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Illustration case study: operational services brief

Original version

This design, like those already featured, was probably replicated from a client mock-up and shows a number of very common mistakes made in design. 

Firstly, and most obviously, is the use of upper case type throughout the entire illustration, making it difficult to read. Because the space in the various sections is limited, upper case text occupies more of the available space than necessary. This illustration was eventually placed in a 3-column A4 document and was scaled down to an approximately 50mm width. At this small scale, the text was virtually unreadable.

Secondly, the sectioning of the illustration is uneven. It is assumed that the five outer dark blue segments are meant to correspond with the ‘Essential Monitoring’ section but, as you can see, ‘Enhanced Monitoring’ and ‘Asset Registration’ overlap the inner ‘Connect and Check’ section. This may have been intended but, if so, doesn’t make a huge amount of sense. This would be discussed with the client but the assumption here is that no such overlap is needed and only occurs because these sections had to be expanded to accommodate the text, caused by the text being in uppercase.

These five dark blue sections are probably of different sizes because the white dividing lines are not correctly lined up. You will notice that there two rogue white lines in the top-right, probably leftovers from trying to make the text fit. These leftover lines were left in the final version and would have caused problems when trying to resize the illustration in a graphic frame.

Also, rings are not a consistent height. Rings 2 and 3 from the centre seem to be of equal height but ring 4 is narrower. The two outermost segments are a different height again. Element sizing can be used to represent the relative size differences between elements, but we don’t think that this is the case here. Such uneven sizing further degrades the overall balance of the design. 

Note that in the two outermost sections the text size has been reduced further and even abbreviated: “VIRTUAL ENV. WATCH” and “SECURITY MGMT AND OS SUPPORT”. 

Finally, in order to achieve different shades of the primary blue colour, the opacity has been reduced. This is fine if the illustration is placed on a white background, but placed over any other colour, or even an image, then the colour or image behind will affect the illustration and the blue colour will be lost, depending on the blend mode. It is good practice never to use opacity to create a colour tint.


Revised version

Firstly, the assumption made about the illustration was that it is to follow a six segment design. One good thing about creating a circular illustration is that 360º is pretty much divisible by anything (apart from 7, which we don’t talk about…). Six sections makes it incredibly easy to split up a circle, with 3 sections above the horizontal and 3 below. In the original version, white lines are used to separate the various segments but here, the circle has been split into discrete sections instead. This means that one or more pieces can be hidden so that they may be used later, if required.

Rather than use transparency to obtain the various shades of blue, 15% tints were used instead and this will ensure that any background colour or design will not show through the design.

When coming up with an initial version of this revised illustration, the gap between the circles was achieved with a 1mm white stroke. Whilst the stroke would not show on a pure white background, the strokes didn’t look so great when the illustration was placed on a darker background. So, it was decided to create actual space between each each section instead. 

With the exception of the centre circle, all ring sections are exactly the same height. In the original version, the rings were slightly narrower. Having thicker rings ultimately resulted in the two outermost segments being able to accommodate the full, non-abbreviated text and at a slightly higher type size. 

Notice that the text “Security Management and OS Support has been changed to “OS Support and Security Management”. Whilst the first variation of this text would fit inside the segment, not a lot of space was left between the first line of text and the left and right segment margins. So it was decided to swap the two phrases around. 

Any text that appears above the horizontal has its baseline pointing towards the centre of the circle. Anything below the horizontal points away. This again improves readability. Switching the orientation of text on a circular path is usually a personal preference and depends on the application. 

Finally, instead of at least three type sizes from the original, this revised version uses only two. All text, apart from that on the outermost sections is the same size, whilst the outermost text is slightly smaller. The text at the centre however is set to bold.