Exercise: Giving instructions

Using the internet, magazines, reference books leaflets, brochures and flyers make a collection of examples and reference materials that can help you with an illustration to fit one of the categories below.

Making a cup of tea                            Getting to my house                            Playing a tune on an instrument

Unfortunately, I don’t play any instrument. However, i do pretty good when it comes to making a cup of tea for myself. Actually i successfully complete this task few times a day! I hope that I will succeed in illustrating this simple process too.

So, what do you need to do to make a cup of tea? A simple tea from a teabag. I am not that good in Chinese  traditional tea ceremony yet to illustrate it.

  • 1) Boil water.
  • 2) Put a teabag into a cup.
  • 3) Pour hot water into the cup.
  • 4) Wait 5 minutes.
  • 5) Throw the teabag away.
  • 6) The tea is ready.

That’s it. Six simple steps.

PS Made a tea break to make some tea for myself and made sure my list doesn’t lack any essential step.

Okay, here we go. The only thing left is to make the list visual.

The main thing I will need for the task is the order in what people usually receive any visual information.  For example, recipes below look incredibly cute, but they are really pain to follow.


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What does look clear?

This, for example. Lots of free space. Nothing excess.


This picture though is only good to follow when you see it all. When it’s big enough, when you can’t receive the 100% of it’s information, you have to scroll it with mouse wheel, and you might think that you should take 2 mint leafs, put the cream on them, sprinkle the cream with nuts etc etc. The informational flow for you goes from the top the ground. So, if I make my picture vertical, I should put 1st step of tea preparation at the top.



There are no instructions here. I love the visual purity of the image. The picture greatly divides different elements: the composition, toppings etc.


It’s a hard task to find a handy visual recipe. I like the one below. All the work process is plain and clear. I would easily cook cookies from this recipe, and its the fact to aspire.


Here are few versions of how the instruction could be done, knowing that the information is easier to follow from top to bottom and from left to right, just like we do in reading. I also was playing around with the idea of making an instruction look like a board game, but it’s not handy at all.


In a task like this it’s real important to not let your wish to “make it beautiful” to ruin the functionality. The instruction should be clear. Okay, I’ve decided to make illustrations clear and simple.

First I made all the images necessary for making tea. It’s a kettle, a cup and a teabag. I’ve started working with the kettle and spent some time making it clear that we have a kettle full of boiling water.


I made a cup after that. I have the same at home.

And my ideal teabag.


And started to think about the design.


It looks cool on the dark background.


When you have finished show it to other people to check that it works both as an attractive illustration and in its main function – to give instructions.

To use as few words as possible? Best of all use none? No problem, I don’t have any words excluding the header.

This is the first finished result I showed to my friends.



Everyone liked it. But when I’ve shown the other sketches, everyone agreed that while the dark background looks cool, its not the best option for humans perception.

There was another problem. It was a real surprise. Actually someone always tried to read the instruction in a way its shown below. On this particular moment there started a big conversation about how instructions like this should be made, which left everyone with their own opinion. And I gave it a second thought…




Okay, I’ve remade it again. Here it comes.


Can’t be more plain. Well, i like how this version looks like generally, but the format is not that good. And I’ve started to think again. Well, now I’ve decided to place the pictures in two horizontal rows. I also linked the pictures with lanes to make it even more easy to understand. The rows are not linked with each other vertically so the man should explore the upper row from left to right (which is natural order), and then start the bottom row from the left again. The lack of the link between 3d and 6th circles should be taken as a stop signal and transfer the gaze to the next lane automatically.


I’ve decided to choose this version as a final one.  The principle is the same as on previous picture, but the circles are linked not with lanes but with numbers. In vertical version the man could have 2 stops on each new row, but only one here. And we could see the hole instruction at once, so the chance to fail the cup of tea is on it’s worlds minimum. Hooray.


Categories: exercises, Illustration, Portfolio