December, 2014

Tetra Spotlight on Leslie Laurien, Medical Illustrator

Posted on: December 5th, 2014 by Maggie


At Tetra we work directly with one of the best medical illustrators in the Bay Area, Leslie Laurien. In this post we are shining the Tetra Spotlight on her as she answers a few questions about her personal experiences in the field of medical illustration. You can see her work here:

How did you get into the field of medical illustration?

My mother actually sent me an article on a medical illustrator while I was in college studying to be pre-med. She wrote across the top “this would be perfect for you”, and since I was getting the picture on how little sleep I’d be getting as a doctor, I thought she was right. That set me on the path of going on to graduate school at the Medical College of Georgia. As a child I was always big on drawing and anything to do with biology-related interests so being a medical illustrator has really pulled those areas together for me.

What types of projects do you typically work on?

Early in my freelance career I did about everything from sculpting models, teaching programs, print illustration, courtroom illustration- you name it. In the last decade or more my work has become much more focused on medical devices. I still do some pharmaceutical (cellular and physiology based images) but devices in the anatomy for advertising and physician and patient education are the bulk of my work.

What is your favorite part about this line of work?

There are several aspects I really enjoy. My favorite part might be dealing with the challenges each job presents. It’s great to work closely with product managers, engineers, designers, or physicians to develop drawings that really target and express the information they’re after. I like that I never know what may come in next and I’m continually learning through my work; improving my illustration skills, seeing the cutting edge of medical technologies, and dealing with new people. It’s really engaging.

Tell us a little bit about your process. How do you get started and how does a project progress?

Typically a job starts with an email containing reference material and a general outline of the project a client has in mind. Next, if needed, we’ll schedule a phone conference to discuss further details that help me put together an estimate on cost. Once underway,  I take a series of photographs of any devices or equipment I’m provided to ensure that proportion and positioning are as accurate as possible. Sketches or sample files are sent to confirm content and the overall appearance of the images as the job develops. Typically a project will require one or two rounds of adjustments to the illustrations during this process before the job is complete.

Any words of advice for aspiring illustrators who want to enter into the medical illustration field?

I think my first suggestion would be to get a solid education by attending one of the graduate schools offering a degree in medical illustration. There aren’t many of them, but these schools really put their students at an advantage when it comes to training and anatomical knowledge. This requires strong grades in undergraduate science courses and an even stronger portfolio, so prepare well.  After that, my advice would probably apply to almost anyone going into a career: do something you love, operate with integrity, do your best job to meet the client’s needs, be responsive, professional, and meet your deadlines.

Thanks so much for sharing Leslie! (