Science illustration:
schematics and drawings

Science feeds on images. Like the sketches of flying machines by Leonardo da Vinci, they help scientists give substance to their ideas and report on their work. Science communication uses these images and produces new ones since they provide an excellent tool for scientists to connect with their audience. Among the various forms of science illustration, Agent Majeur reports on the use of schematics and drawings.

Images draw attention, awaken interest, and make things clear. They are objects on our scale that are able to represent the infinitely big and the infinitely small, and show us the past, present and future. Science communication mainly uses three types of images:

Photos and videos, evidence of past or present reality;
Tables and charts, representing quantities or values;
– Drawings and schematics, representing events or items.

In this article, we will focus on drawings and schematics.

Showing the invisible

Drawings focus on accurately reproducing the shape of an object. Often done with a pencil, they are used to represent fauna and flora. Schematics provide more freedom since they represent things that are inaccessible in space or time, even phenomena that do not yet exist. They show specific perspectives (e.g. a cross-section) and they offer the possibility to highlight or dim elements according to their importance.

Showing the interior of a device

To view the inside of an object, such as a building, the schematic is the best thing. The visual above shows a device used to increase the yield of industrial boilers (FR 2999280 patent). To illustrate this, we have chose to rely on a schematic. Indeed, these facilities are not very aesthetically pleasing and are difficult to photograph since they spread out over tens of meters. Moreover, this representation provides a view at the heart of the device. To highlight them, the condenser and its by-pass circuit, which are the subject matter of the patent, they have been enlarged with respect to their actual size in the facility.

Ilustrating the steps of a process

The steps of a process can be represented by a sequence of still images or a moving image. The illustration below represents a patented device to recharge an electric vehicle (FR 2991828 patent). In this case, we chose a left to right composition: on the left, the overall charging process and on the right are the details on how the patented device works.

Electric vehicle recharge patented device. © EDF 2014

Calling on an illustrator

Researchers can make their own illustrations or call upon a science illustrator. This collaboration requires the definition of a design brief describing the visual to create with the help of text and possibly a sketch. For a moving image, we recommend you detail the various steps of the animation with a scenario.

As part of our services, Agent Majeur creates science illustrations and can write the corresponding design brief beforehand (contact us).

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> Graphic design

> Popularising science

> Written communication

> Public speaking

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