"Lepidoptera" is an illustration project with the goal of educating about the biology of butterflies and moths in an accessible way. Through a series of illustrated infographics, "Lepidoptera" engages viewers in learning as well as appreciation for the beauty of these remarkable insects.
Since childhood, I have been fascinated with insects of all kinds. My interest in moths and butterflies – insects belonging to the order Lepidoptera – began to coalesce beginning in college when I got the opportunity to work in an entomology lab studying Oregonian cinnabar moths. Getting to experience these unique animals first hand gave me a newfound appreciation for them that other people my age don’t share. Knowing that graphic design has the power to reach out to the public about important issues, I embarked on a project to educate adults my age about the beauty and importance of Lepidoptera.
As with any design project, I started with research. I understood my target audience early on – I wanted to reach out to adults my age, purely because we as the next generation of adults have power to shape our climate future. Climate change and capitalism are a threat to all species on the planet, but especially to Lepidoptera. Specialist insects that rely so heavily upon habitat to persist have an uncertain future when faced with climate change. That is why naturalist education is so important – but it is often a topic that kids are expected to have, not adults.
Being an adult who has an interest in insects has made me realize how little people my age think about these animals. Most adults either have not received any education about insects outside of elementary school, or are afraid of insects. To bridge this gap in learning and appreciation, I started with interviews.
I interviewed six individuals, all within our early to mid-20s, all college educated but not with any special interest in insects. I focused on this demographic because I felt that this audience might have been exposed to science or biology education at some point, but might not have delved deeply into my topic. I asked them to look over a variety of books pertaining to my subject, with a variety of difficulty levels, aesthetic styles, and types of imagery.
I came into this research project with a variety of assumptions, and through my research some of my assumptions were proven true and others were, surprisingly, proven false.
Consistently throughout my research, I encountered a trend of adults that engage closely with my topic, something that I thought I would have more difficulty finding. The adults that I observed and spoke to usually had a very limited knowledge of the field of entomology, but still expressed an interest and passion for insects that I found surprising and encouraging. It helped me understand that adults really are a good audience for a design project within this topic, but many of them don’t know how to access this kind of information outside of school.
One tidbit consistently came up through my interviews – all of my interviewees responded positively to illustration as a means of visual communication. Some of them were artists as a hobby or career, but others had no background or interest in visual art. However, everyone could agree that they were more engaged when pictures, diagrams, and illustrations were present to draw their eyes.
Sketching to Final
My goal with Lepidoptera was to challenge myself as an illustrator to inform others about my topic. The biggest challenge for me was to use an illustration style that educated and informed my viewers about my topic, but also drew in the viewer. I did not want to simply do a scientific illustration that might accurately represent an animal, but didn’t inspire any need to know more or feelings in my viewer. I spent weeks working on sketches to find a process that would strike the balance that I needed.
I started with simple pencil sketches and lineless illustrations in an attempt to test out different styles. I was struggling to find the midpoint between something that was overly technical and something that was overly simplistic.
I had to return to the start multiple times.
The final infographics without type.
Ty Han Sokalski
My name is Ty Han Sokalski. I use they/them/theirs pronouns. I am a queer, nonbinary graphic designer and artist based in Portland, OR. I like drawing, animals, and spending way too much time exploring art museums. My interest in art and illustration drives my design practice. The projects below are an example of work I’ve done for OSU Graphic Design courses, as well as with internships and jobs I’ve held.