This month's graphic compares different armaments from fighters in the WWII European Air War.
The aircraft are armed according to purposes that changed throughout the war e.g. we can see that German fighters at the end of the war were armed with heavier calibre weapons so the could shoot down the bombers over their homeland.(And the US fighters that defended these bombers only needed a lighter calibre MG round for their primary task - destroying fighters.)
There were many factors to a plane's lethality - not least the experience of the pilots - this a factor that did for the Luftwaffe in 1944 as the Allies began to destroy oil and planes used for training. But I was going to concentrate on the calibres of weapons that differed in the air powers.
Point of View
I wanted to give an idea of how much armament each plane carried.
Some books show the weight of rounds fired through the air.
One could also argue that the cannon shells had explosive filling and so their effectiveness wasn't just down to mass or velocity.
Others discuss the benefits of lighter MG rounds that can travel further at a higher rate and so can lay more fire on a target, against the slower but heavier cannon rounds that fell shorter and at a lower rate of fire.
I just decided that in the interests of an understandable graphic, the calibre size and number of guns would be highlighted, with the text explaining the issues around these choices.
From the start I wanted to show life-size calibres of these weapons.
Ideally we would have had them punching holes through the paper, but this would prove too costly.
We worked out that the pages on the other side - that you looked through to - would need to be heavily text based so that the holes would show a (ground )texture very different to the 'figure' of the page.
The idea for life-sized holes came to me earlier on in the graphic that compared key WWII tanks.
I tried quite a few experiments with showing life sized calibres
there but the circles had too much overlap
and the information was hard to read. It also lost the punchiness of being a darker hole in the paper and became (aesthetically pleasing -
but not very useful) blobs.
So with the calibre graphic, i started out showing the holes separately, easily labelled and comparable - showing how many weapons each plane had of which calibre. I laid them out along a horizontal axis that shows the war years - a decent canvas for comparing technologies.
I then colour coded them
And then wanted to add more data and this required that i overlaid the calibre-holes where possible -
and then in order to add a signpost to the graphic - to show at a glance what it was about, I added plane silhouettes. The earlier tank graphic could have done with these just to let people know what they were getting - without proving too much of a distraction
I was quite happy with this - but the editorial team at the magazine felt that some of the calibres were getting hard to read - they had a good point. We also wanted to try the real-holes-in-the-paper so we came up with this arrangement.
There is the added benefit in that there is now the space to include other data abut these planes, including range and speed. It was a nice way to prototype using a mixture of scanned pencil sketch and some elements in Adobe Illustrator just to point out how some of the elements would look.
The use of these icons to show the common targets was also carefully considered. I was lucky enough to discuss in a day long tutorial by Scott McCloud that an harmonising elements (eg colour or background shapes) should not take anything from the recognition/ reading of the actual shapes/ symbols. I figured that the ones in circles looked like the real thing but didn't read as well - so out they came.
I have been wanting to talk about cutaways for a while and there is so much to them that this will just be getting some thoughts in order - one of many posts on general Information Graphics issues.