Like HowStuffWorks on Facebook!

How the HowStuffWorks Book Works 2001

Picture This...

One of the best parts of the book "Marshall Brain's HowStuffWorks" is the illustrations. Our goal was to give this book a very distinctive look and feel with the art. We were fortunate to find and work with Charles Floyd to illustrate the book. Each article in "HowStuffWorks" has art, in the form of 3-D drawings, diagrams and photos. Charles did an amazing job on the illustrations, and Rick and Roxanne did the photographs. Each illustration was hand-drawn, scanned, colored and proofed. For the photos, we purchased and disassembled objects, photographing each one from many different angles.

Whenever we write an article or an answer to a question, we research, investigate and deconstruct things to get to their essence -- so we can truly see how they work. We do this to understand the topics and to be as accurate as possible in our explanations to you. Charles used a similar approach to creating the illustrations for this book. He did a lot of reading and spoke to most of the writers. Gary helped by doing research for Charles and providing extra material and photos when necessary. In order to get the full story here, it's good to look at one particular illustration and walk through the process.

Getting ready to fly

Packing up for the night

In preparation for writing the article on How Hot Air Balloons Work, Marshall, Roxanne and Tom went on a hot-air-balloon ride with CargoLifter. They took about a hundred photos on their adventure and shot video for one of our television spots. After Tom wrote the article, he gave it to Katherine and Marshall to be edited. As they were working on it, they gave a copy to Charles to read. When Charles was finished, he and Tom got together and went through the photos from the ride and a few sketches that Tom had prepared while working on the article. As they were talking, Charles made several sketches in his sketch pad.

Tom's sketches of a hot air balloon

Charles took all of their work and notes home to his studio and drew an illustration of a hot air balloon. Once he had a finished drawing, he scanned it and colored it on his computer. Finally, the illustration was complete, so he brought it back to the HowStuffWorks office. Charles, Rick and Tom took a look at it together and Tom made a few suggestions, such as including the HowStuffWorks logo. Just a few tweaks later, the illustration was perfect and ready to be used in the blad. We'll talk about the blad a little later in this article. Below, you can see the illustration from the blad and the illustration that appears in the book:

Charles' illustration of a hot air balloon

Hot-air-balloon illustration in layout

Charles went through this process, or something very similar to it, over 100 times to complete each of the illustrations.

More to Explore