November's graphic in WWII Magazine is concerned with the creation of the first assault rifle by the Nazis. On a personal note, this is one of my favourites so far and the first one I did when I started this project last year.
In the hands of an expert, some of these weapons would have a much greater effective range but I looked at a lot of different figures and these seem to be the best averages.
I hadn't realised what an effective and efficient weapon the Ppsh41 was until I started this graphic. Reading about whole divisions of Soviet troops equipped with these, you begin to get a picture of the attritional nature of the war and the force of the wave that crashed back on the Germans.
(Read Ivan's War for a superb account of the lot of the average Soviet infantryman in WWII. Very readable - more interested in the effect of these events on normal people as opposed to 'Order of Battle' detail.)
anyway - back to ...
Which weapons to include?
I missed out pistols - not influential enough on large actions. I decided to include heavy machine guns because they were often part of the battlefield, creating imbalances of firepower alongside these other weapons. At one point I was going to note the weight of each weapon, to show the trade-offs between weight and firepower. This would have been one variable too many in what was already quite a dense data visualisation.
One could argue that the FG42 was an earlier assault weapon. It does indeed merit a mention although it's use was not widespread.
I am loathe to mention too much of the modern implications of these technologies. There is alot to be said about the influence of the Germans on US weaponry since WWII - the M60 even looks like an FG42! I feel that discussing the present too much will take the WWII reader away from reflecting on the WWII era - important for appreciating the difficulties of manufacturing and technology at this time.
This graphic got me thinking about the landscape or 'vista' as a metaphor in information graphics. I hope I will explore some different techniques in the work for WWII Magazine but this one follows a common idea. It is the idea of an overview in the general theme and issues of a topic (the rifle range here) with data available one layer down - just as a graph shows you the general trend and then allows detail to be investigated. I have also added a formal 'tour' of the issues and an explanation in the story of the Stg44.
I reflected that showing all the data on a 'vista' with the viewer compositionally above the 'scene', able to survey and take in all was a good fit with our natural perception systems. Every day, we are confronted with views and scenes that we need to make sense of - and I felt that for this reason, the data presented on such a 'vista' would be easier to digest.
Field of Vision
I further stretched my theory of the 'vista' being an easily digestible information format, by considering the human factors/ ergonomics of reading a magazine. When most people read the magazine, there will not be much room either side of the magazine for their remaining field of vision. The magazine, with 'vista' presentation, has replaced their normal view. It follows that replacing the brain's normal expectation of a view - with depth of field and significant objects - with another sort of view will be a more cognitively digestible way to convey information than a graphic that only works on the flat plane of the page.
Colour leads the Way
Thanks also to John (Grimwade) and Nigel (Holmes) who were really helpful with this one.
They both made the point that the central narrative the 400m-Stg44 axis, should be raised above the rest of the data. On the version they saw, there was red elsewhere on the page, distracting the eye from a 1-2-3-4 narrative, attracting the eye to non-crucial visual elements (the explosions in the gun barrels on page 2 bottom left).