The next time you open an anatomy textbook, take a close look at the drawings
of the human body. Besides being extremely accurate, they're more visually
appealing than a mere photograph. They illustrate concepts, such as the chemical
changes that take place when we are sleeping, or how the heart muscle functions.
Medical illustrators (also called biomedical or visual communicators) create
these images. Their job is to accurately communicate medical information in
the most visually appealing way possible.
Medical illustration dates back to the Renaissance, when physicians began
observing and studying the body in detail. Because his anatomical drawings
were both elegant and scientifically accurate, Leonardo da Vinci is often
considered to be the father of medical illustration.
Today, medical illustrators must be proficient in a variety of media, including
paint, clay, photography and computers. They also create anatomical models.
"I try to supply as many solutions as possible," says Wayne Heim, a medical
illustrator in Ohio.
Increasingly, though, medical illustrators find themselves spending their
days in front of a computer screen. "There is a big push for digital media,"
says Heim. "A company may want a product illustration to be animated or three-dimensional."
Besides artistic talent and an interest in science, being detail-oriented
is essential. Research skills are also very important.
In the past, most medical illustrators found employment illustrating drawings
to be used in medical textbooks and journals, including dental and veterinary
textbooks. Today, there's a rising demand for illustrators at publications
for non-medical personnel.
Until recently, many medical illustrators found salaried positions with
a medical school, or a medical organization that has a teaching or research
center. "That was more common 10 years ago," says medical illustrator David
Mazierski. "Today, hospitals and government institutions prefer to contract
out the work to save money."