Illustrations in textbooks can easily go unnoticed, but that doesn’t mean a great deal of thought and detail hadn’t gone into their creation. Occasionally a detail will stand out in a way that makes you remember that there was an actual artist on the other end of image’s existence. I remember in my biology textbook the artist would use this blurring effect to indicate motion, implying that the enzymes involved in DNA replication were just whizzing along like streetcars on a rail.

This video shows the making of a medical illustration. I found it interesting the type of prep work that goes into creating the image. It seems obvious, but I never really thought about how the illustrator would become familiar with the structures, particularly in a more advanced text like the one used as example (neurosurgery.) Certainly the artist doesn’t need an MD, but they should have enough of an understanding of the process to highlight the important pieces of the process.

Which makes me wonder if there aren’t doctor-illustrators out there. There are enough doctor writers, and the textbooks themselves are written by experts. It seems like it would be helpful to have an artist with a medical background, someone who would know from experience which details to include and which are distracting.