Category Archives: how-to

Diane, I’m Learning How to Make Terrific Illustrations

Artist Scott Campbell (mentioned previously) has published a behind-the-scenes peek at how he made a watercolor illustration for the Twin Peaks 20th Anniversary Art Exhibition. It almost makes me feel like I could do it myself.

Got to find out what kind of trees these are. They’re really something.

Building Your HENJ

A little how-to humor for you from How to be a Retronaut.

[via Neatorama]

Apollo 11 Repair Manual

The celebrated English auto repair publisher Haynes is now offering an “Owner’s Workshop Manual” for Apollo 11’s Saturn V rocket, command module, service module, and lunar module. That’s good nerdery.



Also available, manuals for Baby, Woman, and Man.

[via Geekologie]

Roll Your Own Technical Illustrations

If you’re so inclined (and own Adobe Illustrator), VECTORTUTS will show you how to make professional-grade exploded isometric technical illustrations* to explain whatever machine you like.


Isometric Exploded Guitar

*These are the types of diagrams used in patents and other technical illustrations. Isometric, in this case, means a representation of a three-dimensional object in which lines that are parallel in the three-dimensional world are represented as parallel lines in a two-dimensional drawing. In other words, the style ignores the law of perspective that says parallel lines will appear to converge at the horizon line (as seen in Q-Bert and the Sims). Exploded means the individual pieces of an object are separated, so you can see how they all fit together (as seen in product assembly manuals).

[via Drawn]

Growing Treasury of How-To Illustrations

If you like vintage how-to illustrations, keep an eye on the new site howtographics.com. There are a few gems there already.


How to Talk on the Phone


How to Turn Right

I’m thinking about turning these into stickers and making other people’s houses, cars and places of business more user-friendly.

[via Kottke]

Common Craft Explains How Common Craft Explains

And speaking of Common Craft, here’s a new post explaining how they put together Paperworks pieces. Very cool.

common-craft-desk.jpg

“Howcast” Steps Up to the How-To Challenge

Making good how-to content is incredibly difficult, and I hate it.

If you’re crafting a pure explanation — say, explaining what makes a car go — your job is not to make sure your audience groks every little detail of what all the thousands of individual pieces do. Your job is to illuminate some basic principles to form a complete thought. You go only as deep as you need to, and you can use all the metaphors and generalizations you like. It’s a delight.

If your subject is “How to fix your car,” on the other hand, you’ve set out to cover every step involved in fixing every possible problem (at least if you’re being thorough). Skip a crucial step, and your guide is potentially useless to your audience. When you’re teaching something in person, your audience will let you know when you missed something. When you’re making how-to content — articles, video, comics — it’s on you to cover just about everything somebody might need.

So, I hate making how-to stuff, and I respect people who take on such a daring mission with good intentions. Which is all a long preamble to congratulating Howcast on their launch today.

Howcast How to Trim Your Mustache

The new site, run by ex-Googlers, is basically a warehouse of short how-to videos. As the site’s “What is Howcast” video explains, anybody can start a “Wiki guide,” which “members of the Howcast network” may turn into short video pieces. Techcrunch’s post sheds a little more light:

Audience members can also look at upcoming scripts and improve them or write their own in a guided wiki portion of the site that follows the Howcast script template (introduction, instructions, tips, end with a fact). The script is then approved by Howcast, a voiceover is recorded, and Howcast farms out the production to young film school students and graduates. They get $50 for each video plus a 50/50 rev-share from any advertising. Anyone can also upload their own instructional videos to the site without going through this process.

I’ve only sampled a few videos so far, but I see some features I like. Online video is a logical choice for how-to because it lends itself to thorough demonstrations, but it’s also frustratingly linear. When you need to backtrack for a second to check something, it’s much more of a pain to rewind than to scan up a page of text and diagrams. Howcast has done a good job addressing this. Every video comes with a text-and-picture summary, a transcript, a list of tools and supplies you’ll need, and marker points for where each step appears in the video. Not bad.

Nice Web-1.0 name too. Here’s what the page looked like way back in 1999.

[Link]
[Via Techcrunch]