Tentacles and Beaks of Cephalopods

A didactic poster created for an assignment in Biomedical Communications. The poster illustrates the diversity and function of beaks and tentacles in cephalopods.

Submitted to the Association of Medical Illustrators Salon 2016.

Date: November 2015

Supervisor: Dr. Shelley Wall | Biomedical Communications

Supervisor: Dr. Sebastian Kvist | Royal Ontario Museum

Audience: General


Prismacolor Coloured Pencils

Adobe Illustrator

Development Process

Initial Research

I was fortunate to collaborate on this project with Dr. Sebastian Kvist of the Royal Ontario Museum. I was given permission to visit the museum's private collections of invertebrates, which included a great collection of cephalopod specimens. I used this opportunity to sketch and learn how tentacles are arranged on live specimens. I also did some additional research in the library and online on other cephalopod specimens that were not available at the museum.

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Planning the Layout

It was important or me to understand what narrative I wanted to tell in my illustrations. After classifying differences in tentacles, beaks, and eyes between cephalopods, I began to experiment with how these assets could be arranged to create an intuitive and engaging composition. I had several ideas, but ultimately was limited by the printing space I had to create the piece in, and so settled to omit eye diversity and focus on tentacle and beak diversity.

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I initially created hand-drawn sketches of the final illustrations. Then, using mylar paper, I traced these illustrations with a pencil to create the contours. Using Prismacolor coloured pencils, I completed the rest of the illustration in a top-down fashion.

Creating the Illustrations
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Vectoring the Icons

Using Adobe Illustrator, I traced illustrations I had made of a candidate species for each cephalopod supergroup and generated simple vector icons to use in the final piece. 

The Wrap-Up

Contrary to my general practice, I came up with the text near the end of the creative process. I knew that I wanted the text to supplement the illustrations, which were to primarily display the morphological differences between supergroups. In this case, text was going to be limited by the amount of space afforded by the illustrations. I brought illustrations into Adobe Illustrator, sized them so they would be visible for print, and then input the text. Additional graphic elements like lines and labels were done at this step. 

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My love for octopodes inspired this project. I was always interested in these creatures and wanted to learn more about what separates them from their squid and cuttlefish cousins. Working with the Royal Ontario Museum was a great experience that made me appreciate the value of marrying didactic material with great layout design.

© 2018 by Mark Belan.