Saturday, October 16, 2010

Drawing the Internet

I was contacted by Scientific American a few weeks back to illustrate an article by the guy who invented the internet. No, not Al Gore, but Tim Berners-Lee.

The article is really about the future of the internet. He posits that for the web to remain as vital and vibrant as it is today, we need to protect it from the threats of corporation and government. My first idea started with describing the threats to the future of the web by using the metaphor of a well with magic water that everyone needed but was being corrupted and constrained.
This idea didn't quite work for them. So I tried two others, that used a city metaphor and, of all things, Jack in the Beanstalk reference- to illuminate the threats to these channels of information.

None of these were working. What the art director wanted the illustration to do was NOT summarize the entire thesis of the article in the form of a visual metaphor, but help describe the somewhat abstract components of the online universe that become key players in the article. Almost like an informational graphic or a visual dictionary about how the web is constructed. 

Do you know the different between the Web and the Internet? I certainly had used them interchangeably before this job- but they actually refer to different systems. Simply put, the internet is the tubes (hardware) and the web is the stuff that connects the tubes to other machines (the protocols).

The author states that the 'gremlins' live in the protocols- the hardware is in place and is multi-platformed and accessible but if the protocols change and websites can't be universally linked to each other without a special interface, the web could be in trouble. So we revisited the first composition and my final sketch illustrated these three levels- the internet below, the web on the surface and the protocols in between- with cities, gremlins and tubes.

The final art was a fun one to work on, with all those monsters and gremlins. We also added two spots to run with the package. A few details included below.


Chris Whetzel said...

My eyes are very happy to look at this.

Kyle T. Webster said...

John, this drawing is very impressive. I don't know how you keep track of everything when you are composing such detailed images. When you go for it, you go for it - no short cuts.


Great piece, John! It would be so cool to create a children's book using all these goblins and gremlins... I'd buy it!

nommo said...

Oooo - this would make a lovely signed print :)