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© 2010 Ugur Akinci
Besides being a technical writer I’m also a technical illustrator. I love drawing technical illustrations form my technical manuals as well as writing them and doing their layout designs.
My favorite illustration software is of course Adobe Illustrator. However I must say that I’m VERY impressed with Corel Designer Technical Suite X4 as well (although it’s too expensive for my budget). If I had the money I think I’d switch to Corel. But I digress…
Some people are not aware of the real and important distinction between a CAD drawing (a.k.a. “mechanical drawing”) and an illustration. They sometimes think an illustration is the “next best option” when CAD drawing is not feasible or affordable. Nothing can be further away from the truth.
Both of these two types of drawing have their place. They are not substitutable and sometimes we need them both. But sometimes we don’t. It all depends on our purpose.
A CAD drawing is an all-inclusive to-the-scale drawing of a system, with every measurement of every component shown clearly. There is no “instructional agenda” behind a CAD drawing. We are not trying to steer the user’ attention to any specific feature of the system (or the product). We are documenting all the features, all the components, all the measurements, in an exhaustive and encyclopedic manner. We are creating a REFERENCE document.
A technical illustration, on the other hand, is NOT complete – by design. We are not trying to show everything at once. On the contrary, there is always an AGENDA behind a technical illustration since it tries to accomplish something by steering the user’s attention to one aspect, one part of the system to the exclusion of all others. That;s why a technical illustration is CONCEPTUAL in nature. And that’s also why at times it may not be to scale and it may EXAGGERATE certain aspects of the product at the expense of other components. The idea is to create a mini-tutorial without using any words, except legends.
We need both CAD artists and technical illustrators in technical communication fields. They are equally indispensable members of a technical documentation team.