Concrete is simple, right? Cement, rock (in various sizes), and water. And yet we know that it's not simple at all. The mix needs to change with the weather and the application. There are admixtures and supplementary cementitious materials. And the ways it gets placed and finished and reinforced can make one batch turn out completely different than another. Trying to explain all of this in a simple way soon gets complicated.

But I have been trying to do this for the past couple of years in a piece in the magazine I call the How-To Zone. The idea was to create a concrete version of the famous book How Things Work--something with drawings that make the complex understandable. We’ve approached this from a couple of directions, starting out with a cartoon-like character we called Joe the Concrete Guy.

But our art director didn’t like this approach so we went a little different direction but tried to keep the idea. This is good, but I struggle to find images that tell the story. For example, today I'm trying to think of how to show the story of supplementary cementitious materials. How do I draw something that represents fly ash and its impact on concrete? How do I show in a picture what benefits silica fume brings to concrete?

It's a dilemma. I think of Mount Vesuvius and the town of Pozzuoli. Then I want to show a smoke stack before and after fly ash is captured. But does that really tell the story?

I’ll keep trying and maybe someday I’ll get it right!