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When designing technical documentation or video would hand-drawn sketchy elements seem out of place?

For example I have a Printed Circuit Board with switches and connections on it. The title is a very geometric overlay on the bottom with the name of the component on it in a Sans Serif font. To then highlight the component on the PCB I could use another perfectly geometric, vector shape. Or I can draw something by hand to give it a bit more character.

I prefer using the hand drawn feel. I think it adds more character and helps draw attention to it by being a contrasting style. But is it better to stay consistent and keep the mark mechanical to match the title and board?

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  • Don't forget to ask yourself: "can I pick up this style 6 months later and apply consistently to a field manual that is 300 pages?" – Yorik Nov 3 '15 at 20:38
  • @Yorik I'm not really sure that I agree with you on that - it kind of implies a 1 page spec sheet and a 500 page field manual have to be styled the same. Might make an interesting question on its own. – Ryan Nov 3 '15 at 20:42
  • Obviously I mean to say the manual has many illustrations of this nature. – Yorik Nov 3 '15 at 20:43
  • I think it's actually very nice to mix styles in this way sometimes, it creates a nice balance and soften the content that may look too technical. It might actually make it more interesting. It looks more organic, sometimes more friendly and less "digital". If it looks good, keep it, there's no rules for this. – go-junta Nov 4 '15 at 1:25
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    Well spec pages need to be consistent too. Be clear rather than cluttered. I wouldn't be too happy if my spec sheet was too artsy its not a art medium but information medium. I need this stuff to work not to admire. But yes why not if it does not cause problems. – joojaa Nov 4 '15 at 18:28
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I don't think it would be out of place, as long as it looks somewhat crisp and sleek. The difference in style could even make the circle pop even more.

It would help greatly if elements in the same, more fluid style were present in other parts of the publication. If you have to indicate an element with its name, consider using a handwritten font matching your style of circling. If it's only one, it could be taken as a mistake or a production element not upgraded to final quality. If it's a returning element style, it's part of the general style.

This does, somewhat, reduce the professionalism of the resulting look, but also serves to make it look lighter and therefore more accessible.

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As always, it depends. It depends on the target audience for this illustration and the best way to communicate with them (A/B testing time?). If a more "hand-drawn" approach works well, then by all means, go for it. Contrast could work well at highlighting the technical information balanced by the human touch.

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if you're gonna go with the sketch look, go all out. Use a texture to make it obvious. Make it an oval, not something nearly circular.

With what I'm seeing here, it would be easier and more aesthetically pleasing to go with a proper vector circle.

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  • This doesn't answer if I should go with a sketch look at all, it's useful if I do go that route but I'm more interested in if I should or if its too inconsistent with the rest of the design. Edited the question to try to make this more clear. – Ryan Nov 3 '15 at 16:04
  • With what I'm seeing here, it would be easier and more aesthetically pleasing to go with a proper vector circle. That's pretty clear. I would advise using the vector (not using the sketch) given the example you had given. Your edit is now in-line with what I suggested in my original answer. My opinion still stands: use the regular circle. – AMontpetit Nov 3 '15 at 16:33
  • I don't think I was clear enough so edited it again. It has nothing to do with the images I posted. Guess they were more confusing than helpful so I removed them. – Ryan Nov 3 '15 at 16:43

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