Bringing Alien Concepts to Light
The disciplines of art and science do not commonly intersect. But at the Institute for Bioinformatics and Evolutionary Studies (IBEST), art and science go hand-in-hand.
This is a place where three-dimensional, crablike aliens teach evolution through video games, where highly technical information is communicated through visually pleasing graphs, charts and tables, and where grant proposals are embellished with original graphics to help potential research sponsors quickly understand difficult scientific concepts.
Katy Riendeau, IBEST’s new design and marketing coordinator, has quickly become one of the key figures who visually bring U of I’s complex research to life.
Through writing, photography, and graphic design, Riendeau promotes the interesting research projects proposed and delivered by IBEST’s faculty collaborators. She organizes proposal layouts, creates a wide range of graphic visuals to illustrate research, and promotes IBEST and its work – both inside and outside the U of I community.
Riendeau says that visually communicating complex research can be especially challenging.
“You’re not just making things look visually appealing, Riendeau said. “You have to accurately convey the information. There are a lot of visual elements you can bring into research, and you have to really boil them down into something simple.”
Riendeau’s technique: She meets with researchers to learn the details of their work. Once she understands the project, she works with the researcher to simplify the core concepts. They then discuss and develop visuals that can express those concepts.
Since starting at the University of Idaho just a few months ago, Riendeau has worked on a wide range of projects for IBEST and its collaborators. She promoted a recent grant success at IBEST’s Polymorphic Games Studio, which is developing and marketing a mobile version of their popular Darwin’s Demons video game; the work of IBEST’s Northwest Knowledge Network, which is using aerial imagery and weather data to track agricultural trends over several years; and U of I Professor Larry Forney’s research on the vaginal microbiome.
“This environment is new to me,” Riendeau said. “It can be intimidating if you don’t have a background in science, but I really like it. I enjoy interacting with the researchers and learning their projects so I can express them through writing and visuals. I learn something new almost every day.”
Art and creativity have always played a central role in Riendeau’s development.
“I’ve been interested in art since I was a child,” Riendeau said. “I was always drawing as a kid, and I looked at and appreciated art before I could really do it well.”
Riendeau took art classes in high school, then enrolled at Washington State University, where she received her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree.
“It’s funny, but most of the classes I took in college were studio arts, like painting and drawing,” Riendeau said. “I explored and really began to like digital art and design when I started working professionally at WSU. And when I learned of this position at IBEST, I quickly hopped the border.”
To learn more about working with IBEST, contact Director Barrie Robison, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 208-885-7137.
Article by Phillip Bogdan, Office of Research and Economic Development