, gadget, flat pack furniture, or anything that would involve an action to operate, is a way of covering themselves from claims. If instructions are not provided and people use a product incorrectly and in the process become injured, then there is of course reason to blame. This art form not only gives directions but it acts as protection to the seller. That piece of paper is a very important element for packaging!

But how much of instruction do we actually appreciate? An arrow for example, used in a high percentage of instructions to indicate direction or movement, comes with history. The first time an arrow had been used with significance was in the compass rose, introduced by ancient greeks circa 150 BCE. Skip ahead to the 18th Century and we see the first arrows used on maps to indicate the direction in which a river flows. We are SO used to seeing arrows in our day to day life that even the simplest and most stylised arrow is clear to understand, yet they do much more than just tell us direction or location. They also tell us size, distance, order and movements. Do we really appreciate the power of an arrow?

So what about fully designed instructions, do we actually acknowledge that a designer/illustrator painstakingly put visuals down in an order to help us function? I mean how often do you stop to think about that? Only now, faced with the challenge to research the art of instructions have I actually considered it as an art form. This isn't the first instruction manual I've had to put together, but it is the first time I've looked at it as art. And now on the topic of the art of instructions, I see how underrated they are! How many other art forms can literally tell you what to do? And do so without being questioned? (unless the instruction is terrible and you happen to be missing a part)

I loved this book! It really was an eye opener to the world of instructions. Which brings us back to the exercise for creating visual instructions on how to make a cup of tea. After collecting reference found on the internet, I took pencil to paper and began sketching. Firstly I worked on a double page spread, adding anything that came to mind. I listed the instructions for reference and then sketched small thumbnails for layouts.

I considered the traditional formats for instructions. The use of arrows giving direction, Call outs for waiting time, and also numbers for order. I reverted back to my original moodboard for the exploded approach. In all I liked what was going on in the pictures. I did seem to have a pattern for the contents, but feel I explored a variety of ideas that were pretty basic to begin with.

When I moved the initial sketches over to creating bigger concepts, I took a look online for different inspiration. I didn't want to just collect instruction inspiration for this exercise, I also wanted an artist influence. I did find one artist I thought would be perfect for progressing these sketches. Her work was super clean, very graphic but illustrative at the same time. Her work covered the grain effect that seems to be a very popular trend in todays illustrations, which I love!

I like how she incorporates a simple geometric repeat pattern in the background, which reminded me of the mood board I created in the previous unit. I wondered if I could also include this into my piece? The illustration on the right is a great view to consider. Each element of the tea process could have its own space around it with its own instruction if required. I thought it could be an interesting way to layer the final piece.

I took a couple of the images I had sketched into Photoshop and developed them further. I didn't go into too much detail to begin with as I mostly wanted to experiment with colour, layout and style.

Here are the results:

I enjoyed exploring these ideas, but don't think I really considered the instructions. I love how the final image came out and the simplicity and art deco vibe of it works really nice as a whole. I think this could work as a book cover, where inside would be more details on how to make the perfect brew.

I wasn't satisfied, I think I could still push this exercise and experiment with the style some more.

Culture came to be a big part of my thought process towards the end of this exercise. Besides looking at the typical British tea (which I was pretty focused on to begin with), I was drawn to Japanese - something I had already had influence from in the previous unit. Japanese Tea Ceremony suddenly became an idea for instructions, until I learned that actually the process is a little more than just a few steps to follow, and... I've never done it before. But we love a challenge and so I explored the idea!

I came across the two above images that felt close to what I had in mind for my own illustration. This was the style I wanted to go for the composition felt strong for giving instructions. So I played with the idea through some sketches.

Just to give more inspiration I pulled out my copy of 100% Hokusai! His work is always a go to for inspiration. It's great for reference on drawing people or landscape in this style.

I realised quite early on with this Japanese inspired piece that 1) I had no idea how to put the ceremony into instructions 2) where would the instructions even go?? As it stood, it was just a pretty picture! I was pleased with the result for achieving the Japanese style. It showed what is needed for the ceremony, but unfortunately it lacked the most important part; instructions!

I really didn't know what to do with it, I thought I would ruin the piece by throwing the instructions on it! I also considered ditching the idea completely! I thought, as much as I loved the idea of making this about a traditional Japanese Tea Ceremony, it would be too long and complicated. I watched videos on YouTube and saw the pace of the ceremony, I realised this might not be such an easy practise to break down visually in this particular piece (unless it was like an IKEA instruction booklet). This could be done in a comic strip format, but generally across several pictures. HOWEVER! The biggest part to the ceremony is preparation. The host, the guests, and the Matcha take steps of preparation.

Why not simplify this concept into just the preparation for Matcha? After-all it is how to make tea we are looking to instruct, so why not just focus on this? This immediately broke down the stress of trying to include everything. I had one purpose I could focus on, and I was able to demonstrate this in 4 easy steps. Here's the result:

I'm very pleased with the result of this illustration, and feel it is a good base to add text. Inform the viewer that this is a guide for making Matcha.

I love the overall image. I think adding the texture to the whole piece really brings that Japanese art style together which I love.



Open Here - The Art of Instructional Design - Paul Mijksenaar and Piet Westendorp

100% Hokusai! by Tadashi Kobayashi Kobayashi (Author), Mari Hashimoto (Author)


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