Project Five: Visual Book

How to Build a Buggy

First, I started brainstorming ideas for my book topic. Some of the example books that we saw were pretty abstract, so I tried to push my brainstorming process beyond just what was around me/part of my daily life.

Some of the ideas I came up with were:

  • Morning in the life of a buggy driver
  • San Francisco: places? food?
  • Burritos
  • Seeing the world with and without glasses — blurry then clear pages
  • Poetry
  • Building a buggy
  • Bucket list
  • Places to travel
  • Favorite food places across the world
  • Travel diary/log
  • History of a font
  • How to love

After looking around at different book layouts and for different content, I settled on How to Build a Buggy. (For information on what exactly buggy is, see here). I thought this could have a nice structure and also be good practice for my engineering career where I may need to communicate a build process.

Then, I started collecting content for my book. The buggy team that I drive and mechanic for, APEX, actually started building a buggy from scratch this year, so I pulled heavily from our progress so far and what we have left to do. I broke the process down into 5 different steps:

SolidWorks model

  • Get measurements
  • Look at aerodynamic shapes
  • Build model around measurements
  • Perform aerodynamic testing
  • Create slices


  • Print slices
  • Cut paper
  • Glue paper to foam
  • Cut foam
  • Epoxy foam together
  • Sand, bondo, spackle


  • Make base plate
  • Cut out fiber sheets and nomex jacket
  • Machine hard points
  • Prepare peel ply, bleed, vacuum bag/tape, etc.
  • Wraps


  • Cut hatches
  • Dig out foam
  • Steering
  • Brakes
  • Harness Points

Putting it all together

  • Make windshield
  • Assemble steering, brake, harness points
  • Attach push bar
  • Paint

Next, I took these steps and sectioned them out for the actual pages of my book:

1 (Front cover): cover page

2: description

3: table of contents

4 & 5: SolidWorks model

6 & 7: Mold

8 & 9: Layup

10 & 11: Internals

12 & 13: Putting it all together

14& 15: buggy + pusher image

16 (Back cover): buggy flying off right edge of page

In thinking about my content, I also thought about what information would be necessary to include. For each page, I decided to have supplies, steps, things to consider, and some form of the “finished product” you should have after following the instructions on that page.

Next, I started sketching possible layouts.

My first idea was to have some way for the reader to be able to see the buggy being built as they flip through the book. One way I envisioned this happening was having the book flip backwards, with clear sheets between each solid sheet. Each clear sheet would have an image of the “new” step you were reading about. For example, the right page would be a solid sheet, with an image of a buggy at the bottom of the page. The next page would be clear, with an image of a buggy in the same exact place, but with a new feature.

In thinking about it, I wasn’t sure if the clear sheets are necessary, or if having the buggy in the same place could have a very similar effect and be much easier.

As for my other ideas, I decided I wanted 3 sections of information: supplies, steps, and an image of the “final” product for the step. In my different sketches, I played around with various arrangements of these 3 sections. Some of my sketches also feature layouts that don’t have strictly outlined sections. For example, some of the sketches feature a picture for each step or a combined image showing the final product as well as the supplies involved.

After sketching, I started with some digital iterations. To start, I made the 3 sections I wanted to feature placed them as shown below. I started out using images just to get an idea of what the content would look like and then added some of my own illustrations.

Below is the “buggy” shape I created in Illustrator, slowly matching the shape with the slices of “foam”.

At this point, I asked for Kaylee’s feedback. She suggested keeping the 50–5–5 rule in mind for the books as well, still treating the book as a spread and organizing content/hierarchy that way. She also suggested playing wit the formatting of the steps, as well as keeping in mind hierarchy in terms of font size (captions vs. other text). I also mentioned the idea of having pictures for each step (as shown in one or two of my sketches), which she said she would appreciate as someone with very little knowledge about buggy.

So, I decided to experiment with this idea. I made the supplies section smaller in order to emphasize the steps. In addition, I moved the “finished product” image to the top right, with the idea of having this image in the same place on every spread for some continuity.

Next, I started working on the illustrations for each step:

At this point, I asked for Julia’s feedback. She suggested I try communicating the steps with only pictures, similar to IKEA directions, as an exercise to see how far I could get without using words. She also suggested using other strategies, such as having numbered or color coordinated diagrams, or having one diagram with many call-outs.

Taking Julia’s suggestion, I tried to eliminate almost all text from each step, as shown below. I used scissor and glue icons to indicate “cutting” and “sticking together,” with text indicating what cutting tool or bonding material should be used.

At this point, I asked Julia how it looked compared to the first iteration, and she said it was already looking a lot less repetitive. I asked for some suggestions on the layout, as I felt it was looking a bit plain. She suggested I view the pages more as a spread, rather than two pages next to each other, so I could guide the reader’s eye through the piece. She also suggested I tweak the symbols, as it’s confusing to have scissors represent scissors in one step, but a bandsaw in another.

Taking a break from some of the illustrations, I started playing around with the layout. I started experimenting with a bit of a “comic book” style, having rectangular sections for each step. In order to guide the reader through the process, I numbered the sections.

I also played around with the idea of having some visual representation of how far the reader is through the overall process. In the end, I came up with having 5 wheels to represent the 5 overarching steps in building a buggy (Model, Mold, Layup, Internals, Assembly). In order to indicate step n, I made the nth wheel larger. I also played around with the positioning of the title and wheels, as shown below:

The wheels that APEX uses are orange, so my natural inclination was to make the graphic orange. However, I felt it was a bit distracting, so I made them grey instead:

Next, I started playing around with my illustrations again, starting with the symbol for “bonding”:

I kept the glue shaped bottle, as I felt it was the best way to communicate some type of glue or bonding material. However, I differentiated glue and epoxy by labelling the different bottles with different letters.

As for the “cutting” symbol, I decided to keep the scissors for actual scissor cuts, and create a saw icon for the bandsaw.

In addition, I edited some of my illustrations. I added dotted lines to indicate where the cuts would go, as is typical of many instructions. I also created the 6th illustration to show sanding and adding Bondo and Spackle.

Next, I added a supplies “key,” showing what each symbol meant and outlining what supplies the reader would need for this particular step.

At this point, I started struggling balancing effective communication with the technical details of the process. For example, you can cut out the foam slices with a bandsaw, CNC, or even laser cutter. However, adding that text would clutter the supplies area, and having a saw represent a laser cutter would be confusing. It was interesting to handle this problem, and made me think about the intended audience of my book.

Overall, I decided that my book would be more for fun, rather than specific, technical instruction. The reader should get a general idea of how a buggy is built, but not necessarily be able to use the book as their sole resource to build a buggy.

Next, I started experimenting with color. Having settled on this more fun, whimsical direction for my book, I knew I wanted to include a bit more color to convey this feeling.

I settled on the plain yellow background.

Next, I experimented with having separate Materials and Supplies lists. I thought this might be confusing and unnecessary, so I squeezed the foam onto the supplies page.

I also finished the Digital Model spread, shown below:

At this point, we had our first class critique. We received feedback on sticky notes again, as shown below:

Some of the points from the sticky notes were:

  • Mixed feelings on the color palette (3 liked, 2 didn’t). One peer said it brings some whimsy.
  • Positive feedback on the image based content.
  • Many said the content could be clearer (more text, more context within images, emphasized text).
  • Many suggested working on the images to appear less Microsoft Paint (removing borders, making them flat, etc.).
  • Liked wheels to indicate progress.

During the discussion portion, I also asked how effective the image-based instructions were. Some of the feedback I received was:

  • Remove the outlines from the images
  • Think about my audience — how much prior knowledge/experience do they have? (Add context accordingly)
  • Consider rearranging the page to read top to bottom rather than left to right across pages

Taking this feedback into consideration, I started tackling some of the comments.

First, I thought about my illustration style. Overall, I decided that I liked how the basic illustration style mirrors the basic content of the book. The goal of the book is to make a really complicated topic simple and I felt the illustrations made really complicated imagery/steps appear simple. In addition, the illustration style was mostly due to my limited drawing capabilities, especially in 3D and with perspective. So, I wasn’t sure how I could remedy my illustration style in a way that would still look okay. I am curious how the illustrations could have looked if they were more 3D, though.

For both spreads, I changed the ordering of the steps to top to bottom.

In addition, for Digital Model, I started playing around with simplifying the spread a bit, making the images tie together a bit more with “callouts.”

At this point, I was still struggling with how to balance the necessary information with clear communication. In thinking about the Layup spread, there was a lot of information that likely needs to be explained, but I was unsure of how to do so in a clear, minimalistic way. I was also unsure of how exactly to treat the text — I wanted to try to avoid the typical numbered text steps as much as possible, but I also wanted the text to stand out and be important in the hierarchy. In addition, in eliminating text, I worried that readers would wonder “why” for each step.

In class, I asked Kaylee and Julia about these issues, and these were some of their tips:

  • Have extra information/tips be smaller, less prominent — possibly have an icon as the prominent feature?
  • Add more descriptive/contextual text for each step (for consistency)
  • Don’t be afraid to utilize negative space
  • Possibly add footnotes or references, depending on how much information is necessary
  • Distinguish the text from the images, decide how important it should be in the hierarchy
  • Maybe include resources at the end such as links (not necessarily Buggy related) or knowledgable people’s information
  • Consider the reader’s psychology — who are they, how much do they know, how involved are they/will they be, etc.
  • Do user testing for what readers get out of the book and things to change

First, I started experimenting with different ways to incorporate text into the layout, as shown below. In each version, I tried to experiment with the placement of

  • the instructional text (describing the step)
  • the informational text (supplementary information — more like helpful tips or background info)
  • the informational text icon (I experimented with two: a more traditional “i” in a circle and the universal Buggy “stop” flag)

Overall, I decided I liked having the instructional text at the top next to the number, with the informational text off to one side and to the right of the icon. I also decided I liked the stop flag better — the circular icon didn’t feel that strong to me, and it also seemed to compete with the circles behind each step number. In addition, I liked tying the icon into Buggy as well.

I then implemented these decisions to my Digital Model and Mold layouts:

In getting feedback from Kaylee and Julia, they said they liked the addition of the text and the new layout. Kaylee suggested I change the icon, as it communicates “danger” and my readers likely wouldn’t know its meaning relative to Buggy.

At this point, I sketched the layout of all of my spreads. Each layout is slightly different, depending on the number of steps on the page and the relevant information. However, they all follow the same grid of having the title, wheels, supplies, and steps in the same places. There are also more informational pages at the beginning and end of the book to help provide context and further resources.

Next, I continued working on my other spreads. The next one was the Layup spread. This one was particularly challenging, as there are many steps that go into a carbon fiber layup. I really had to think about what information I wanted to communicate, and how. I wanted to make sure that I could include the essential information in a way that was easily understandable.

In attempting to do this, I tried to focus more on how everything comes together and how each individual piece/step is related, rather than the actual order in which everything is done.

With the central diagram, I was hoping to illustrate how everything comes together during the layups, and kind of “deconstruct” the process. I thought this would be the best way to really show the reader how the layup takes you from foam mold to carbon fiber shell.

Taking a break from the step spreads, I started working on my Note from the Author. I knew I wanted to include some sort of preface or note, just to set expectations for my book. As I had determined earlier in the process, my goal was for the book to be a basic fun introduction to buggy and I wanted to make sure the reader knew this before diving in.

Once I was done formatting the note, I also added a table of contents:

Next, I started experimenting with different informational text icons:

Ultimately, I liked the square icon the best. I still felt like the circular icons were competing too much with the step numbering. The square offered a nice contrast but wasn’t too distracting.

Next, I tried to figure out how I wanted to illustrate an actual layup (step #5 on the Layup spread). This was particularly difficult, as there are so many small, individual steps that go into the layup process itself. For example, you want to cover the shop tables with trash bags, mix the epoxy with correct ratios, ensure that the carbon fiber is entirely soaked with epoxy, smooth out any wrinkles in the fiber as you wrap it around the buggy, make sure there aren’t any holes in the shell, minimize the wrinkles in the peel ply, completely cover the shell with bleed, listen around the entire vacuum bag for leaks, and more — it’s enough content for one book.

Below are some of the images I tried experimenting with.

In the top left illustration, I tried illustrating the final product, which is the wrapped buggy covered in the vacuum bag. However, this did not communicate as clearly as I wanted it to.

In the top right illustration, I tried to show how the carbon fiber shell goes/forms around the mold and is bonded by the epoxy. However, I thought it may be a bit confusing to only show one carbon fiber sheet when the other graphic showed 2 carbon fiber sheets and 1 Nomex sheet; I felt like this illustration didn’t quite capture the process in the way that I wanted it to.

With this in mind, the bottom left illustration zooms in on all of the layers involved in the layup. I liked this illustration better, but wondered if it needed more context — it’s hard to tell what/where exactly you’re zooming in on.

For the bottom right illustration, I tried to give more context by showing all of the layers on the entire buggy.

In the end, I decided I liked the bottom right illustration the best, but still wasn’t entirely sure if it was the best way to communicate a layup.

Next, I worked on the Internals spread.

Especially for steps 3–5, I tried to draw inspiration from more technical drawings and the imagery I had seen in my Introduction to CAD/3D Modeling class earlier this semester. Particularly for the brakes, I thought different views and angles would be useful in showing the configuration and allowing the reader to really picture what this set up would look like.

Next, I worked on the Assembly spread.

For the most part, these illustrations were fairly straightforward. For step 2, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to do a bird’s eye or profile view, but then decided that profile would be clearest.

At this point, I had finished all of the main content — just the last 3 pages and some of the supplies lists weren’t done yet. So, I sent Kaylee and Julia my progress. Some of Kaylee’s feedback was:

  • Watch the bleeds. Your trim marks aren’t set up correctly. In InDesign, make sure to check the “crop marks” box.
  • Text on page 2 is a bit big and could use a little more line space
  • Image 4 on page 5 is a little difficult to follow. Maybe find a way to fade out the blank panels on the left and top of the page so the viewer focuses on the path that you are trying to highlight.
  • On page 6 and 7, I think the printer could use a little more detail to help identify it as a printer. Think of some features that you could simplify to help strengthen it’s communication as a printer icon.
  • The alignment and spacing of the supplies and their titles could be polished on page 7.
  • Think about how you want to treat the information text. I think it would be good to have less space between paragraphs so the text looks more grouped into a single idea next to a single icon.

In tackling these comments, I started by making the Note from the Author text smaller:

Next, I worked on the face curves step illustration (“Image 4 on page 5” in Kaylee’s feedback). As per Kaylee’s suggestion, I made the background of the modeling software more opaque, highlighting the buttons/menus I wanted the reader to focus on.

Next, I created a new printer icon. I looked for a good printer icon that was simple and followed the style of my other ones. I also wanted to make sure that it clearly communicated “printer.” Ultimately I settled on the one shown below (a pen tool tracing of the image I found online).

Addressing the last of Kaylee’s feedback, I also decreased the leading between paragraphs in the informational text. This helped the info text appear more as one unit.

Next, I returned to my illustration for the layup step. I asked Julia for feedback on these two illustrations:

She suggested playing around with it and maybe adding a bit more dimension. Julia said she liked the left image more, as it clearly shows what’s happening. However, she also said it could benefit from some more context.

With this in mind, I tried out several different illustrations. I liked the idea of somehow incorporating both of the above illustrations. I wondered if I could have a small version of the entire buggy, and then the zoomed in image similar to many maps that will show an entire country in the corner but zoom in on a city at street level. Below are some of the ways that I experimented with the elements of this idea. (I also changed the “zoomed in on” section to a more curved area of the mold to give it some dimension like Julia suggested).

I mostly struggled with where to place the tiny buggy — there was more whitespace on the right given the nature of the curve of the zoomed in on portion, but it felt more natural to have it on the left (and thus taking your eye from left to right as you zoom in). I also struggled with how to communicate the epoxy. Sometimes the bottle and lines felt a bit cluttered, but changing the color of the “epoxy” space seemed distracting.

Ultimately, I settled on the illustration shown in the bottom row. I thought there was a nice connection between the illustrations, and the epoxy bottle/lines were clear enough.

Next, started finishing the supplies lists for each spread. In working on the Internals spread, I realized that I would need a handsaw image. However, I remembered that I used a handsaw icon for the bandsaw in the Mold spread. Realizing that this could be confusing, I went back to the Mold spread to address this.

First, I tried creating a bandsaw icon. This was a bit difficult, as bandsaws are large pieces of machinery and difficult to convey with a simple icon. So, I settled for a portion of a bandsaw blade. However, I didn’t think this would be effective enough to communicate to someone who had never used one before. So, I just decided to keep the saw icon but eliminate the specification that it’s a bandsaw.

Back to the Internals spread, I also added an icon for the Dremel:

On the Assembly spread, I also wanted to work on the illustration for attaching the push bar to the buggy. I felt that the original illustration (below, on the left) didn’t necessarily convey that the push bar would go inside the buggy. So, I added a larger hole where the push bar would go and I made the arrow dotted and opaque where the push bar would be inside the buggy.

Next, I started working on my resources page. I figured these resources could be good for anyone who was interested in diving deeper into the process of buggy, since there really is so much information that goes into it. My resources all came from the team that I drive and mechanic for, which worked out well because we are the only open-source and open-shop team.

On the very last page, I added the finished buggy.

Moving on, I started working on the back cover. I researched what common back covers look like and what types of information they have. I noticed that most had:

  • something to catch your eye, often a question or image
  • general information about the topic/plot/characters
  • information about the author
  • pricing information

In trying to apply this own information to my book, I tried to put myself in the shoes of someone who picked up the book and knew nothing about buggy — what would I want to know? So, I decided to answer two questions: “What is Buggy?” and “How do you build a buggy?”. I also added the tail of the buggy with lines behind it, to give the back cover a sense of motion towards the inside of the book.

Next, I worked on the front cover. I wanted to keep it pretty simple, given that the book was supposed to be a simple “manual.”

In addition, I also wanted to play with the idea of having a cut out in the cover. The buggy image would be on a flap, and when you opened it up, you would see the “deconstructed” buggy in the same exact place on the table of contents:

I thought this could add something interesting to my cover as well, and really give the feeling of getting to know a buggy from the inside out. (In hindsight, I wonder if a light grey line, as opposed to dotted, would have been better. The dotted lines are used elsewhere in the book to indicate lines to cut on. However, in this illustration, they were meant to just show the outline of the buggy).

Next, I cleaned up all of the supplies lists, making sure that the icons were evenly distributed, and that the text was all aligned with each other and centered with each icon.

At this point, I decided to do my first test print. I had 4 of my friends look over and annotate the book, asking them to point out every detail they found, no matter how nit-picky.

I was hoping to have people from a variety of backgrounds look over my book — in particular, I was hoping to have arts or humanities students who would likely have different perspectives to offer than my similarly-minded engineering friends. In general, though, I was just hoping to have people who weren’t very familiar with Buggy test out the book.

In the end, I got my friends

  • Gaurav: Sophomore, Material Science and Engineering + Biomedical Engineering
  • Wenting: Sophomore, Electrical and Computer Engineering
  • Greg: Sophomore, Mechanical Engineering
  • Simrin: Freshman, Information Systems

Although they all have pretty technical backgrounds, none of them are remotely involved in Buggy.

Below are scans of the book I printed out, with everyone’s annotations on them. I also made annotations of my own to keep in mind as I did revisions.

Overall, the test print was very helpful. There really are some things that you just can’t see or are difficult to anticipate on the screen.

First, I experimented to see if I could clarify that the lines on the driver measurements illustration were the actual measurements the reader would need to take.

Shown below, I tried to indicate this by putting the “measurement” lines in parentheses. However, this looked a little strange to me, with the parenthesis looking like they’re part of the icon, so I decided not to include this change.

Next, I changed the wording and formatting of the Author’s note a bit to make it easier to read and the hierarchy clearer. In addition, on my test print, the cut for the flap went right through the “Let’s get started!” so I moved it to the center of where the cut out would be.

In addition, I also made “BUGGY” a bit bigger on the front cover to emphasize it.

Next, I experimented with how to show all three harness attachment points in the “assemble internals” step. The original only showed one, as the attachment points are usually around where the front wheel is, and I didn’t want to crowd the image too much.

On the left image, I tried adding one of them, with the assumption being that the third is directly behind the shown front attachment point. In the middle, I added both in the front, and in the right illustration, I made one of them opaque to communicate the difference in depth.

I replaced the original with the right image.

On the Mold spread, I worked a bit on the face curves step. I added a more 3D illustration of what a face curve would be, hoping to help the reader visualize the concept. In addition, I altered the phrasing of the description a bit.

Especially with the added image of the face curve, I wondered if having this 3D imagery would be distracting/break the illustration style (and I had similar worries about the different use of perspective on the printer icon on the Mold spread). I felt that this illustration was very important in helping me communicate what I wanted, but hoped it wouldn’t be distractingly different.

Next, I worked on the illustration of the steering mechanism.

I straightened the bar connecting the wheels. It was slightly diagonal in the original and looked a little off. In addition, I labeled the wheels “Front Wheel” instead of “wheel.” One of my friends’ comments was that it was hard to tell where the steering goes relative to the entire buggy — they weren’t sure if the wheels were front or back. So, I hoped this would help put the steering in context a bit.

Next, I tried to clean up the illustration of the layup a bit. Some of the different carbon fiber and Nomex “layers” had bumps along the edges from pen tool curves that didn’t blend very well, shown on the left below. I tried to smooth these out a bit in the image on the right.

Moving on, I worked on the left page of the Layup spread. I fixed some typos, as well as the orphan in the text for step 3. The original is shown on the left and the changes are shown on the right.

In addition, I fixed the numbering on the Layup layout. In the original, I accidentally had two #4’s, shown below.

Next, I moved on to the “attach push bar to buggy” illustration. The colors didn’t show up very well on the test print, so I made the arrow white and dashed to indicate where the push bar would be inside the shell of the buggy. (Original on left, updated on right below)

On that same page, I also changed the size of the buggy in step 4 be consistent with the one in step 3 (original below on left, updated on right) for size consistency.

As for the Resources spread, I spread the text out a bit so it looked less cramped and filled up more of the page. I also moved the buggy so that the image didn’t cross the middle of the spread, as the break in the pages made the image look a bit strange. I also added the motion lines to the buggy illustration and removed the image from the back cover. (Original left, updated right)

Lastly, I played around with the back cover a bit.

I mostly wanted to change the image on the original, shown below. I saw multiple people read the back cover, then turn to the front cover, expecting some continuation of the buggy. I didn’t want to have this effect on readers, so I decided to change it.

Looking into back cover designs again, I remembered that many of them feature a little blurb on the author. I decided to add this instead of the graphic, using the “driver” icon from the content of my book.

As shown below, I experimented with having a Buggy flags as a space divider. However, I felt this was too distracting, so I just left it plain. In addition, I added a bit more space between the two questions to help give a bit more whitespace and distinguish these questions/answers as separate.

Just in general, I made a lot of small grammar, spelling, and wording corrections throughout the book as well. I also standardized the alignment of the text to step numbers, the supplies lists, etc.

For the finished PDF of the book, see here.

At this point, I was pretty happy with my book. I exported it as a booklet PDF and then printed it at FedEx. I hand-bound it with a saddle stitch and trimmed my bleeds, as shown below.

I also made the cut-out in the front cover of the book:

At our class critique, we gave presentations on our books and received digital feedback. Below is a screenshot of the comments I received:

I definitely agree with the comments on sizing and hierarchy. I’m not sure how exactly I would want to make the hierarchy clearer, but would probably start with playing with text size a bit.

I also agree with the comments on the colors, although I still stand by my choice of yellow. I think it adds to the whimsical and light feel of the book, which is what I wanted — I was really trying to play with making something so technical a bit more fun and cute. However, I agree that some of the other color choices seem a bit random. They were mostly just chosen to mirror the actual colors of whatever I had illustrated, but I agree that this wasn’t particularly necessary and the colors could have been chosen with more thought in terms of a color scheme.

There is definitely a lot of information in the book, and I think I could have maybe edited out some of it or made it seem like less by adjusting the hierarchy.

Overall, though, I think the book does a pretty good job of simplifying such a complicated process and communicating it fairly coherently.

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