How Life Works

The Challenge

An all-star team of authors from Harvard University and Brandeis University wanted to re-imagine the introductory majors Biology textbook. Publisher W.H. Freeman enlisted Imagineering to create completely new art for this first edition book. In rethinking the visual program, the author team wanted to ensure that, while the program was integrated in such a fashion that the student would alwys see a consistent use of color, style and design, it would be engage the student by being vibrant, clear and approachable while providing a visual framework within which to view and interact with the material. In this way, key concepts can be explored in multiple ways. The visual program would become an integral part of the students learning.

The Process

Putting together a 1st edition biology book is always a challenge, but W.H. Freeman and the authors brought a new approach to the process. The “three pillars” of the book –the text, the visual program, and assessment – were all developed concurrently. Jim Morris, Rob Lue and the rest of the lead authors had very clear goals for the visual program. The Imagineering creative team worked directly with them and the editors to develop the art from the ground up. The first draft text inspired our initial sketches, and the art grew and evolved into final illustrations as the authors rewrote and refined their ideas. Over the course of a few years (and countless emails, conference calls, and web conferences) we created an art program with a strongly defined style and a consistent use of color, shape, and design. Uniquely challenging were the two-page figures, dubbed Visual Synthesis figures, which pulled together complex ideas from across the book, but still had to be engaging to students by being vibrant, clear, and approachable.

Art Development Slideshow

Set_2_a Set_2_b Set_2_c
Set_2_d

The Result

“My initial reaction was ‘wow’.”Dave Kubien, Instructor, University of New Brunswick

The result is a smashing new introductory biology textbook, Biology: How Life Works. The carefully designed art program gives students a visual framework to help them think like biologists. The individual figures present foundational concepts; two-page Visual Synthesis figures connect multiple concepts across chapters; and online dynamic versions of the Visual Synthesis figures allow students to interact with the concepts. We created an engaging visual environment that pulls students in and helps them see a world of biological processes.

“The figure speaks for itself. … I don’t so much look at the figure as engage with it. When my eyes leave that figure, the message stays with me …”
– Dan Hartl, Lead Author, Harvard University

Art Development Slideshow

Thylakoid RNA_processing Thermogegulation
visual_synthesis_v2 visual_synthesis

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