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Britt Griswold <[log in to unmask]>
Thu, 13 Oct 2011 12:04:08 -0400
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I think the diffusion of graphic tools, computer literacy, and availability of "free" imagery 
through the web does present science artists with large questions on their role in the process of 
illustrating science.

Just as the job of secretary has undergone large changes in the past 50 years due to computer 
technology, the job of artist/illustrator is undergoing change as well.

I just finished a week of preparing and modifying, sometimes on an hourly basis, illustrations for a 
science mission proposal. Authors of the proposal had all the same software as I did, but that does 
not mean they knew how to use it well, or create eye pleasing results.  What this meant was that I 
could concentrate on doing what I do best, without every last thing having to be funneled through 
me. Now I am back to my normal work: illustration, web site management, video preparation, 3D 
modeling, photography, education and outreach meetings, etc. etc. etc.

Than means fewer jobs that are specialized (illustration and graphics, presentations) because more 
tasks can be spread around to the whole team on a project. The same goes for secretaries. There are 
fewer of them and they handle specialized tasks that others could do- but the secretaries are now 
"Departmental Assistants" and know these tasks better, and fewer "secretaries" service a larger 
group of customers. Writing and typing are now relegated to the customer because they can do it 
"good enough". That means there are fewer positions for publication editors as well.

The job of Presentation and Illustration creation in the current situation means that you have to be 
significantly better at it than your customers, so that you can be brought in when the new, 
customized, and specific information needs to be presented in a eye grabbing manner. This is when 
the "free" art and standard templates will not cut it.  This is when an artist is still needed.

What this means however is that there is likely to be no formal way to learn the craft through an 
apprentice system on a team of artists. That is how it use to be done. The "graphics shop" is no 
more. Now it is often people who know how to do stuff along with their original job, and they 
gradually specialize.

Shops are now only possible in larger organizations, and these need to have a goal closely 
associated with a major component of the organizations mission. We have a shadow of our former 
graphics shop here in an organization of 7000 employees. It now deals with publication graphics, web 
design, specialized photography, and government printing. Presentation graphics is gone. And it is 
no longer the first stop for anyone except for government contracted printing. It stays alive by 
having specialized, quality skills. But it only gets a small percentage of the work it would once 
have gotten- mostly work that will be appearing to the outside world (and not all of that either). 
Almost none of the internal work. That is done by customers cause it is "good enough".

Another example is the Proposal Office. We have one here with a couple graphic/presentation 
specialists, but they have a hard time staffing up in rush periods, so even the proposal work is now 
being diffused throughout the organization when there is a crush of work. That is why I was working 
on proposal art all last week.  I am happy to do it. The customers like the more informal give and 
take they can get from me, since I am with them, not with the proposal office.

So to sum up, you need to be better at your job than your customers (specialization). But you need a 
wide variety of skills to take on multiple types of work from many different kinds of customers 

To your specific point of creating educational materials for the classroom, we are in the era of 
"good enough" when it comes to customers creating and experimenting with their own teaching 
materials. But if they want it to spread and be recognized at a peer-professional, they will come to 
a professional to make it look good. And if you are good at the job of communication and user needs, 
you will find that a teacher has their blind spots as well and will collaborate if they know you are 
good at communication techniques. Specialize the quality of your skills, but generalize your 
customer base with more types of products.



My question is to some extent on a similar plane to this one.  I am curious for those of you that 
work in sciences, particularly in an education manner, how many of you help create extension 

I am wondering how much of a need is there for artists/scientists to help design/create educational 
materials, without being a teacher.  I have spoken to some individuals at the university here, who 
for the most part have a Doctoral degree, they teach, and they create their own educational 
materials.  However, once in awhile there are some with MS degrees or less that help create 
Powerpoint presentations or similar tools for their PhD. Scientists.

Some scientists seem to predict that the need for extension specialists at the state level and PhD. 
level may become grant funded or private funded positions, so then I wonder will there be fewer jobs 
available for 'just extension publication assistants'?


Subject: [SCIART] Student Question: Impact of photography on illustration industry

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