SciStyle is the best name I could come up with when I decided to get serious about my scientific illustrations back in 2009. Meanwhile, the term SciArt seems to have established itself for this kind of illustrations but I consider my work to be more design than art (though it’s hard to draw the line). SciStyle is pronounced /ˈsaɪstaɪl/, with the first syllable like in science or SciFi.
So... you draw things and stuff?
Not exactly, I’m not good at hand-drawing.*
All my work is created digitally. Schematic illustrations are typically done in Adobe Illustrator. The more fancy images are created with a professional 3D software. For everything else, there’s Photoshop.
*Once a client asked me to draw a fox. His response to the result was “Perhaps we should just use a photograph…”
How long does it take to make an illustration?
It depends on my availability and the kind of project. A typical journal cover illustration takes around 10 – 14 days to complete. Scientific figures usually take less time, 3D animations considerably more.
If you have a tight deadline, make sure to let me know early on, so we can plan accordingly.
No, I meant how many hours do you work on an illustration?
That depends on the complexity and the type of the illustration. A fancy cover picture can take 10 – 15 hours to make.
How much does it cost?
That depends on what you need exactly and in particular the complexity of the illustration or animation. Send me an email with a specific description of what you need and I’ll give you an estimate of the costs. To give you a rough idea: a graphical abstract is typically around 600 € and a journal cover illustration usually 900 – 1300 €.
My rate is 110 Euros per hour for clients from academia, for commercial clients it’s more.
But I don't have a budget for this...
Well, tough luck.
Ok, I have a limited budget.
Unless the budget limit is unreasonably low, we can discuss a fixed price. Just to avoid any unrealistic expectations: Please note, that working with tight budget constrains means there will be compromises on the level of quality. The final artwork may not look as stunning and polished as the items in my portfolio.
Can you do illustrations in a specific style that is different from anything I find in your portfolio?
Absolutely. Just send me some images as visual reference, so I know which kind of style you are looking for.
Also, my portfolio is only a small section of the work I have done and I may have already created such images but not put them online.
What kind of scientific fields do you cover?
My background is in molecular and computational biology and I frequently create illustrations related to chemistry and physics as well. I’m generally open to many scientific subjects, even if they are far from my original field. Just ask!
I really like this one picture you made. Can I use it? I'll link to your website...
Probably not, sorry. Most of the work in my portfolio is client work and I suspect my clients might not be happy if I give away their paid illustrations for free. However, I can create a derivative version of an existing illustration for you.
No free pictures at all?
I have created a series of illustrations for Wikipedia, most of which are released under a Creative Commons license. You may use them according to the license conditions.
Here’s a selection of my work on Wikimedia Commons.
slave...err student knows how to use Powerpoint. Why should I hire you?
I really don’t know.
Working with me
This is the first time I am hiring a scientific illustrator. I am nervous!
Don’t be. There’s a first time for everything – including working with a scientific designer. I’m a nice guy. Just send me an email about the project you have in mind, even if the specifics are not very refined yet. Then we can discuss the available options by email, phone, Skype – or if you are in the Berlin area even in person.
What's the process of working with you?
The project you have in mind begins with a consultation by email, phone, Skype, or in person to discuss the subject matter and requirements of the project. How will the illustrations or animations be used? What reference materials are available? What is the deadline and budget? What reproduction rights are needed?
We define the project scope of work and generate an estimate that works with your budget and timeline, and decide on a style suitable for the illustration’s purpose.
Preliminary sketches or renderings are sent to you for careful review and correction so that ideas can be clarified and your project goals confirmed.
Through one or more revisions we improve the artwork (within possible budget restrains) until you are satisfied with the result.
The final artwork in high resolution is sent by email. For larger files a download link is provided instead. You receive my invoice, I receive your payment (hopefully with little temporal discrepancy as the grant of licensing rights is subject to payment in full).
Everybody is happy.
I have this complex data that's hard to grasp. I'm not sure what to do, can you help?
Yes, I certainly hope I can. Operating a graphics program is only one part of my job. Another part is evaluating the data you got and coming up with suitable ways to illustrate it – depending on the purpose. Is the illustration meant for a scientific audience or public outreach? Don’t hesitate to get in touch with me, even if you have no clear idea yet of how to best visualize your data.
Developing concise concepts for scientific graphics is an integral part of my everyday work and especially important for things like graphical abstracts, presentations or illustrations for grant proposals.
I have this groundbreaking, confidential unpublished research, I want you to illustrate. Can I trust you?
Absolutely. I understand the sensitivity of unpublished research and never share original data from my clients. Occasionally, I may show an early draft of my illustration to friends or colleagues for feedback. But I can refrain from doing so, if you wish.
Your unpublished data is safe with me and if required, I will sign a confidentiality agreement.
I have some existing illustrations from another designer that I want you to tweak. Can you do this?
Sorry, no. I won’t edit artwork that was not produced by me, except maybe with explicit consent of the original designer. I’ll be more than happy to create an original, custom illustration for you.
I’d also like to ask you to not take my illustrations to another illustrator for future edits.
How can I keep track of the costs while the project is ongoing?
Before a project starts, I will give you a rough estimate of the projected costs. In addition, I can give you access to the online time-tracking tool I use to keep track of all my projects. This allows you to see the work hours spent on your project and current costs in real time. Just ask for it.
Besides the final artwork, will I get the original Photoshop/Illustrator files?
It depends but generally no, sorry. Think of it this way: When you go to a nice restaurant for dinner, what you pay for is the meal (the “final product”), not the recipe of how it was made.
Example: If I am being asked to create the figures for a scientific paper and in the end also share the original, editable files, the next time my client publishes something on the same subject, he could just ask a student to take the previous files and modify and recycle them, so there’s no need to contract me again.
There are exceptions: For cover illustrations the price includes access to the original Photoshop files (upon request) because the journal’s graphic designer might have to adapt the image to make it suitable for their cover. Logo designs also include the original files on request.
If getting the original files for further edits is important to you, please let me know before the project starts, so we can discuss the options (including a possible extra fee).
How can I pay?
Payments can be done by wire transfer to my German bank account, credit card, and PayPal. Please no checks if possible.
Do you accept cash / bitcoin / this high-quality oriental carpet?
As payment no. As donation yes!
I just talked to the journal's editor: the artwork you made won't be used for the cover. I'll pay you 50%.
Ahem no. Also, please think about your karma.
The accountant of my institute just told me there's a 30% withholding tax for invoices from Germany.
Unsurprisingly, all invoices need to be paid in full. It is your responsibility to make sure there are no obstacles for your institute / company to process my invoice from Germany and that I’ll receive the full payment in due time.
This FAQ is kind of long. How many more questions are there?
Nine more, hang in there.
Copyright & Licensing
I don't have time for this confusing copyright and licensing stuff. Can you sum up the main points?
Yes, here’s a quick summary of SciStyle’s licensing policy:
Following common design practice, the copyright remains with the creator (that’s me). The artwork created is licensed to you. The license is broadly defined and should cover all your needs in most cases. An example: You asked for the design of the journal cover, but then you also want to use that illustration on your website, press releases, a conference poster, a TV documentary, a book cover, your lectures and presentations – no problem, all covered.
One notable restriction for the use of my artwork is to sublicense it, for example to “sell” it on stock image sites for monetary gain. (Then again, who would do that?)
You don’t have to cite me as the creator, but I would appreciate if you do where appropriate (for example the caption of a journal cover).
I retain the right to use the artwork I created for self-promotion (mostly the portfolio on my website).
If the purpose of the illustration requires a transfer of copyright (for example you requested a journal cover and the journal then asks for the copyright in order to put the illustration on their cover), contact me and we will find a solution! This rarely happens and in most cases can be resolved with issuing a specific license. If they still insist, I may transfer the copyright to them at no extra charge.
If you absolutely need the copyright of the artwork I create for you, please inform me before the project starts, so we can discuss the extra fee for me giving up all rights on my creation (typically an additional 30 – 50%).
Can I use the image you designed for me also for other purposes (my proposals/presentations/books)?
Yes you can. For example if I created an image for you which was intended for the cover of a journal but later you would like to use it on a conference poster or for the cover of a book – no problem. Unless otherwise agreed, there is is no restriction of the use of my artwork in terms of the type of media (digital, print, etc.), the number of runs (for journals, books, website impressions), time (no expiry date of the license), geographic location, commercial or noncommercial use.
One of the very few restrictions is sublicensing my artwork (for example to “sell” at online stock image websites).
I would like to get the artwork you made for me released under a Creative Commons license, okay?
Yes, generally no problem but please contact me first to discuss the details.
Do you offer workshops or internships for scientific illustration?
I do! If your grad school or institute may be interested in offering a scientific illustration workshop (typically 2-3 days) for its students and post docs, please get in touch with me and we can discuss the details. If my schedule permits I also offer internships for students from Berlin (only).
I'm a science student and considering to become a scientific illustrator. Do you have any tips?
I suggest to check out Gaël McGill’s Clarafi, which has interviews with dozens of scientific illustrators (including myself) talking about their career path.
Also, I happily share my experience and give advice if possible. Send me an email with your specific questions.
What's the best part of being a freelance scientific designer?
I love my work and enjoy the freedom and flexibility of being a freelancer. Not having a boss and being able to pick and chose which kind of projects I want to work on is deeply satisfying. So is the exposure and appreciation of my work as it is seen by many (especially when on the cover of a journal). And as I am able to work from anywhere I can travel long and often (mostly to escape the cold German winters).
And the worst part?
That’s strictly confidential.*
*I may be bribed with a few rounds of beer…
What languages do you speak?
My mother tongue is German. I am fluent in English as I spent almost a year in Australia during my undergrad studies and over a year in the United States during my PhD and thereafter. Most of my projects are in English.
I am learning Spanish but it’s not yet sufficient to discuss work.
I heard you are an animal lover. Do you have any pets?
I used to share my room and life with this green iguana for many years, but that’s a long time ago and he’s currently in lizard heaven. No pets at the moment as I travel often.