Drawing the carrier happened after assembling iPhone pics from a book
I knew that somewhere would be a diagram of the
carrier. I knew I had to do a general tour of key areas and ideas rather than
200 specific features. Some of these are fascinating - the 'ready room' for
fliers, the split engines to avoid hits, the protective wall around the fuel
tanks. Invariably in such a massive system there is a temptation to get stuck
in the detail so I had to zoom out a bit to find the actual story.
This was settled on as concentrating on the Essex
class carrier and it's hasty and timely entry into service.
I wanted to show the effect the Essex had on the
Pacific carrier war by graphing the following variables:
- Post December 1941 - time
- US and Japanese carriers commissioned, sunk,
damaged, repaired, capacity of carriers
So that you can see at any one time how many carriers
and ultimately planes, the opposing forces could send at each other. This was
something I wanted the piece to stress - that naval power was now about
mobility of aerial force, not firepower and armour.
The sketch of the wave concept
The first graph was about aerial force but in a
different way - I sought to show the changing balance of planes - from
anti-ship torpedo and dive bombers in the early days when the main objective
was destroying other ships - to fighter planes, whose main job was to defend
against the kamikazes in the final months.
Here is where I got temporarily distracted by a motif.
(I sure I am not the first designer to think I have had a moment of conceptual
brilliance, only ditch it after a lot of self-discipline and asking the honest
opinions of others.)
I really liked the concept of this fighter make up
shown as a wave.
It fitted the nautical theme. It symbolised the
crushing might of US industrial output. Best of all it referenced the Japanese
artist Hokusai whose Great Wave off Kanagawa is a well-known piece.
went with the headline "Launching a steel tsunami" which I was
pleased with. (Alliterative headlines provide a simple warm glow to me)
Thus began an internal dilemma of being happy with the
visual motif, yet being uncomfortable with it as a means of carrying
Cute but faulted
It was faulty - the area if the inner curve is way
less than the outer, distorting the quantitative impression in favour if the
outer. (and rendering this with illustrator offset path created loads of duplicates of the vector and overloaded my mac - so there's a tip!)
More importantly, it didn't contribute to a strong
story idea - "balance of plane types changed to echo changing strategy/tactics"
is ok - but " the Essex carrier helped win the pacific war" is better
- so I ditched the wave and went for the other graph as it told a bigger story
I deleted the vertical grid - it made too much noise - although it did help with the positioning when drawing the graph
This graph worked ok- some issues were-
- Data - lots of contradictory data meant a lot of work
between the magazine and I to get it right (thanks Caitlin)
- Overlapping lines - I decided that if there were two
lines overlapping, the top one would be the one that was at the most advantage
at that time
- Tour points - worth mentioning that doing a graph
with tonnes of data isn't good enough - key points need pointing out - in this
case, key battles and main themes (lots of data-vis these days just throws data
at the wall and asks you to ‘play’ with it, without direction – which is why
most people don’t.) Take a Tour.
Out of interest - the featured carrier is the USS Intrepid - which is in
New York City - go and see it - I'll return after doing this with new stuff to
look at for sure.