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What do you do?
Trisha Shah is a medical illustrator and graphic designer at Visual Evidence, a company that provides illustrations and graphics for law firms and major corporations for litigation purposes. She’s been in the full-time position since November 2012 but worked at some internships during her time at the Cleveland Institute of Art.
Shah previously did freelance work for Harvard Medical School and UH Hospitals. Her work also appeared in the New England Journal of Medicine. She interned at the Evidence Room, Roder Evidence Consulting, Cleveland Clinic and the Cleveland Botanical Gardens.
How did you choose such an offbeat, unique and interesting career?
At CIA, Shah majored in biomedical illustration. She knew since age 13 that she wanted to do something in the visual arts. She chose medical illustration over fine arts and print making after learning of the program in Cleveland. Growing up in India, Shah had a strong science background, so the major lent itself to her interests in art and science.
Now, Shah views art as a teaching tool to visually communicate information that’s hard to understand. She personally specializes in line art drawings, digital color illustrations, 3D modeling and 2D animation.
Why is medical illustration important?
“People are relying more on visual aids for educational purposes and to show complex information as they take advantage of tablets and smartphones as educational tools. Visual-based learning has opened up a huge market for graphic artists and designers, and especially medical illustrators,” Shah said.
what are the skills needed?
The work of a medical illustrator does not solely exist in medical textbooks but also in apps for teaching students about the human body, Shah further explained. Through a three-dimensional modeled figure or an animation posted on a website, young students can learn about basic biology.
What is your day like?
At Visual Evidence, Shah’s duties include creating graphics and drawings based on the information given by the client. This means analyzing the data, seeing what the client wants to represent and coming up with quick design concepts and programs to use. After the proposal is presented to the client by the sales team, the process involves additional “back and forth” renderings to fine tune a project. The final product could be an animation, interactive presentation or print.
What do you enjoy about the job?
“Research medical and design is one of my favorite parts of a new project. I enjoy coming up with creative concepts in very tight restrictions, either by the client or by what is allowed in court. It forces one to think outside the box, and I really enjoy the critical thinking and journey leading up to the final project,” Shah said.
What does it take to succeed?
To succeed as a medical illustrator, it takes thinking creatively despite tight restrictions due to the media, amount of information and a client’s or publisher’s guidelines. The ability to think outside the box and making your visuals stand out is very important, Shah advised.
One must also have versatile computer skills including knowledge of the latest illustrating and animation software. You need to stay motivated, Shah added, and spend extra time keeping up to date on industry technology.
“It also helps to be a research junkie,” Shah said. “All artists are expected to do research involving the scientific/technical material we have to present but also research design, color choices, media and the way our audience learns information based on demographic criteria.”
Medical illustrators seem to share one common trait – a love for details and accuracy, Shah added. Most medical illustrators can spend hours perfecting the highlights on fur, or making sure the shading on a drawing is just right so a bone texture is different from a cartilage structure. Because of this attention to detail, time management is also a valuable trait to have.
For those interested in a career as a medical illustrator, Shah recommended obtaining a bachelor’s or master’s degree in medical or biomedical art. For more information on the career, visit the Association of Medical Illustrators website at www.ami.org. Knowing and communicating with others in the field is critical for career success.