Science Illustration and New Media

As a guild, a group of like-minded professionals, we need to promote ourselves both for the benefit of our profession and our own careers. Using social networking tools is a powerful marketing strategy that if used collectively can bring more money and prestige to our field. I am very proud to be a science illustrator and unfortunately, most of the world has no idea who we are. People need to know who we are, why we are doing it and why this work is important. I’ll summarize a few of the most popular new media tools, including how to use them and why.

Image capture of Facebook page

Facebook:

Personal Networking, except for Pages which are more like fan sites. I use the personal side to keep up with my artist friends. I like hearing about what my friends in the Guild are up to: for example, the United Nations Stamps designed by Diana Marques, and the wildflowers contributed to National Park iPhone Apps by Jenny Parks. It’s important to mention that only people who I am friends with in real life are connected to me on Facebook. Everyone else gets redirected to my Fan Page.

Image capture of LinkedIn page

LinkedIn:

Professional Networking. I’ve been using it as a people finder. If I’m looking for a grant writer or an agent to promote my work I start looking here. I first approach the people I’m connected to before starting cold calling. If you set it up before you need it, then you will have an existing pool of people available to you when you want to find someone. It’s also useful for checking credentials. If you see someone online (say, Twitter) that you don’t know, before you share their work you can often take a quick glance at their resume if they’ve posted one. It’s important to only add people to your network that you know in real life. You may someday be asked to make an introduction from someone in your network to another colleague or to provide a reference for them.

Image capture of Twitter page

Twitter:

Distribution System (a message limited to 140 characters). I auto-post my blog on my Twitter feed. For example, one entry looks like: “Our Newest Arrival... http://post.ly/5D53m where “Our Newest Arrival” is the title of my blog post, which is then followed by the link.

I also share project updates, including photos of work in progress and share links for other people’s work that I enjoy. For example, since I liked the United Nations Stamps designed by Diana Marques on Facebook, I shared the article written about them on Twitter. This means more people will see the artist who created the stamps, and Diana will hopefully get a few more fans of her artwork. It’s part of the protocol on Twitter to repost. If someone shares your work, try to share their work back; there’s a politeness to reposting I really like. Overall the goal is to improve the distribution of relevant work. No need to tweet what you had for dinner, but if you see a cool science art project, share it around!

Blogging:

Digital Publishing. A blog is a digital magazine article. This is where the content is. It’s a periodical, like a magazine, but online; and instead of subscribing to a whole magazine, you can subscribe column by column so you only get updates on the articles you want.

RSS Feeds:

Automated Syndication. You get to read articles of your choice as they are published, at your convenience. People don’t have to keep checking your website, where they might miss information that you want them to know. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RSS

1. Start off by installing a reader, like Google Reader. (If you already use Gmail, it’s a built-in feature, look under the More menu at the top of your Gmail Inbox)

2. Subscribe to feeds you want to follow. The list below includes blogs written by other science illustrators, which might be one place to start. If there’s a website you read often, enter the website into your reader and have it delivered directly to you when new articles are written.

3. If you have a smartphone, I recommend trying an RSS feed app to get your articles sent to your phone. I use gReader, but there are many available. I like to read articles while waiting for trains just like I would have traditionally read a magazine, only now I can customize the content.

4. Once you start reading them, maybe you’ll want to start writing them too! Tools to write blogs are built-in to most blogging platforms.

Email:

Direct mail. Yes, we all know what it is. I include it here just to add that I use it for direct person to person contact only. Who wants a cluttered inbox? I don’t. I use RSS feeds to my reader for more passive information gathering. Email is not a social marketing tool.

 

Image capture of MeetUp page

Meet-Up:

www.meetup.com Organizing people in real life. I saw it used first by our DC chapter to hold a joint event with a group of science animators. Out here in California, we’ve started using it for managing our upcoming events. John Wolf is using it to mobilize an active community of field sketchers in Monterey, CA. As an organizer, I like it because it helps me see who is behind the massive email lists I have to who is actually involved in what. To start with, just join a few meet-ups in your area. If there are none for science illustration, talk to your regional chapter organizers and start one. It takes about 15 minutes to set-up a new group.

I’d like to acknowledge that we are all learning new technology here, constantly. New Media requires sometimes learning a new version of an interface, for example, Facebook, as frequently as every couple of months. I know that this can seem daunting or scary, especially when you are learning a social networking tool where the mistakes you make can be very public. I’d like to suggest compassion—compassion, and patience for all of us as we learn this together. Because it doesn’t matter if you’re familiar with the existing tools or not, new ones come out daily, so we are all continuously re-learning.

What to Share and When:

These are just tools to share information, and what you share is something only you can answer. I recommend trying these tools out to make what you want to share easily accessible, and afterwards you get to share selectively. Keep it brief. Share each others’ science illustration work. The goal here is to build a collaborative web presence to bring more attention to our field. Yes, we are marketing ourselves. However, there is no need to over-share; only sharing new content when you have something new or valuable will keep people interested. Work for an institution and don’t want to share personal information? No problem! Use these tools for all of the things for which you would issue a standard press release: for example, a gallery opening, publication of a book that you just illustrated, or announcement of a workshop that you’re holding. It is our responsibility to market ourselves. I think that part of earning what we’re worth as science illustrators is educating the public and our potential clients that we exist and that what we do is of value to society. Draw insect genitalia? Great! Blog about it. I think you’ll be surprised how many people will read about it and find it interesting. We are in a rare position of having access to interesting content and knowing how to communicate it. This is a powerful combination of skills.

List of some science illustrators using new media:

Jenny Parks: jennyparks.tumblr.com [email protected]
Katura Reynolds: katura-art.blogspot.com [email protected]_art 
Dorothia Rohner: dorothiasketchblog.wordpress.com [email protected]
Kalliopi Monoyios: kalliopimonoyios.com/blogs.html [email protected]
Ikumi Kayama: www.ikumi-kayama.com [email protected]
Diana Marques: www.dianamarques.com [email protected]_c_marques
Catherine Wilson: www.catwilsonart.com [email protected]
Scientific American (Glendon Mellow & Kalliopi Monoyios): blogs.scientificamerican.com/symbiartic [email protected]
Sara Taliaferro: happybeetle.com [email protected]
Britt Griswold: www.brittgriswold.com [email protected]
Emily Coren: WalkaboutEm.com [email protected]
GNSI National Conference: [email protected]_Message

Not on the list? Great! Follow us and we can each start linking to you. If all of this is still Greek to you, call me. I’ll be happy to talk to you and answer your questions. Emily Coren, Director of New Media for GNSI.

Notes

This article appears in the Journal of Natural Science Illustration 2012 no.2.

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