The use of illustrations in scientific publications to disseminate knowledge to the general public is a longstanding tradition beginning 4000 years B. C. in ancient Egypt and going on steadily since then: ancient Greece/Rome, the European Middle Ages, the Renaissance, etc. Science is not a field where design has been part of the training. However, this hasn’t always been the case and in Galileo’s time scientists were also trained in art and design: Galileo employed a series of excellent drawings depicting the moon to communicate his heliocentric hypothesis.
The current digital age has made the creation of illustrations for scientific publications even more accessible. It has been more than half a century since a guide to making figures for scientific papers appeared in the literature (R.C. Christman, 1954, “Illustrations for scientific publications”, Science, 119, 534-536). While scientists no longer publish hand-graphs, it is often still by trial and error that figures are made, begining with sketchy illustrations. For example, my drawings are artisanal/personnalized intermediate solutions between the 100% automatized illustrations used today in many top-ranking journals and the manual draftings employed fifty years ago.
Some natural science drawings combine the beauty of the natural forms/colors with the precision of scientific observations. Working in both traditional and digital formats, designers produce work for publication in textbooks, science journals and web sites, as well as for exhibition in museums and art galleries. In particular, despite the dominance of computer graphic programs, the ability to draw geological structures manually remains a necessity in academic geology (J.H. Kruhl, 2017, “Drawing geological structures”, Wiley-Blackwell, 230 pp.).