Would you consider yourself a SciArtist?
Yes, I do consider myself a SciArtist. But I like to think that sci-art is one of the many arts that I create. In a broader sense, I identify myself more as a science communicator specialised in communicating science with visual media.
Apart from illustrating Lifeology courses, I also create graphics for scientists in research publications. This may include graphical abstracts that sums up their research in one image, signalling pathways showcasing the complex relationships of different genes or proteins they study, or visualising data like text-based tables and much more. All with the goal to benefit both the scientists and their peers in communicating more efficiently and effectively with each other. I have also worked with lecturers in creating multimedia materials for graduate students to help create a more interesting and engaging learning experience.
My sci-art journey began when I took on my first job fresh out of university working on an admin role at a science research centre in Taiwan. Being surrounded by scientists and with the urge to be creative, I looked for opportunities to create scientific graphics for scientist colleagues. I also volunteered to create posters and handbooks for science conferences as well as design logos and websites for research groups. Since then, I have always enjoyed creating visuals in science for different audiences and for different purposes.
When looking at the script for the course what were your initial impressions?
Despite my training in science, I always enjoy reading through the scripts as a fresh mind while prepared to learn something new. I’m always impressed by how the writing can provide practical and useful information with simple and concise words with little reading time required.
Are visual notes a useful starting point? Did you make any decisions to develop ideas further?
Yes, I find visual notes very useful. I like to see it as the writers are exchanging their thought process with me which makes the creative process on my end engaging from the start. Sometimes, the notes also help explain why the text is planned out as it is and help me plan the visual design for each course as a whole.
The notes also help me explore different extended ideas. They are like the seeds of new ideas. Very often, I use the notes to grow my thought process into branches of extended ideas and later I would mix and match these ideas to find the best combinations and finally turn them into my final work.
Do you use storyboarding in other work?
Yes, I also use storyboarding when creating comics or animations. To me, storyboarding helps a great deal in planning out the artwork as a whole. This is especially true when creating something that is made out of smaller fragments or sections like the Lifeology courses or comics and animations. Having a storyboard can help me step back from the details of different sections and see if the final work would make sense all together. It’s also a great way for me to communicate my ideas with people I’m working with and to get feedback from them.
Can you tell us a little more about how you get from visual idea to storyboard image to final rendered piece?
Very often I would use analogies or metaphors for visualisation. I would read through the course and highlight keywords that are related to the core messages of each course and brainstorm for any other words from there for visual ideas. For example, in the ‘Overnight Fasting for Metabolic Health’ course where the circadian cycle and the biological clock was mentioned a lot, there was already a built-in analogy- our metabolism works in a rhythm around the day-night cycle like a clock. It was obvious to include images of clocks in this course which something most of us are familiar with and can easily relate to.
In card 13 where it says a master clock in our brain regulates the clocks in our other organs got me thinking how I can link all these clocks together. So having thought about how clocks work, the gears inside the clock were a good choice. In the illustrations, there are gears extending from the different clocks to link them together to bring out the concept that our organs are connected to a rhythm that drives each other.