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Drawing inspiration from science – Chinadaily.com.cn

Wang Yixi and his team have come up with more than 10,000 visual works for academic papers across assorted fields over the past four years, and many of them have made their way to the world’s top academic journals, including Nature, Science and the Chinese Journal of Chemistry. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Artist corners a niche market illustrating cutting-edge research papers, Yang Feiyue reports.

A Chinese ink painting of a farmer leading an ox across a bridge, followed by a boy with a bamboo basket on his back made the cover of an October issue of Structure, a United States-based Cell Press journal.

In addition to the jelly fish and lotus flowers in the river under the bridge, chemical compounds and elemental structures were highlighted and weaved into the picture.

It vividly depicts the process in which a special enzyme involved in the biosynthesis of an important organic compound is activated — the latest breakthrough by a Chinese scientific research team.

This research is considered to be of great significance for understanding the internal synthesis processes of various organisms, the working principles of enzymes, and the development of related bioprocesses.

The drawing was one of many works by Xixizhiyan, a scientific research visualization service provider based in Chengdu, Southwest China’s Sichuan province.

“What we do is to visualize abstract concepts and help scientific researchers demonstrate their findings in a straightforward and distinctive way,” says Wang Yixi, founder of the Xixizhiyan company.

Wang Yixi (right) proposes cover changes for an academic paper. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Over the past four years, Wang and his team have come up with more than 10,000 visual works for academic papers across a variety of fields, many of which have made their way to the world’s top academic journals, including Nature, Science and Cell.

Those journals have allowed, and even encouraged, paper authors to come up with such illustrations.

“Generally speaking, the papers with illustrations that make the journal covers are considered to be either the most valuable or the hottest in that issue of the journal,” Wang says.

He considers his paintings as the cover of a scientific paper and each one should reflect the core content and findings, thus bringing more attention to the paper itself.

After a customer places an order, there is a discussion about the paper’s content, before drafts of a design are made, followed by numerous rounds of fine-tuning.

“It takes about 10 days on average to finish a work,” Wang says.

However, in some cases, that could be extended due to constant changes.

“The author may have feedback from their tutor, who then might seek the opinions of the paper’s other researchers,” Wang explains, adding that it can be quite a lot of back and forth to the fine-tuning part.



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