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Lower Spine & Pelvis Diagram, by Kaitie Trout

A geometric exploration of human bones

November 19, 2013

[This is a guest post by Kaitie Trout*, about the Lower Spine & Pelvis Study & Medical Diagram]


Lower Spine & Pelvis Study & Medical Diagram, by Kaitie Trout

Like anything that is worth doing, this project began when my Information Graphics instructor challenged me to come up with a medical diagram. While many may think that it is a relatively easy thing to make, the real challenge came when he told me to not only make a medical diagram, but to make a medical diagram that was different than all of the others that were out there and that would make people want to really stop and look at it. For a whole day I researched medical diagrams, both new and vintage, and couldn’t find any that I thought spoke to the general population without assuming that they all had a doctorate degree in anatomy to begin with. Everything was so complicated and none of them were really all that interesting to look at, so I took that thought and decided that before I even decided on a subject matter, the medical diagram I was going to create was going to be interesting to look at, simple, but above all, an illustration that could stand alone without any text. So really, this was a two-part project.

I finally found my subject matter when I found a beautiful vintage medical illustration of a lower spine and pelvis. I knew that when a lot of people thought of medical diagrams that they pictured diagrams showing muscles, cut-away views of organs, and nerves and blood vessels, but these things aren’t really that simple for people to understand, so most of the time people look at a medical chart and then look away because they are overwhelmed with information. I figured bones would be a better avenue for me to take because people can easily look at bones and identify what part of the body they are looking at. I also believe that as a culture we really like bones and skeletons. We wear them on shirts, leggings, socks, ties, etc., so why not make a skeleton illustration that people will want to see.

I had explored a geometric style last Spring when I used this same method to make images of waterfalls and a body of water for a motion graphics project, but I felt like I needed to come back to this style and really work with it and explore the possibilities of what it could do to represent light and shadow. I went into Adobe Illustrator, placed the beautiful vintage reference image of a lower spine and pelvis that I found while researching diagrams, zoomed far in and went to work.

(An idea of how many shapes were created with the Pen Tool to make up the whole image of a lower spine and pelvis.)

My process was really quite simple. I used the image as a guide for light and shadows, and assigned a color to each kind of highlight and each kind of shadow. For about 10-12 hours (total time) I stayed zoomed in, using only the Pen Tool to create shapes. I matched anchor points up to each other so everything would easily flow from one shape to the next. About every half hour I would zoom out to see how everything looked at actual size.

This was where things could sometimes get a little tricky. When you are zoomed really far in, the shapes you are creating seem like they may be large, but they are actually really quite small and don’t always translate well when fully zoomed out. This gave me an idea though. I looked at this, erased about a half hour of work, and decided to create a balance of sections comprised of small geometric shapes and sections with larger shapes that would be used in areas where there was a block of light or shadow.

Once I started working again, keeping this sort of style guide in mind, things started flowing much smoother. After many, many hours, I finally closed my last shape, zoomed out and inspected my work. After I looked everything over and was pleased with my work, I started to do color comps.

(A color comp of the illustration)
(A color comp of the illustration – I liked the way these colors worked best with each other, so I chose to use this one for my final diagram.)
(A color comp of the illustration)

Finally, I added in the text that would turn this whole thing into a diagram. Using the color comp that I chose to work with, I moved my production into Adobe InDesign. I prefer to work with text in InDesign because I feel it is more helpful for layout because it offers more smartguides and the ability to turn text into outlines, just like in Illustrator. I wanted the illustration to be the main focal point of this whole piece, so I stayed clean and simple with the text and used it as a complimentary asset to the piece.

(The final diagram)


After completing high school in Pennsylvania, USA, Kaitie Trout went on to study Graphic Design at the Pennsylvania College of Art & Design, where she will graduate with a BFA in Graphic Design in May 2014. After completing undergraduate studies, Kaitie plans to attend graduate school to earn a Masters Degree in Graphic Design. You can find her regularly updated work on Behance, connect with her on LinkedIn, follow her design blog on Tumblr, or follow her on Instagram (@kaitietrout) where she regularly posts hand-lettering, snippets of current projects and generally entertaining photos.

Written by Tiago Veloso

Tiago Veloso is the founder and editor of Visualoop and Visualoop Brasil . He is Portuguese, currently based in Bonito, Brazil.