Welcome to the future – Anything is possible. And, you can make it. That’s how technical drawings and the schematic style made me feel anyway, way back when. They still do, maybe more than ever considering the technology we all have available now. I remember the day in 1984 that I picked up my copy of “Marvel Universe” and discovered the drawings that would allow me to build my own Iron Man suit. How could this be? Tony Stark just put the design out there for ANYONE to make?! I wore my first copy out so quickly that I actually went back to Stufflebean Pharmacy and bought a second, backup copy, just in case. I still have both. I also learned the word “paraphernalia” from the cover. I love that word almost as much as the word “stuff”. Two great words. Now, if I can get my hands on some “upper surface, high efficiency, activated cesium solar energy collectors,” I’m in business.

I’m fascinated by the inner workings of things. Especially, hardware. And even if it’s only clever marketing, and I believe it is as much as it ever was, I can’t get enough. The style injects your imagination and gives you the blueprint to actually build your wildest dreams (even if only in your imagination). The maker movement is a thing of beauty. But, it started long before there were magazines, fairs, and arduinos. These ideas were my very thinking behind an informational poster I created alongside the packaging for a 3D printer a few years back. What a better place to infuse this idea? I thought so anyway.

/ Lulzbot Mini poster | Designed and Illustrated by KP

My dad and I were always scribbling ideas and little drawings on napkins pretty much everywhere we went. It was usually because of some question I asked about how something worked. His answers to my questions always seemed to be, “sure, we can make that.” Then he’d go for a napkin and pull his pen out of his pocket. Cool.

I see the art in technical drawings and schematics, and a lot of clever creatives and marketers have too over the years. It screams technology, future forward, and they’re just fun to look at. Getting a look under the hood makes people feel like they’re included and they too can understand the technology. There’s also something special about the idea of the mad scientist formulating his or her plan for world domination in a secret lab under the sea somewhere. Or, on a napkin. Think James Bond’s Q or Batman in his Batcave. Someone designs all that stuff. Tell me there’s not dollar signs associated with that. Even if there wasn’t, I know I’m not alone in my love for this aesthetic.

I thought I would share some of the things I’ve kept all these years that inspired my love for schematic style. I’ll include some of my own designs too. I plan on adding to this little archive as I dig up more stuff. And, probably ramble on about various aspects.

Hope you enjoy.

This book hasn’t been cracked open in over 30 years? I was happy to find a drawing I did at some point back then stuck between the F-16 cutaway pages. The F-16… One of my favorites. I think I had discovered the pulse jet plans in the back of Popular Mechanics magazine and this is me thinking I could build one, and also build my own BD-5 style jet to put it in. I had obviously just seen “Octopussy”.

Several years ago I had the opportunity to design, animate, shoot, and edit The Six Million Dollar Man DVD boxed set special features and menu system. Another opportunity where the schematic style seemed appropriate.

/ The Six mIllion Dollar Man DVD boxed set | Some of the elements I designed and animated

Here’s another, more recent opportunity I had to use a similar style. I certainly don’t want to be a one-trick pony and I’m aware of overusing ideas. But, sometimes these things have become a part of your design vocabulary for a reason, I suppose. You can go back and use these things you’ve been carrying around. Ideas. Hardware. This project required a bit of texture to match some other visual assets and I always like experimenting to find new ways to accomplish things and be original. Ron Cobb had just passed, and I may have been channeling some Alien screen graphics design sense here. Yeah, I was. I created these tests by playing back some really nice, clean graphics a colleague made and re-shot them off an 80’s Apple IIc monitor I’ve been lugging around for 25 years. I nabbed it from Reynolds building surplus when I was in art school (I need to tell my stories about that place for sure). Then, added some post color grading. It all comes back around. Pushing things to their breaking point and then backing up is often the best way to find the right spot.

/ Screen design tests by KP & Alberto Lopez