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Meet Rachel Kramer, a Designer Inspired by Nature Turns to SciArt

Smiling woman cut out on top of purple background with illustrated DNA strand and whale

Meet Rachel Kramer, an aspiring SciArt designer. Rachel Kramer is a graphic design student at Iowa State University. She has always had a passion for art and nature inspired by early childhood experiences and her faith. We spoke with Rachel about her experience in design as well as her introduction to the SciArt field.

How did you know you wanted to study design?

I’ve always had a love for all things creative, including drawing, painting, and photography. I also have always enjoyed spending time in nature, whether it be during family camping trips or just going out into my backyard. I find joy in spending time outside, and I feel the most creative when making things that reflect the beautiful world around me, a habit that is evident in much of my work today.

With your love of art and nature, we can see why you resonate with ECOS and its mission. Can you tell us more about how you started working with the ECOS community?

My interest in the natural world led me to ECOS. Although I had completed independent projects involving nature prior to working with ECOS, the community was my first introduction to SciArt. It truly felt like I could combine my creativity with scientific storytelling here. In this community, I felt myself grow as an artist and I appreciate the valuable mentorship I received from Founder and Creative Director, Melissa Pappas, and Graphic Designer, Lindsay Newey. Melissa and Lindsay suggested a mock project to help me understand the type of work that ECOS does. This provided an incredible opportunity to build a new set of skills and learn from the process.

Infographic "Do Bowhead Whales have the Secret Cure to Cancer?"

Can you tell us more about the project and your learning process?

My project focused on the creation of a mock journal cover for a scientific article on the DNA repair of bowhead whales.

Mockup journal cover art of DNA strand and whale

I would say that the most challenging part of this project was understanding the flow of information on a subject that I am not an expert in. As a design student, I did not have a  curriculum that focused on science, much less DNA or genetics, so this was definitely a new topic to explore for me. But I did a lot of research, had very helpful guidance, and was able to communicate the story of the scientific article through visuals.

What was the most rewarding part of the project? 

Seeing the finished product and looking back on all I had learned through the process of creating it.

This was my first introduction to ECOS and SciArt, but it wasn’t my first time using concepts of nature in my art. In some past projects, I have used imagery of flowers and other plant life in nature scenes. I have used photos I’ve taken as a background and illustrated flowers in a watercolor piece, but by far the project I am most proud of is a guidebook I made in a class last year. The assignment for this class was to create an A-to-Z guidebook on any topic, and to illustrate each of the twenty-six letter forms to match the chosen theme. I chose to create a guidebook on plant species of the North American mountain regions.

Digitally illustrated alphabet in the form of plants

Amazing work! Now, thinking big picture, what issue or concept are you looking to convey with your art? 

With my art, the main concept I am trying to convey is really the intricacy and beauty of the natural world around us. This is important to me because it is a large element of my faith. As a Christian, I always thought it was amazing that God created the earth in the way that he did. To me, nature is a glimpse into the glory of God, because if even the smallest leaves and flowers grow with such detail and beauty, how unfathomably big and powerful would God have to be to create the whole universe. My goal with my art is to reflect what I see around me, to be a window for people to see the world through this lens. And, even if you are not a Christian, this concept is still important as it shows us how small we are in this immense and beautiful world that will always hold so much to discover.

That is a powerful vision to draw inspiration from. What advice do you have for other artists and those wanting to get involved in creating SciArt?

To anyone wanting to get involved in SciArt, reach out. You never know who will respond, who will be willing to provide you with opportunities, or what doors will open!

What projects are you working on now and what are you excited for in the future?

My past projects for class have been great learning experiences for me, and now, as I am finishing the semester, I am excited to see what else comes in new opportunities at ECOS! I am definitely looking forward to exploring more of SciArt and illustrations to effectively communicate science.

Linocut print of hands grasping money and flowers

Pen sketch of different vegetables

Coffee branding mockup

Photo of a wetland

Photo of night sky and aurora borealis lights


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