You are probably still wondering, “What is medical illustration exactly?” This is probably the question we get asked the most. A medical illustrator is a visual problem solver. Background research, including reading scientific papers, meeting with scientific experts, perhaps observing surgery or a laboratory procedure, is often an integral part of the creative process. Want to learn more? Explore the frequently asked questions below, or drop us a line.

What is Medical Illustration?

Medical Illustrators draw what can’t be seen, watch what’s never been done, and tell thousands about it without saying a word

–Bill Gramley, Neal Pointer, Bill Winn, 1978

Medical and scientific illustration is the perfect combination of artistic skill with scientific accuracy. Medical illustration is the term applied to a specific form of artwork that focuses on medical subjects and is performed by highly trained and skilled professional artists. The focus of this art form is to convey ideas and concepts in medicine that would simply be impossible to represent in any other medium. Medical illustrations can be exact and rigorous, or be conceptual and interpretive. Illustration styles can range from highly technical and detailed to artistic and stylized. Medical illustrations are used in a wide variety of fields that depend on imagery to convey meaning and information. This includes advertising, editorial, institutional, legal, home health, academic, and instructional. Sitting at the forefront in medical advancement and emerging markets, medical illustration is frequently used to convey in a visual form what would be difficult, if not impossible, to convey in written or photographic media. The requirement for an artistic eye combined with technical skill and has continued to make medical illustration a field held in high regard. Medical illustration can trace its roots back to Leonardo da Vinci and beyond. Its rich history is peppered with artistic and scientific luminaries and geniuses that developed the field into an art form of its own. In the early 20th century, the field became more formally established when a young German illustrator named Max Brodel was brought to the US at the request of a prominent surgeon at Johns Hopkins University. Brodel subsequently started a school at the University, the strength and quality of which helped to start a number of other medical illustration curricula at other institutes of higher learning. To date, six major, accredited schools of medical illustration exist in the US and Canada. Brodel’s legacy remains strong at Johns Hopkins, whose medical illustration program is considered to be foremost in the world.



How does one become a medical illustrator? Does it require special training?

The majority of medical illustrators in the United States and Canada have a master’s degree from an accredited graduate program in medical illustration. Currently five accredited programs exist in the United States, each accepting between 3 and 12 students per year. While U.S. agencies do not accredit outside the United States, the American Accreditation Review Committee recognized in 1993 that the medical illustration program at the University of Toronto demonstrated compliance with accreditation standards.

Accreditation is a status granted to educational programs that meet or exceed a specific set of criteria for educational quality. The Association of Medical Illustrators developed the first set of educational standards for accreditation and began accrediting programs in 1967. Today, accreditation is awarded by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Educational Programs (CAAHEP), and the accreditation standards are revised every few years to reflect changes in the profession.

High school students contemplating medical illustration as a career should take a college preparatory program with as much emphasis on art and science as possible. In college, the best program would be a bachelor’s degree with a double major in art and biology, or a major in one and a minor in the other is preferred. Art courses should include drawing, advanced life drawing, painting, color theory, advertising design, illustration, computer graphics, and photography. In the sciences, students should include general biology or zoology, vertebrate anatomy, embryology, physiology, chemistry, and histology. Science courses must be of the caliber required for medical school. source: www.ami.org.

What is Board Certification? What does CMI mean?

The Board of Certification of Medical Illustrators (BCMI) administers a certification program for illustrators who seek a recognizable means of credentialing. The designation of Certified Medical Illustrator (CMI) denotes this voluntarily earned credential and provides a recognizable means of signifying a practitioners current competency in the profession of medical illustration. Certified Medical Illustrators have passed examinations dealing with business practices, ethics, biomedical science, drawing skills, and have undergone a rigorous portfolio review.

Once earned, the CMI credential is maintained through meeting continuing education requirements designed to maintain competencies required for practice. Certification is a program endorsed by the Association of Medical Illustrators to encourage lifelong learning and to measure professional competency for those illustrators and clients who voluntarily desire such credentialing. Similar to specialty certification for physicians, the competency evaluation consists of a written test and a practicum. The BCMI objectively measures and evaluates the examination results and awards certification on successful completion.

Any practicing medical illustrator who meets the eligibility requirements may apply to become board certified and obtain the designation Certified Medical Illustrator (CMI).  Certification is for a five-year period and is renewed at the end of each period.

source: www.ami.org

What is the AMI?

The Association of Medical Illustrators is an international organization founded in 1945, and incorporated in Illinois. Its members are primarily artists who create material designed to facilitate the recording and dissemination of medical and bioscientific knowledge through visual communication media. Members are involved not only in the creation of such material, but also serve in consultant, advisory, educational and administrative capacities in all aspects of bioscientific communications and related areas of visual education. The professional objectives of the AMI are to promote the study and advancement of medical illustration and allied fields of visual communication, and to promote understanding and cooperation with the medical profession and related health science professions. source:www.ami.org For more information, please visit the Association of Medical Illustrators’ Website

What is the Vesalius Trust?

The Vesalius Trust for Visual Communication in the Health Sciences was incorporated as a non-profit public foundation in 1988. Established under the direction of the Board of Governors of the Association of Medical Illustrators, a professional organization of medically trained visual communicators, the Trust strives to develop and support education and research programs in the field of health science communications. The Association of Medical Illustrators sought to establish a public educational foundation for the purpose of raising and maintaining funds to be used for developing and supporting education and research within the field of medical illustration and related visual communication professions, and for advancing education and communication in medicine and the health sciences. Since its founding in 1988, the Trust has endeavored to identify and secure funding for educational and research activities in visual communications in the health sciences, and to act as a conduit for these resources. Currently, the Trust supports: Scholarships, research grants, continuing professional education, and an international recognition program for exceptional contributions to medical education. The Trust intends to expand its scope of supported activities to include: publication of instructional and informational materials; underwriting programs facilitating interactions between biocommunication students, faculty, practitioners and the lay public; and sponsoring activities which increase the awareness of the significance of visual communications in the health sciences and health care delivery system. source: www.vesaliustrust.org For more information, please visit the Vesalius Trust Website

Where can I find more information on Medical and Scientific illustration as a career?

Those who are interested in additional information on becoming a medical illustrator can utilize many resources. The following are recommended venues for more information:

(1) Contact the Association of Medical Illustrators: AMI Headquarters 201 E. Main Street, Ste. 1405 Lexington, KY 40507 U.S.A. tel: 1-866-393-4AMI (or 1-866-393-4264) e-mail: hq@ami.org

(2) Contact the Guild of Natural Science Illustrators: Post Office Box 652 Ben Franklin Station Washington DC 20044-0652 Phone/fax: (301) 309-1514 E-mail: gnsihome@his.com

(3) Contact Graduate Programs offering Degree Programs in Medical and/or Scientific Illustration: Click here to see a listing of accredited graduate school programs and other schools with curricula in medical and scientific communications.

Any other questions? If you can’t find the information you need while exploring this site, please feel free to contact: Fairman Studios voice:: 781.647.7510 fax:: 240.597.0366 info@fairmanstudios.com

What services do you offer?

Fairman Studios offers biocommunications services including medical, biological and scientific illustration and animation. We produce illustrations of anatomical, patient education, surgical, conceptual, editorial, medical device, molecular, and genetic subject matters. Our illustrations and animations are used for print and web publications as well as for more specialized needs such as presentations and trade show displays. Fairman Studios also offers web design and publication services.

What are your qualifications?

Fairman Studios offers a comprehensive portfolio gallery on this site that we believe speaks for itself about the quality of our work with various different subject matter and presentation media. We are also a Board Certified Medical Illustration Studio practice. Following the guidelines of the National Organizations for Competency Assurance, the Medical Illustrators Board of Certification administers a two-part test to verify the competency of medical illustrators. The test includes a written examination, plus a stringent portfolio review. Eligibility for certification includes graduation from an AMI-accredited graduate program in medical and biological illustration or five years experience as a medical illustrator and proof of successful completion of a dissection course in human gross anatomy or its equivalent. Certified medical illustrators (designated by the letters, CMI) must participate in continuing education programs to maintain certification status. Please visit our news room for continuing announcements of new projects, awards, updates to this website, and other newsworthy information about Fairman Studios.

What techniques do you use to produce illustrations and animations?

Fairman Studios has a wide range of tools, techniques, and experience at hand to provide you virtually endless possibilities for illustration and animation. Our style ranges from a crisp, clean look to more artistic and imaginative pieces. We produce a variety of color, tone, and black & white images using either traditional or digital tools. Our traditional techniques include pen and ink, colored pencil, watercolor and airbrush. We also are skilled in using a variety of Mac and PC-based software tools including Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, Painter, Freehand, Quark Xpress, Dreamweaver, Flash, BBEdit, Macromedia Director and Adobe AfterEffects, HTML and Javascript.

How does Fairman Studios work with its clients?

Every project starts with a consultation at no cost by phone, fax, email or in person in order to assess the prospective project requirements and the client’s interests and preferences. Consultation components range from subject-matter, budget, and deadline, to the usage, quantity, style and technique of the art or design work itself. Based upon these factors, an estimate is written and a price quote is negotiated and agreed upon. That’s when Fairman Studios hits the drawing board. Sketches are drawn and discussed via phone, fax, email or personal contact, depending on the project. Usually, several revisions are produced before final artwork is submitted for a project.

ILLUSTRATION: 1 Thumbnail – brainstorming the concept to be illustrated; 2 First-round sketch – drawn by hand with pencil and paper; 3 Second-round sketch – Modifications have been made; 4, 5 & 6 Rendering – the sketch is either transferred to high-quality art paper, or is scanned into the computer to be rendered, minor design modifications can still be made throughout this stage; 7 Finished Art – Artwork is painted either by hand using a variety of traditional media such as colored pencil or watercolor, or digitally rendered using a painting program like Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator or Painter; 8 Publication – the artwork is typeset with the mast-head and goes to print.
ANIMATION: 1 Outline – brainstorming the concept to be animated, all content is written out; 2 Storyboard – the time line and content, including audio and video, are outlined scene-by-scene in storyboard format and reviewed before any artwork is produced; 3 Sketch – all scenes are drawn by hand with pencil and paper, color may be added for clarity; 4 Sound Editing – If required, professional voice-over talent is recruited to narrate the script, which is recorded, edited and time-mapped before animation rendering begins; 5 Paint – Artwork scenes is painted either by hand using a variety of traditional media such as colored pencil or watercolor, or digitally rendered using a painting program like Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator or Painter; 6 Animate – the artwork is imported to an animation program like Adobe AfterEffects, Flash or Director. Narration is also incorporated if necessary. Next the animation is rendered and exported as a QuickTime, RealPlayer or Windows Media document; 7 Publication – the animation is published to PowerPoint Presentation, Web or CD-ROM.

How much do your services cost?

In general, the price is impacted a variety of factors:

  1. Number of illustrations
  2. Number of colors and quality of rendering
  3. 2-dimensional versus 3-dimensional imagery
  4. Single image versus animated imagery
  5. Economies of scale — multiple images in a series always cost less than individual images stand-alone
  6. Amount of research necessary to accurately represent the subject, correlating to complexity and visual intricacy of the subject.
  7. Existing reference material available
  8. Number of changes needed
  9. Timing of project: standard vs. rush job
  10. The market the artwork will be used for
  11. Usage, distribution and ownership rights

As with any contracted service, the exact final cost for a project is impossible to fix at the outset. However, a free initial consultation will allow Fairman Studios to assess the scope of the project and needs of the client. Fairman Studios charges by the hour for its services, and is happy to offer you a quote that best matches our skills and services to your budget and desired outcome. Please call or email to talk to us about your specific needs. Fairman Studios provides great value for the money, and is priced very competitively against most professional illustration studios. We believe that choosing Fairman Studios is healthy for your medical or scientific illustration project and for your wallet.

How long does it take to complete a typical project?

As mentioned above under the “how much do your services cost?” tab, the specific needs of the client dictate how long a project takes. The greater the subject complexity, intricacy, and number of images, the longer it will take for us to complete to your satisfaction. Simple illustrations can take just days while more complex projects can take weeks or months. Fairman Studios always provides a schedule and time estimate along with its price estimate, and always strives to deliver its services on or ahead of time and on budget.

What is your policy in regarding copyright and usage?

Just as a musician sells their music, authors sell their books, and theaters sell admission to see plays, the medical illustrator sells their work. Without payment, much of this work would simply not exist. It has often been said that “without money, there is no art”. Copyright is the main vehicle for assuring that this artwork retains the ownership and rights of the illustrator or the organization that commissioned the work. It would simply be unfair for the artist to charge one individual or organization for a work and allow that work to be distributed freely to others. Thus, to protect you, our client, and Fairman Studios, we copyright our work and take additional steps to prevent unauthorized distribution of that material. We encourage you to view our portfolio and the samples of work shown on our website. If you like what you see, we encourage to contact us so we can develop imagery for your use. Clients can also choose to purchase rights or license existing works, as available, from Fairman Studios.

Do you sell stock illustration?

Yes. Any image you find on this site that has the © symbol next to its title indicates that it can be resold for a usage fee. Be sure to click on the “obtain permission for use” link within the image window and an automatic email box should appear with the appropriate image title in the subject heading. If the image does not have the © symbol, it should not have an email request link either. This is because the artwork is proprietary. Images not owned by Fairman Studios is owned, and copyrighted, by one of our clients, and CANNOT be resold, nor should it be downloaded for use. United States and international copyright helps protect our clients from unauthorized distribution of materials. If you like what you see, and would like an image similar to what you see online, we encourage you to contact with Fairman Studios to produce something for your use. Please visit our Legal section for more information on copyright and usage terms for this website.

Is all of your artwork online?

No. Because our archives continue to grow on a daily basis, only a representative portion of our existing artwork is exhibited online. You may be searching for an image we have created, but is simply not up on our website. Please feel free to submit an inquiry and ask if we have created a particular image for a specific subject you have in mind. If not, we’d be more than happy to create something original for your use.

How can I get in touch with you about a prospective project?

For a free consultation, please feel free to contact us by voice :: 781.647.7510 fax :: 240.597.0366 or email :: info@fairmanstudios.com
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