ART: Atherosclerosis Illustration for Ariad Healthcare

When I introduce myself as a scientific illustrator, I often hear: “That’s fascinating – but doesn’t the computer just do all the work for you these days?” There’s more to it than that – otherwise I wouldn’t be in this line of work!

Illustration jobs generally follow a set process – the differences lie within the scope of the project. In a recent illustration for Ariad Healthcare the job started with a briefing by the client, followed by discussion of budget and timing. Then I reviewed the copy deck, which had already been produced by the medical writer. This led to a few questions about the intended audience for the piece and their main communication goals. With these answers I was able to provide some recommendations for a visual style.

Now the real work began. I did some research to find appropriate visual references, as well as reading up on the topic. It often happens that an illustration depicts elements that haven’t been explicitly described in the approved copy, so providing references to the client to confirm concepts is necessary. I prefer to collate information from reliable medical websites in one concise Word document, recording hyperlinks for the cited material while highlighting the key points and annotating with my comments. This creates a condensed, searchable archive of the referenced websites.

At last to the actual art! An initial rough sketch and colour sample, hand-drawn and coloured in Adobe Photoshop, provided an opportunity for client feedback, after which I followed up with final sketches. Getting to this point in a job can take up to three quarters of the budget, but once these items are approved it is generally a very smooth process to finalize the full-colour illustration. In the case of this particular job virtually no modifications were requested after the final files were submitted, as all the preparatory work had eliminated the potential for surprises. Success!