The best infographics grant you superpowers. An aerial map lends you, the viewer, the power of flight. A beautifully organized chart lets you instantly comprehend data. And cutaways, those images that reveal an object’s insides? They endow you with X-ray vision.
Look Insideis loadedwithdata visualizations from that last category. The new book ($60), out later this month from Gestalten, invites readers to peer inside structures as small and specific as a tape cassette and as huge and multi-layered as the earthitself.From the beginning the idea was to make not only a collection of scientific infographics, but show the whole range of how different artists are using these types of illustrations, says designer Juan Velasco, who curated the book with his brother, Samuel. (The two also co-founded information design studio 5W Infographics.) Together, the pair begancollecting visualizations forthe book two years ago,after realizing no such compilation existed.
The result is an exquisite assortmentof cross sectional, transparent, and exploded-view cutaways that crisscrosses both history and subject matter. The booktracesthe earliest evidenceof the genre to the Arnhem Land region in northern Australia. There, 28,000 years ago, Aboriginal inhabitants painted diagrams of humans and animals on cave walls,deconstructing theirsubjects into bones, organs, and muscles. They are most certainly the first cutaway illustrations ever created, the Velascos write.
Moretechnical diagrams, like those of Turkish polymathIsmail al-Jazari, would emerge millennia later. A preternaturally gifted artist and engineer, al-Jazari filled his 13th century text,The Book of Knowledge of Ingenious Mechanical Devices, withdetailed descriptions of mechanicalinventions, using cutaway drawings toexplain their inner workings. The book also spotlights the work of a handful of designers living and working today. Among them is Bryan Christie, a master illustrator—and frequent WIRED-contributor—who specializes in transparent renderings of human, mechanical, and architectural anatomies.
Look Insidehas something for everyone. There’s plenty of science and engineering, of course—these are the format’s usual suspects. But the Velascos’ inclusion of other subject matter is notable.Some are purely creative and based on fantasy,” Juan says,like the surrealistcollages of artistTravis Bedel. That’s the thing with superpowers likeX-ray vision. Theydon’talwayshave to be logical. They just have to be awesome.