click art to expand


Airplane Drag & Graphic Design

From the Artist:

“I am fascinated with commercial air travel, so this project was right up my alley. What struck me right away was the series of wind tests that the scientist conducted comparing the two forms. Wind is a powerful symbol so I decided to investigate the visual possibilities involving wind currents. Ultimately I want people to begin to understand the aerodynamics of modern day aircraft, and to question the effects on the environment.

I began by comparing the two airplane models from the study by positioning them next to one another. Then I started drawing layers of wind around each model. The blended wing model has a direct wind pattern, while the tube model is much more swirly due to its lower lift to drag ratio. Layers of wind are color-coded to loosely represent the effect on air quality. I wanted to convey the blended wing model as efficient by incorporating cleaner colors of green and blue wind, while the tube model struggles to move out of the polluted grays and orange. The words ‘lift and drag’ are positioned in the center to contrast the two models.”

—Mikell Fine Iles

The Science

Airplanes play an integral part of the global economy, and as demand for transportation increases, so does the consumption of resources needed to power planes across the globe. Student scientist Connor Lynch wanted to find a way to reduce the amount of resources needed in fuel, noting that a 10% increase in fuel efficiency would spur a savings of 7 billion dollars annually.
Connor posited that planes with a lifting fuselage design would reduce drag than traditional designs, thus lowering the amount of power needed to propel a plane, and the consumption of fuel. To test his hypothesis he assembled a wind tunnel, balances, and three aircraft. He ran each test for 1 minute, varying the wind angles of attack (AOA) from 0 to 20. He then collected 60 electronic readings for drag and lift forces for each condition at each AOA and repeated the test for each condition.  After averaging the readings, he calculated the lift-to-drag ratio at each AOA for each condition. 
The lift performance for the lifting fuselage design and the blended fuselage design were, over all, better than the tube-and wing design.

The Artist

Mikell Fine Iles is a graphic designer based in Brookly, NY. He received a BFA in Graphic Design from Clark Atlanta University and has been practicing professionally for 11 years. Throughout his career his work has been featured by a variety of publications, most recently Fast Company, and design blogs “It’s Nice That”, and “Under Consideration.”