FMP: Inspiring Designs – Space & Astronomy

For this blog post, I want to analyse the space/astronomy designs I have encountered on my research so far that I have found inspiring, whether for aesthetic or communicative reasons. I will also produce a blog post highlighting other inspiring designs that are not space or astronomy themed.


Infographics:

Mars Rover Curiosity
Mars Rover Curiosity by Paul Mullen
Mars Rover Curiosity by Paul Mullen

This design inspired me on many levels. Firstly the design is aesthetically pleasing due to the strong contrast between the orange and black used throughout. This enhances the legibility of the information, which is already well structured by being split into sections with a good set of illustrations to match the text. Using guidelines between the different sections allows the brain to separate the sections to focus on them one by one, helping them to process the information.

Mars Rover Curiosity by Paul Mullen
Mars Rover Curiosity by Paul Mullen

Being printed onto GFSmith Colorplan Mandarin paper allows for the presumably monochrome design with varying levels of transparency to be printed onto it, creating a striking result. This is not a technique I have come across before.

Big Brothers
Big Brothers: Satellites orbiting Earth by Michael Paukner
Big Brothers: Satellites orbiting Earth by Michael Paukner

This infographic is inspirational to me due to the simplicity of the communication to the audience. The design references the topic with satellites orbiting the Earth, and both type and shapes are used to give a perspective to the quantity of orbiting satellites produced by each country. A simple key is provided and is needed.

The only slightly negative point I would make about the design is that being monochromatic reduces the contrast and immediate impact that a colourful design can have, which would decrease the time taken to understand the information and brighten it up.

NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory Mission Paths
NASA JPL mission paths by Southpaw 661
NASA JPL mission paths by Southpaw 661
NASA JPL mission paths by Southpaw 661
NASA JPL mission paths by Southpaw 661

This infographic was immediately noticeable to me because it showcases the Solar System, but also has an additional function, similar in many ways to the Big Brothers infographic discussed above, but this time it examines the number of satellites in total that have orbited each planet and their moons. The bigger the mass of circles around the planet/moon, then the greater number of missions there have been. It also builds on a point I made previously where I stated colour would be a nice touch to have, and it makes this infographic more vibrant than the one above.

Space Shuttle
Space Shuttle by Space Facts
Space Shuttle by Space Facts

This infographic really grabbed my attention with the fantastic technical illustration of the Space Shuttle. The detail it goes into is just extraordinary, sucking the audience in to examine every last detail to see what it does, as after all, this is the best opportunity the majority of the audience will get to see what makes up one of these incredible space vehicles.

Being so complex means facts are needed and components and key features pointed out, which is done minimally and cleanly, so as not to distract from the illustrative focal point.


Motion Infographics

The Solar System

A magnificent motion infographic that explains the Solar System and for me, really sets the bar for infographics at a extremely high level. While I am not here to discuss the motion aspect of it as I am working towards a printed design solution, I have to say the animation and voiceover is very impressive and slick, really capturing the attention of the audience. Below are some screenshots to discuss.

The Solar System by Kurzgesagt
The Solar System by Kurzgesagt

It seems so simple when done, but I haven’t seen anyone before discuss how you can split the solar system into two halves, the terrestrial planets and the gas giants. This attention to detail makes it very easy for the audience to be interested and follow along.

The Solar System by Kurzgesagt
The Solar System by Kurzgesagt

Because of the simplicity of information presented to the audience, this means they can digest more of it, a good example being when examining the temperature extremes reached on Mercury. While most declare the maximum and minimum temperatures, here they have compared it to 0ºC, a common value the audience understands.

The Solar System by Kurzgesagt
The Solar System by Kurzgesagt

The flat design is worth discussing as well, as by paring back the Solar System to a series of flat vector circles, they have made the display cleaner and clearer to digest the information. It is possible to do this because of the fact that practically everyone has an understanding of what the Solar System looks like, even on a basic level, so although the flat design looks nothing like the real thing, it still creates the right connotations in the mind of the audience.

The Solar System by Kurzgesagt
The Solar System by Kurzgesagt

By comparing the main feature of Mars, Olympus Mons to our own tallest mountain, Mount Everest, it is very clear to see the difference in scale, allowing the magnitude of scale to register for the audience.

The Solar System by Kurzgesagt
The Solar System by Kurzgesagt

Impressively, they have devised a clever way of ensuring infographics are used to put the proportion of the solar system into perspective, which is a real challenge to do, but when seen in this bar chart format, it is really impressive and surprising to see the results, such as Jupiter containing 70% of the solar system’s mass.

The Solar System by Kurzgesagt
The Solar System by Kurzgesagt

Then, comparing the Solar System’s mass to that of the Sun’s suddenly snaps into sharp focus just how enormous it is. My research has shown me this is an extremely hard subject to cover, but here it appears so simple and easy to understand.

Distance to Mars

Screen Shot 2014-03-25 at 17.32.28

As with many of the other infographics so far I have looked at, this one also focuses on explaining the magnitude of a space figure, this one being ‘How far is it to Mars?’ Such a simple concept, it is very well executed in the form of a automatically scrolling website. Starting at Earth, which is equated to 100 pixels, when the user starts scrolling, the site takes over…

Screen Shot 2014-03-25 at 17.44.00

… until the Moon is reached, 3000 pixels away, being just 27 pixels in width. This really makes the information easy to understand for the audience, so scrolling on again lets the website take over the scrolling for seemingly ever………..

Screen Shot 2014-03-25 at 17.45.12

… until Mars is reached. It seems to take ages, but is such a clever way of highlighting just how far Mars is in comparison. It is something I had never quite realised until I saw it, and it explains just why solar exploration to Mars hasn’t happened yet and won’t happen for a long time yet unfortunately.


Posters, Maps & Illustrations

Celestial Maps
Celestial Maps by Rida Abbasi
Celestial Maps by Rida Abbasi

This is a design close to what I am looking to produce, and I think inspiring for many reasons. Aesthetically, it is a very sophisticated design with the bright yellow content contrasting a ‘midnight blue’ background, a highly legible combination. However, my design will obviously look different because I am aiming for a different audience.

Celestial Maps by Rida Abbasi
Celestial Maps by Rida Abbasi

As for the map itself, everything is reasonably well laid out, with the planets picked out in blue, although I wonder if they could have been picked out in colours closer to how they are seen in the night sky. It is interesting to see this map include the Milky Way in it, as many I have seen do not bother covering this.

Celestial Maps by Rida Abbasi
Celestial Maps by Rida Abbasi

A key is provided, which is simple and clear, although I wonder if there could be more variety with colours as I’ve discussed earlier on in this blog post with another design.

What Space Really Looks Like
What Space Really Looks Like by Nina Geometrieva
What Space Really Looks Like by Nina Geometrieva

The above vector illustration is inspiring to me for this project because the design is engaging with the use of interesting shapes and glowing effects, while the colours are incredibly vibrant, making for a colourful piece that attracts the audience’s attention.

Glow-in-the-dark posters
Bottleneck Gallery's Glow-in-the-dark poster exhibition
Bottleneck Gallery’s Glow-in-the-dark poster exhibition

Seeing these glow-in-the-dark posters made me think how really these are two designs in one, for day and night, and it wasn’t too much of a visual step to think how effective it could be for a poster of the night sky for example. It is something I think that could add a real level of interest to the design.

Bottleneck Gallery's Glow-in-the-dark poster exhibition
Bottleneck Gallery’s Glow-in-the-dark poster exhibition

Using a glow-in-the-dark ink can also reveal some different features as the above poster shows. I think this would be a very interesting technique to use as I’ve shown in a mock-up below:

Screen Shot 2014-03-27 at 15.24.25
Daytime…
Screen Shot 2014-03-27 at 15.24.11
…Night time!


Books & Magazines

For all the National Geographic books below, the designs are pretty similar, so I’ve grouped them together, but they’re identified in the caption. I’ve also had to take screenshots from Amazon, which limits the amount of pages I can see so I’m looking more at aesthetics than content. 

ORION
ORION by Karoline Tynes
ORION by Karoline Tynes

This conceptual magazine front cover is inspiring for the way the image is allowed to dominate the content, but how well the text is positioned above it so as to be legible. The sans-serif typography is also worthy of note due to its clean strokes and clever use of different weights for emphasis.

National Geographic books
Space Atlas: Mapping the Universe and Beyond
Space Atlas: Mapping the Universe and Beyond by James Trefil
Hubble: Imaging Space and Time by David DeVorkin & Robert Smith
Hubble: Imaging Space and Time by David DeVorkin & Robert Smith
Sizing Up the Universe: A New View of the Cosmos by J. Richard Gott & Robert J. Vanderbei
Sizing Up the Universe: A New View of the Cosmos by J. Richard Gott & Robert J. Vanderbei
New Solar System: Ice Worlds, Moons and Planets Redefined by Patricia Daniels & Robert Burnham
New Solar System: Ice Worlds, Moons and Planets Redefined by Patricia Daniels

The front covers visible above are tied together by one main theme; the use of the main image on the front cover that is seen as the major gateway to get people into the book. While this is always the case with books, here it seems more pronounced because of the fact that imagery makes up so much of the audience’s interest, if they didn’t find it beautiful, the majority would not be as interested, if at all.

Space Atlas: Mapping the Universe and Beyond by James Trefil
Space Atlas: Mapping the Universe and Beyond by James Trefil
Space Atlas: Mapping the Universe and Beyond by James Trefil
Space Atlas: Mapping the Universe and Beyond by James Trefil
Sizing Up the Universe: A New View of the Cosmos by J. Richard Gott & Robert J. Vanderbei
Sizing Up the Universe: A New View of the Cosmos by J. Richard Gott & Robert J. Vanderbei

The above pages are examples of how text can be placed into images so as to minimise the disruption over the image and not to distract the focus of the reader. I think this is an important design element to get right, as captions are needed to provide the reader with the background knowledge that will enhance their understanding and make the subject more enjoyable to them.

Sizing Up the Universe: A New View of the Cosmos by J. Richard Gott & Robert J. Vanderbei
Sizing Up the Universe: A New View of the Cosmos by J. Richard Gott & Robert J. Vanderbei

Including images such as the one above is important to get the audience interested by letting them see what is possible, even though realistically, few people have access to skies without light pollution, so can’t witness such extraordinary skies.


Other

Rolls-Royce Phantom Celestial
Rolls-Royce Phantom Celestial interior
Rolls-Royce Phantom Celestial interior

Watching the Inside Rolls-Royce documentary recently, it reminded me of the Celestial Phantom bespoke special edition, built around the night sky theme, with an amazing fibre-optic headlining that replicates looking into the night sky. Although widely unrealistic, it would be fantastic to have that sort of facility within a poster.

Designing the Rolls-Royce Phantom Celestial's fibreoptic headlining
Designing the Rolls-Royce Phantom Celestial’s fibreoptic headlining

Watching the promotional video for the bespoke design and construction of the car, it is visible to see above how the headlining was designed, and how Rolls-Royce marked the constellations on their design software. Having only seen straight lines to connect the stars before, it makes me think how there could be better alternatives so this is something I will need to consider.

Conclusion – How will this inspire my designs?

After looking at these designs, there are a few points that stick out to me which I will summarise below and be thinking about when designing the solution to the brief.

  • Colour is a very important visual tool to identify elements.
  • The simpler, the better when it comes to explaining content.
  • Use simple illustrations when explaining content.
  • Use detailed illustrations to immerse the audience.
  • Unusual features can hold the audience’s interest.
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2 thoughts on “FMP: Inspiring Designs – Space & Astronomy

  1. I love the Bottleneck Gallery’s critter :-).
    We have the Nat Geo Hubble book – fantastic.

  2. From what I’ve seen of the book it looks great. Do you think you would be able to take some photos of a few pages inside the Hubble book that I could use for my research please?

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