Cover Illustration

Photoswitchable Drugs for Neural Activity

TOOLS: Adobe Illustrator
TOPICS: Scientific Illustration; Graphic Design; Brain; Neural Activity; P
hotoswitchable Drugs


This project involved creating the cover for a PhD thesis and the illustrations for the chapters. I started to understand the topic of research and brainstormed ideas for each illustration. The client, Dr. José, studied how specific receptors of the neurotransmitter, Acetylcholine (muscarinic receptor type 1 (M1-mAChR)) can be activated or blocked by novel photoswitchable drugs, altering neuronal activity. So, for this cover I used important data from José work and turned it into a pattern in which the front page is illuminated and the front page is in the shadow, to represent the drug activity modulated by light. For the chapter illustrations, I created a story on how the thesis was made:


  1. Introduction – To research a new topic is necessary to have a review on the state of the art of the topic, so I decided to illustrate neurons that resemble the Rámon i Cajal drawings to represent the history behind a new study.
  2. Objectives – In the illustration, I tried to represent how the objectives are defined in the beginning and how the path is traced to reach them. Below the points where one is and on the top are the final objectives where the path is a straight dashed line representing the plan.
  3. Methods – Here the methods were represented as a map to show that there are many paths to reach a final result but it is the combination of insights from different paths and from being lost that the right track is reached. The map was personalized to Barcelona, as it is the place of research.
  4. Results – Here plenty of results are shown using the pattern from the cover but from the simple form to the more complex form, showing that the combination of results from different experiences creates a final conclusion.
  5. Discussion – Here there is the connection of the dots, that usually happen in the discussion, using the state of the art and the recent results. I tried to resemble, as well, the synapses that occur in the brain.
  6. Conclusion – The combination of everything, from the state of the art, the planned structure, the methods, results and discussion creates a whole thesis.

© Maria Carlos Oliveira, 2023

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