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Course plan | Scientific illustration techniques for  publication and communication 

2.0 higher education credits, part time


The course is aimed at scientific personnel who wish to become more proficient in illustration tools, illustration concepts and visual communication techniques. The focus lies on preparation of illustrations, photos and montages for publication and/or for presentations but also covers aspects on visual and verbal communication strategies.
The course focuses around tools and techniques suitable for generation of high quality scientific illustrations. Examples are conducted using Illustrator, InDesign and Acrobat Professional, but the principles and tips will be broadly applicable. No prior experience in these specific software tools is required.
The course will contain a mix of lectures and case studies, but also personal hands on work.


The course is given as an elective course at the research and post-doctoral level course.

Entry requirements

1.    Graduate students and Post-doctoral fellows affiliated with LU NeuroScience Graduate school and & Lund Research School in Stem Cell Biology or associated graduate schools, strategic research areas and Linnaeus environments. 
2.    Graduate students & Post-doctoral fellows

Learning outcomes

After completion of the course, the students will have gained knowledge in: 
•    How a digital image is constructed and differences between file formats
•    How and when to use Illustrator and InDesign in generation of illustrations and data/photo montages
•    How a vector-based illustration is constructed and how to preserve the quality throughout the workflow
•    How to prepare your illustrations for on line submission to a journal to improve the final quality
•    How to work with PDF files for data import into Illustrator and for utilization in scientific communication


The course will be examined in the form of submitted illustration assignments and active participation in the joint dicussion of the submitted assignments. The student will have to attend at lease 75% of the lectures and have successfully completed the two assignments to receive the grade Pass.

Course content

Lectures with live demonstrations and case studies
Introduction & Imaging fundamentals:Color space and resolution | Vector graphics, fundamental principles | File formats, compression and compatibility
Adobe Creative Suite and your workflow: The right application for the job | Bézier curves | Geometric primitives and the pathfinder
Digging deeper into Illustrator and InDesign part I: The alignment and transformation toolboxes | Case study: Generating a multi-panel photo/graphics montage | Managing Transparency in Illustrator | Case study: Generating a new illustration from scratch
Digging deeper into Illustrator part II: Case study: Preparing figures for a presentation | Case study: Getting your scientific data into Illustrator

Practical computer session

Two practical assignmens: The assignments for the course are meant to help the student get started with Illustrator and InDesign, applying the techniques on their own data.Each student shall prepare two figures; One should be an illustration that they prepare from scratch, aiming to be a descriptive overview illustration of any aspect that they may need to describe their research in a review article, presentation or equivalent. The second figure should be a scientific presentation of research data aimed at publication in a peer-reviewed journal. This should contain graphs or other plotting data that they should import from any other software (using the techniques that we will cover in the course), cleaned up and formatted in illustration and then merged with a photo montage in InDesign.

Discussion with a graphics professional on the execusion of the illustration assignments

In addition, the course will contain two guest lectures from a scientific graphics professional as well as a screening of a graphics documentary

Learning activities

The course is based on active participation of the students. A variety of methods, including interactive lectures/discussions, laboratory computer session and individual illustration assignments will be utilized for the purpose of achieving the course objectives. 
Grading system
Pass (G) or Fail (U),

Reading list

‪Preparing Scientific Illustrations‬: ‪A Guide to Better Posters, Presentations, and Publications‬, Author: Mary Helen Briscoe, Springer 1996‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

Bench philosophy (14): Preparing figures, Effective scientific illustrations, LabTimes, (5), 2008, p52
Miniseries: Illustrating the Machinery of Life: Neuromuscular Synapse BAMBED, Vol. 37, No. 4, pp. 204–210, 2009
The Machinery of Life By David S. Goodsell, Springer Science 2009

Course evaluation

The course will be continually evaluated through reflection and feedback from the student regarding course content and implementation. At the end of the course the students will have an opportunity to give an individual, written evaluation to express their views about the course based on the course aims and objectives and how these have been realized. The results from the evaluations will be summarized and presented to the students orally and in a protocol.