MSC2016 - Editorial Journal Cover Assignment

Guide for Contributors


Assignment Description

The students in MSC2016 - Visualization Methods are assigned the task of conceptualizing, designing, and creating an academic journal cover, or the cover of a popular science magazine. The intent is not to create a strictly didactic illustration, but rather an editorial illustration that employs visual metaphor and analogy to communicate a key message about a particular scientific concept, research finding, etc. This is not about the creation of a figure, but instead the distillation of a potent, and perhaps playful, idea delivered in visual form. You can see plenty of actual covers like this online. Nature has some interesting posts about the development of its conceptual covers: here and here

In addition to the conceptual aspect of this assignment, the students will be learning how to create and work with 3D digital models, how to design for this medium, and how to address their audience properly. As in all BMC assignments there is an expectation of thorough research on the topic, and accuracy of representation even in such a creative format. 

What is your involvement in this?

This would not be an onerous process for you, and in fact may be kind of fun.

If you have a topic from your own research, teaching, or elsewhere in the broad landscape of biological science that you think would lend itself to a pithy visual editorial treatment, please suggest it. A student will take on the topic, research it, identify the core message and start to sketch out some ideas. We would ask you to comment on the visual metaphors employed in the early part of the process, and toward the end as the composition is finalized. There may be periodic requests for expert input on the topic and perhaps for clarification if there is any confusion. The students would handle all the heavy lifting of production! In the end, who knows? You may have a cover to go along with your latest research.

The course runs from September to December, so if you have an topic you'd like to submit please get it to me before the Fall term begins. It may be that the topic wouldn't be perfectly suitable for this assignment, so I'd like a little lead time to give it some consideration and perhaps suggest slight tweaks if appropriate.

You can contact me at marc[dot]dryer[at]

Examples of past BMC student work

This assignment has been running for quite some time, but the topics were always identified by the students themselves (so long as they included a molecular model element). Take a look at the examples below to get a feel for the style and the outcome. This year I am not insisting that a molecular element be included - any topic is welcome if it suits the editorial treatment.