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How to become a scientific illustrator at Designs that Cell

We get a lot of questions about how one turns a passion for art and science into a job! So we've decided to speak to a few of the most common questions here to help those interested in becoming an illustrator with Designs that Cell (DTC)!

Ensure you have a solid base in the STEM fields - even better if you're an expert in one (or more)!

Completing introductory biology, chemistry and physics courses are essential to set yourself up for success in the field. At DTC, our illustrators are often asked to illustrate complex research topics that are highly specialized and having a basic understanding of science (including biology, chemistry and physics) is often an essential base to then effectively build on to visualize the more complex topics.

At DTC, we have illustrators who are experts in immunology, biochemistry, plant biology, chemistry and many more subjects. Having this expertise is a fantastic advantage. This expertise allows us to take a manuscript and summarize it into an engaging and effective illustration. It also helps when we have multidisciplinary projects to team up or consult others on our illustrating team.

Master the basics of art and design

Mastering the basics of art and design is essential for what we do. Some basics include colour theory, composition, figure drawing, lighting and perspective.

These basics can be honed at different rates, and some of our illustrators are exceptionally talented at one style while still developing others. The goal is to be able to create a piece for the style that our client would like, but because we have a range of illustrators, we can match the requested style with a particular illustrator.

There is also an opportunity to work exclusively as a graphic designer with DTC. These individuals are referred to as our "communicators." If you love the design, but hand-drawing elements aren't your strong suit, you can build a portfolio for graphic design and apply it as a communicator.

Learn the software

Professional services in art and design are mainly created and completed within Adobe Suite. At DTC, we are all required to share files as illustrator files which mean everyone that joins DTC needs to be at a moderate or advanced skill within Adobe Illustrator. Many of our illustrators are also comfortable working in other Adobe suite products, including InDesign and Photoshop. We also frequently use other programs in our skill-sharing sessions, including tablet programs like ProCreate.

Knowledge of other programs and skills is also a great asset. For example, we have illustrators who are skilled digital painters, 3D rendering and anatomical sketchers. Depending on our client's need, it's great to offer this variety.

Put together a portfolio

Showcase your best work! Pick several visual communication pieces that work to distill complex scientific concepts in easy-to-understand visuals. There is no official minimum or maximum, but we recommend showing a minimum of 5 selectively chosen pieces to demonstrate your skill diversity. Ensure you include the medium you used and the year you created the piece. You can use work from personal or professional projects! Ensure at least one of your pieces was entirely made in Adobe Illustrator. We also love to learn about the project itself and your workflow (what was the communication goal, the challenges, and how did you address them).

We hire sporadically based on client work load. During our hiring periods we refer to the information submitted here and those selected for interviews will be contacted. If you would like to update the information you have provided us with, simply re-submit an application and we will use the latest submission when reviewing candidates.

Have any questions? Reach out!


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