The Design of Information

Information Design

Posts in the ‘Idea Illustration’ Category

Cell Coverage

Cell cover thumbnailThe big news is that Dr. Markus Covert and his lab at Stanford have created an integrated computational model of a cell. Their work was featured in a recent issue of Cell magazine and a New York Times article and could lead to big things.

The side news is that the artwork Dr. Covert enlisted us to create was accepted by Cell magazine and featured on the cover. You can see a larger version of the winning cover by clicking on the thumbnail image above. It’s a composite image of chalkboard diagrams and formulas relevant to what went into creating the cell model (artist: Dr. Markus Covert).

One of our favorite images that didn’t make the cut was a pseudo cell we created from a mixture of traditional lab supplies and computing accessories. Many thanks to Bernard André for the excellent photography work.

Cell sculpture

Cloud-based Copyright Clearance

I worked with MediaX at Stanford University to illustrate the process for clearing copyrighted materials developed by the Stanford Intellectual Property Exchange (SIPX). Their system removes obstacles to the proper licensing of content in a similar way that iTunes made it easier for us to download music legally.

SIPX poster

SIPX poster awardThe poster we created together won the Best of Show and People’s Choice awards at the recent New Media Consortium conference held in Boston at MIT. I have always been leery of design awards, but it is nice to receive some recognition now and then, especially if it gives my clients some helpful publicity. You can read a full article explaining the effort, along with a video showing some of the good people I worked with, on the New Media Consortium website.

Expanded Cell Coverage

The success of the artwork we created for a previous Cell Magazine cover spawned two additional assignments. One of those was published in today’s issue of Cell in an article about single neuron sequencing.

We worked closely with Gilad Evrony and Xuyu Cai of Christopher Walsh’s lab at Harvard University to develop an illustration that combines elements of a single neuron, DNA, and a brain, all in the shape of a tree.

Now if I could just get my cell phone to work in the office.

Walsh Lab Cell cover

Getting into the head of Gustav Klimt

The conceptual illustration of brains has become kind of a quirky side business for me. I’ve constructed brains with Lego bricks and Lite Brite pegs, and created a DNA brain tree. And now in the style of Gustav Klimt’s Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I – this one to submit as cover art for a scientific journal (the paper was on mosaic mutation patterns in the brain).

It’s true that you get to know a piece of art (and an artist) much more intimately when you try to recreate it yourself than you would by just studying it. Perhaps even more so when you try to capture the essence of a style and apply it to a new subject.

Klimt brain by Threestory Studio

The gold background and black and white checkered stripe are Klimt’s (the joys of public domain), but the rest is my creation.

Shining a Light

Dr. Markus Covert’s lab commissioned Threestory Studio to create cover art again for another Cell Magazine article. This time, the article had to do with the ability to track protein activity in a single cell. To quote the article summary: “Our technology converts phosphorylation into a nucleocytoplasmic shuttling event that can be measured by epifluorescence microscopy.” Got it? Good.

covert light paintingSince the technology involves lighting up parts of a cell, a little light painting seemed in order. We found a nice stage with an already-lit circular cell membrane in the courtyard of the Clark Center building that houses Dr. Covert’s lab. Lab members formed the nucleus and Dr. Covert’s two young children did the running around, impersonating reporter proteins with colored LED flashlights. You can see here the version we submitted, mocked up in the Cell template (“ERK” stands for extracellular-signal-regulated kinases).

The recent discussion on DataStories about Data Art with Jer Thorp resonates with this kind of “science art”. I recommend giving the podcast a listen.

Here are a few additional shots of light painting I attempted after the lab members had left. I got a few curious looks from passersby, watching me wave flashlights around. In the middle of an empty courtyard. Late at night. Alone.

I love my job.

cat light paintingrocket light painting

The Illustration of Ideas

I’ve found Sir Ken Robinson’s addresses to be captivating and inspiring since I first was directed to one on TED a year or two ago. RSA’s animated illustration of one of Sir Ken’s discourses brings a visual dimension to some important ideas. Makes the ideas even more sticky, for me at least.

Take a look:

This blog is focused on information design, the creation of infographics for visual understanding of complex processes, data and ideas.

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