Jason Holley
A Cell’s Second Act
Howard Hughes Medical Institute Magazine

This was a cover story about stem cell research and cell regeneration.
The sketches that I sent had been a hit with the firm that was designing the
magazine, but the scientist who wrote the story hated them. A conference
call ensued and three things became immediately clear: 1) These people
loved, and I mean loved, to talk about stem cells. I thought this was great,
mostly because a passionate client who is smarter than I am is the best kind
of client. Additionally, I might need some of those stem cells someday and
it’s nice to know that these folks were on the case. 2) Scientists make lousy
art directors. 3) Verbal language and visual language are sometimes as
different as any two languages can be. The big challenge of this job was a
classic translation issue. We were all in agreement about how the image
should function but they had a hard time understanding what it should look
like. By the time I walked them through my rationale behind the swan
image—echoes or copies emanating from a kind of miraculous epicenter
—they were ready to become illustrators and started throwing out ideas
that were much stranger (and perhaps better) than my own.