Paying Homage to Nature’s 10

Scientific Illustration

Hindsight is 2020

If anyone knows the value of a well-designed cover, it’s the World’s leading science journal, Nature. Every December, the issue Nature’s 10 highlights 10 key developments in science over the past year and the people behind them. For the cover design, Nature looks to integrate a key scientific theme with the number 10 in a compelling and creative way. For 2020, it was no surprise that they wanted to focus on the COVID-19 pandemic and the almost unimaginable effort to develop a vaccine in under a year.

Created for
Nature Magazine

3D modelling

Picturing the Pandemic

We began with a survey of past Nature’s 10 covers and other exceptional editorial science illustrations to see what concepts and styles resonated most with our team. We then sketched up many ideas, from a wall of scientists facing down a SARS-CoV-2 asteroid to a vaccine syringe rocketing to a viral planet earth. These were analyzed and shortlisted on their merits, including which would lend itself well to a short animation in addition to a static image.

One particular drawing of a syringe and virion (virus particle) evoking the number 10 struck a chord with our client. An image of many virions forming the zero was the most appealing. This also gave us a useful visual device for the animated version of the cover: as the camera pulls back through a cluster of virions, they resolve into the shape of a zero just as the vaccine-filled syringe enters the field of view, completing the number 10. A spotlight on the syringe adds an element of hope—a light in the darkness of the pandemic.

A Lasting Impression

A compelling cover captures the spirit of the text and the curiosity of the reader. Our solution for 2020 Nature’s 10 cover illustration is a dramatic representation of the emotionally-charged subject that shaped much of our world in 2020. It joins the prestigious ranks of past covers illustrating important scientific milestones. The accompanying video is an evocative lead-in to the online version of Nature’s 10 and doubled as a marketing tool for social media.

In the first week, the online article received 150K unique pageviews and was picked up in 550 news stories globally.