Clarity Through Minimalism

I was looking through my Triumph Haynes manual the other day trying to sort out a gearbox issue I’m having and realized that it’s nearly impossible to make sense of the low-contrast photography that accompanies the instructions.

It’s a few things, really: the low quality printing; the poor cropping that makes it difficult to discern what is the relevant item that I’m supposed to be looking at; the lack of quality lighting. It all made me wish that my trusty old copy of John Muir’s How to Keep Your Volkswagen Alive: A Manual of Step-by-Step Procedures for the Compleat Idiot was available for every make and model. The illustrations—cartoony as they are—do a much better job of highlighting the relevant information. It’s part of what makes it, in my opinion, the best repair manual ever written.

When I stumbled across this image of an E-Type’s rear end dropped, it prompted the same thought. The Haynes or Chilton version of this image would be full of shadows and low-contrast grays and make the whole thing a jumbled mess to understand. I can’t even read German and I can understand what’s going on here.

Take note, repair manual publishers.

5 responses to “Clarity Through Minimalism”

  1. Fred says:

    I became an “expert” in VW thanks to John Muir. The only manual I read cover to cover just for the fun of it.

  2. Peter says:

    Here here! Not only are the Haynes photos low contrast and poorly lighted, but the instructions are poorly written and unhelpful. It’s worth sending extra money to buy the manufacturer’s workshop manual.

  3. Mike Jacobsen says:

    This appears to be an ad or a magazine’s analysis rather than a shop manual photo: roughly it reads “This technical drawing shows the newest technology of the E Type..the entire differential and rear end can be lowered as a unit..” MJ

  4. Martin says:

    I cannot agree more. I learned a lot from the “idiot” book. I wish there were a version for the VW Passat. It’d make my life easier (and save me some cash).

  5. Mikey says:

    Thanks for the appreciation. I made my living for 30 years as a technical illustrator, first using pen and ink and later on a Mac computer. I still enjoy leafing through my old BMC factory workshop manuals and a well worn copy of the as mentioned VW manual still sits on my shop bookshelf.

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