Did you know that 2011 is the International Year of Chemistry? Probably not—the somewhat cheesy video promoting it has only gotten 50,000 views in the last 11 months. Sometimes if you want to help get the word out about interesting science, you have to do it yourself–which is exactly what designer Simon C. Page did when he created this set of gorgeous promotional posters for the IYC. Each one is inspired by a legendary researcher in the history of chemistry and physics, from Marie Curie (who pioneered the study of radioactivity) to Antoine-Laurent Lavoisier, the “father of modern chemistry,” who studied combustion.
Page (who has also done some great work for Fast Company) brings a contemporary minimalism to the posters’ design while still warmly evoking the long history of chemistry research with classy serif typography. The graphics are clever, as well: The poster illustrating the discovery of H2O (made possible by 19th century chemist Henry Cavendish’s observation of how hydrogen and oxygen combine) subtly includes water’s molecular structure into a silhouette of a faucet. “My background is more in science than design, having studied a degree in Applied Mathematics,” he tells Co.Design. “Creating designs for a subject that resonates with me is what I love to do, and it is just a bonus that it is helping an industry which is struggling to be heard.”
About that “struggling to be heard” bit: Page created these posters for free, with no commission, out of the goodness of his heart. (He’d also created a similar set in 2009 for the International Year of Astronomy.) The IYC found out about them and bestowed their imprimatur on Page’s work. But there’s something pathetic about the fact that talented creatives are forced to take the initiative about reaching out to these scientific organizations, instead of the other way around. The IYC is sponsored by bottomlessly wealthy companies like Dow and BASF–why couldn’t they have thrown their weight behind some genuinely innovative media outreach, like Intel does for its Creators Project? Who knows. But is it any coincidence that the resulting reaction–from too many people who might otherwise be intrigued by the IYC’s mission–is “who cares”?
It doesn’t have to be like this. Science outreach owes a debt to people like Page, who are more than willing to help it along in their spare time, pro bono. But the next time there’s an “International Year of” something amazing from the world of science, maybe the organizations behind it could get a bit more proactive about generating crossover appeal. “It certainly isn’t a lost cause for science to get an identity,” says Page. “I just think it’s just going to take some time.”