What is medical illustration?

Simply put: The communication of medical content by means of images created through painting and sketching. The implications of this cut and dry definition will be explained in more detail here.

Medical illustration can be compared to a translation: Specific content given in a particular format (written and/or spoken language, experience, etc.), is being translated into the format of visual representation.

In the medical sciences, specific contents frequently pose a challenge to both the lay public as well as the expert, which requires a visual medium for adequate representation and understanding.

Medical illustration can work in two directions while doing it´s “magic”: A set of facts, which may even with long written or spoken explanations be only poorly imagined, can be summarized into an intelligible visual synopsis by means of an image. Where chronological orientation is required, illustrations can resolve a densely packed description of a process into an easily understandable sequence of images.

Illustrations enable an immediacy of recognition which cannot be achieved in any other way. In part this is also true for photography and film, but there is a fundamental difference: Medical illustration doesn´t limit itself to the reproduction of what can be seen, but rather integrates knowledge into the visual representation.

Photography and film show what the eye can see, medical illustration shows also what we know to be there. In order to do this, illustration must frequently abstract or generalize, or in other words: Interpret. A possibility which is not available to any other medium.

Within applied arts, medical illustration occupies a special place, owing to it´s simultaneous effectiveness on several layers due to an interdisciplinary approach. Very specific content joins a unity with particular means of visual representation, lending a unique visual form to complex facts. The final result pleases aesthetically as well as through the process of understanding and recognition.

The fascinating journey through the human body, on which the viewer embarks automatically, equals a long glance into a mirror: Understanding the blueprints of life enables the recognition of oneself within them.