Background: This week features a special issue marking the 100th anniversary of X-ray crystallography. The importance of crystallography in modern science cannot be overstated, but it’s not exactly a household term, so if you are not familiar with the topic, here is a fun, short explanatory video by the Guardian.
Design challenge: We decided to create a graphic spread (top image above, and pdf here) that would show the evolution of crystallography over the past century.
The spread was to contain: 1) a timeline of major discoveries and and technological advances; 2) a graphic explaining the basic science behind crystallography; and 3) graphs to show the rise in structural discoveries over the years, and the improvement in resolutions achieved over time.
We started with a few sketches by the editor (second image above).
The first challenge was to filter through a vast amount of information and establish how much we could fit onto a double-page spread. I outlined a split-page arrangement, with a guide to the number of timeline entries we could have along with pictures, and positioned the intro text with explainer graphic on the left, and the data graphs on the right. These were aligned in the same timescale as the timeline below. This structural alignment of time had to be made clear in the final layout, otherwise it was in danger of being missed behind all the information on page.
Intro illustration (last image above):
Here the challenge was to produce an attractive graphic, that combined the basic experimental set up used in early crystallography experiments, the technical aspects of x-ray interference through crystal structures, and the concept of diffracted x rays then being detected on a screen. We also wanted to include a real x-ray diffraction pattern from the first crystallography experiment. Because of the complex science involved, arranging these elements together took many iterations and revisions.
If you visit the graphic online, you can either download the print spread, or view some of the images as 3D videos.
(PS. The story behind the 100th anniversary cover illustration can be found here.)