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May/June 2010

It Figures

Form and Style Provides Guidelines for Illustrations in Standards

Figures can be used very effectively to enhance the value of an ASTM International standard. Photographs can provide the reader with a better understanding of tools and operations described in a standard, while graphs and charts can illustrate testing results more effectively than words. Fortunately, learning how to prepare figures properly for inclusion in ASTM standards is covered in the recently revised Section G12 of Form and Style for ASTM Standards.

Figures are defined in G12.1 as “a technical drawing (vector line art), information visual (chart/graph/schematic), or a photograph, or a combination of these.” To ensure that a standard is published in a timely manner following its approval, all figures should be included with the original ballot submission.

Size is a very important consideration when dealing with figures. G12.2.1 states that each figure can be sized to a maximum 30 picas (approximately 125 mm or 5 in.) in width. Full-page or landscape figures can be sized up to 42 picas wide (approximately 180 mm or 7 in.).

Digital photography has made taking pictures for standards convenient, but it is important to observe Form and Style guidelines when preparing shots. It is recommended that the highest resolution possible on a camera should be used when taking photos for standards. 1200 x 960 pixels is the absolute minimum, while 1936 x 1296 is better and 2896 x 1944 is even better.

Once the photos have been shot, it is important that they are checked for image quality and brightness and contrast levels before being submitted as part of a balloted standard.
Artwork should be submitted in its original file source/extension. Graphic designers at ASTM International can work with most file formats including CAD. TIFF or vector files are preferred, while GIF is discouraged as a generally low-resolution file type. If it is necessary to scan hard copy, adjust the scanner to 1200 dots per inch for a technical drawing or 300 DPI for a photograph.

And, of course, one of the most important things you can do for a figure is to give it a title or short descriptive caption.

In the event that an electronic figure file cannot be used, a hard copy of a figure can be mailed to ASTM headquarters, if camera-ready figures of professional quality are submitted. This is particularly important because a printer will scan exactly what has been submitted, and it will appear in the standard exactly as it has been supplied. Some important tips to keep in mind when making a hard-copy figure submission:

  • Use a laser or other high quality printer. Do not use a dot matrix printer.
  • Do not hand write on a figure.
  • Do not use a faxed or photocopied figure.
  • Furnish short titles or captions for each submitted figure.

Finally, it is important to be aware of figure numbering, as noted in the subsection on figures contained in Part D of Form and Style, “Use of the Modified Decimal Numbering System.” Figures should be assigned consecutive numbers in the order in which they appear in the standard regardless of the number assigned to the section in which the figure is referenced. When a figure is referenced in an annex or appendix, it is numbered by the designation of the annex or appendix, followed by consecutive numbers beginning with 1. For example, “Fig. A1.1” would be the first figure that appears in Annex A1, while “Fig. X3.2” would be the second figure that is mentioned in Appendix 3 of a standard.