Anaerobic digester facility illustration

How do you explain Anaerobic Digestion?

Illustrations definitely help!


A couple of writers were working on a piece about zero-waste. Specifically how anaerobic digesters (labeled 4 in the image above) convert food waste into electricity and fertilizer. The above illustration captures this process from a systems perspective. Below is a microscopic look inside the digester, this illuminated the science behind how it works.

Digestion process illustration

Behind the Scenes:

I love little projects like this. How do you communicate complicated things visually and simply? That’s an interesting problem worth solving.

Anaerobic digestion plant floorplan

Effective communication starts with understanding what you’re communicating. This sounds basic, but if you mess up here, nothing else matters. This started with looking at plant layouts, studying the science, and watching informational videos. I was given a combination of photographs and the feed floorplan above.

Hand-sketch (left) & digital rough sketch (right) of the facility

Once I had a grip on the materials, I sketched out the basic illustration (above). This went through several revisions until it captured everything. It became the underlay for the more precise linework you see below.

Digitally-sketched linework (left) & color exploration (right) of the facility

Once the linework was done, color could be explored. Using a fat digital brush, I painted broad strokes to rough-in a color pallet. I settled on a cool gray, creams, and a brown that could stand in for rust or dirt. The pallet also had to work with the second illustration (below). This digital sketch helped confirm that and capture the mechanism.

Digitally-sketched rough of the methanogenic digestion process

Fin.