By Raven Shellman
It has been just under a year since COVID-19 reached the US. Though many think about it, we seem to have always had the ability to see what the virus should look like, and this is due to different medical illustrators, one being Jennifer Fairman.
Instead of using photographs, an illustration gives more control to the artist, as they can control what is important and what needs/can be emphasized. Artists might show a general shape rather than intricate details.
In the case of the virus, it is too small to get a clear image, no one wants a photograph of a swab going into their nose and sinuses. More recently the artists have been using 3D models and animations to create the images. Specifics vary depending on what the illustration is needed for.
Fairman works with institutions such as the National Institutes of Health, Harvard Medical School and the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
Wanting to make the virus more approachable to the public, she chose blues, greens and purples when designing.
Veronica Falconieri Hays, another illustrator, took a different method, as she went with a fiery orange resembling the sun. She stated, “That was mostly just an artistic decision.”
Since the pandemic began, illustrators such as Fairman and Hays have been working to produce images to help scientists and inform the public of how the virus works and precautions used to avoid it. Both types of images have an artist who combines science with an artistic flair.
Most do not even notice how often they are looking at medical illustrations–they are everywhere: medical journals, textbooks, public health pamphlets, newspapers and magazines.
Mistakes do occur, such as joints bending in the wrong direction or brains being drawn backward. These might seem small, but as information becomes popular in the media, the public needs it to be accurate.
That way, illustrators will spend long periods of time researching the process or object to create the most accurate product possible while also making sure the public can understand the concept while looking at it.
The pandemic has brought many hardships, but artists such as Fairman and Hays are needed more than ever. Without them, the public would have little to no understanding of COVID-19.
Read more about these illustrators on wired.com.