Kahn, a former gynecologist, ran with the man-as-machine analogy like nobody else. That analogy has some problems, of course, but it makes a good foundation for beginners learning about human anatomy (you know, for kids).
Learn more about Kahn here and more about Lederer’s piece here.
These are internals of actual equipment. We buy items, usually via eBay or Craigslist, and we take them apart. Sometimes this requires special tools. Then we photograph the pieces and meticulously render them in Adobe Illustrator. Troy Paiva and Garry Booth are two of the skilled artists who have ‘exploded’ designs for us.
In an article for AIGA (“the professional association for design”), auto design expert Phil Patton rounds up several examples of “real life” exploded automotive machinery. I especially like the Harley Davidson Museum’s dismantled motorcycle, which looks intact from the side but seems to disassemble as you walk around it.
*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).
United sort of ran out of steam when they applied exploded view to their Employee Scholars program — it’s just an un-technical drawing of a guy’s head with various objects in it that expand and grow labels/explanation when you roll over them. Kind of a let-down after all that awesome. Also, I wish they’d included some sort of permalink system inside the animation, because then I could be pointing you to the coolest parts of it.