What Makes a Good Medical Illustration?


Not many people realize the time and effort placed into producing an effective medical illustration. Medical students, doctors, and patients can study or just glance at a medical illustration and take away a copious amount of information. They’re focusing on the information in the image and that’s the intended purpose. It’s the goal of the medical illustrator to unite information and form in order to communicate.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at the qualities of an effective medical illustration according to one of the top medical illustrators out there, John Daugherty, CMI.
A medical visual should:

Teach effectively.

Communicate the client’s message.

Interpret for the viewer complex relationships in 3D space, and often time.

Have an appropriate viewpoint relative to the subject. Does the angle obscure important anatomy or distort certain relationships?

Accurately portray the biomedical content.

Be well drafted, rendered, and designed.

Be creative or unique. This can be the most difficult quality of all. How do you uniquely illustrate something that has been illustrated a thousand times, like a skull or a heart? To what level can you be creative without compromising accuracy? Can a medical illustration be informative and beautiful?



1 thought on “What Makes a Good Medical Illustration?”

  1. Well said John Daugherty. There is little to add to John’s description except, to give the client what he/she needs and not necessarily what he/she wants. This usually takes exceptional personal communication skills both verbal and in writing. Clients will easily pick up on inexperience and lack of confidence. The ability to establish a friendly relationship with a client is actually more important than an illustrator’s artistic abilities. I have noticed that pushy illustrators who try too hard to impress a client and sell themselves are less successful than an easy going and friendly collaborator. One other point for successful illustrations: simplicity is better than complication. Simplicity is a skill some illustrators have lost in their struggle for success.

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