May 26, 2015

Blogger’s Quest(ionnaire): Eleanor Lutz’s Infographics at Tabletop Whale

In addition to her degree in molecular biology, Eleanor Lutz’s infographics, spanning a range of scientific topics, grabbed my attention. Here, she elaborates on the making of her blog Tabletop Whale. She can be found on Twitter: @eleanor_lutz

Why did you create a web site of regular entries?
When I first started Tabletop Whale, I wanted it to be a small online blog that was mostly for friends and family. I was planning on taking a year off after college to explore designing, and I really made the blog to record the things I worked on as I went.

In college, I helped out with an experiment that involved tracking video movements of insects swimming. I thought it would be fun to try the same technique in art, this time with flying animals like birds and moths.

What web-based solution did you select and why?
I really like Jekyll, which is a parsing engine bundled into a Ruby gem. I use Jekyll because it gives me complete control over the design of my website. I coded my website from scratch, so it’s tailored exactly to the kind of image-heavy posts I produce. I also know that no one else has anything exactly like my site, which is an added bonus.

What is your definition of a good blog
and what are three good blogs that you frequently visit?
I don’t read too many written blogs, but I do occasionally check in on the work of artists I like, and I also read some webcomics. I think the best blogs are the ones that are written by someone who really cares about what they have to say. It doesn’t matter if it’s about cars, or woodworking, or food—you can really tell when someone knows a lot about something, and that makes it fun to read for me.

I love old scientific collections, like butterfly plates and plant pressings, 
and I wanted to make a modern version for the web.

How do you create content for your blog?
I mostly publish large infographics. I make the infographics themselves in Photoshop or Illustrator, and then I’ll write a paragraph or two about my process, or about why I decided to make that particular infographic. Lately I’ve been keeping sketches and progress photos from all of my work as well, because I think it can be really fun to see what kind of ideas someone went through when making an illustration.

How do you stay organized
and motivated to contribute to your blog?
Since it’s my job to make science illustrations, blogging about the final product is more of a fun treat than something I have to force myself to do. So I’d say that organization is probably more of an issue for me than motivation. Making art for other people means that I have to wait to publish blog posts until everything is ready for production on their end. Right now, I actually have three posts lined up and ready to go, but I won’t be able to publish them for at least another month or so. It can be a little frustrating to leave my blog empty for weeks on end, but it’s totally worth it when I can finally share my work with everyone.

I’ve always liked galaxy-themed shoes, leggings, etc.—so I decided to make my own version with scientifically accurate star positions. It took a really long time to get every single star in the right place, but I’m happy with how it turned out in the end. 

For those aspiring to make a web site composed of 
regular thoughts and/or images, what is your advice?
You should just start writing! There’s so many free blogging platforms now that there’s really no excuse for putting it off. Even if the blog fails terribly, you can always take what you learned and move on to a new blog.

What is your quest in blogging?
I want to share my drawings with anyone else on the internet who might like animated infographics about science ツ

• • •

Photograph and infographics courtesy of Eleanor Lutz.

• • •

Read more of the Design Feast series Blogger’s Quest(ionnaire).

Please consider supporting Design Feast
If you liked this lovingly-made interview, show your appreciation by helping to support my labor of love—Design Feast, which proudly includes this blog. Learn more.