Ten Simple Rules for Drawing Scientific Comics

February 23, 2018 R.T. Thomason, Ph.D., Figure Editor

This week, we will continue discussing an article I posted last blog:



Citation: McDermott JE, Partridge M, Bromberg Y (2018) Ten simple rules for drawing scientific comics. PLoS Comput Biol 14(1): e1005845. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pcbi.1005845


We will spend the next few blog sessions discussing some tips from this article. As I mentioned, it was passed along to me by a colleague at my current academic institution. Even though this article is geared more toward “comics” as opposed to schematics or figures, I think the tips and rules vacillate between the two. One quote from the article can definitely be applied to all figure forms: “An effective comic can communicate difficult ideas efficiently, illuminate obscure concepts, and create a metaphor that can be much more memorable than a straightforward description of the concept itself.” So True!!


Okay, on to the rules. First of all, I should ask, which rules resonated most with you? How do these rules apply to past experiences you have had with figure designing and assembly? It is actually hard for me to pick a “top three” best rules from this list – I think all are vital! I know, I know, you are thinking com’mon Dr. Bec, there has to be three that you think are most important, but really, it is hard to pick those out.


Let’s start with Rule 1: “You don’t have to be good at art.” This should be somewhat comforting to most scientists (although, if you think about it, you are probably drawing a lot in some shape or form in your daily lab life). Important quote from the article: “… They are about conveying a message in graphic form.” Think about this – what if you are the reader. What would you want to know? Do you know anything about this topic? What is the simplest form you can put this comic or graphic into?


We will continue our discussion about this article in the next couple of blogs. How can we read these simple rules and actually apply them to our manuscripts? Let’s get down to it! (next time…)