Thursday, September 29, 2011

Neurotransmitters

The next few designs I wanted to create were based on the simple idea of showing a neurotransmitter and having a small tagline below the molecular structure.  The first one that came to mind was serotonin and the phrase "I'm sleepy".  While serotonin has tons of neurological functions, including regulating sleep, mood and various other behavioural traits, I think the one most people think of is for sleep (unless you're familiar with depression and SSRI's).  The challenge here was coming up with simple, yet attractive design for the molecular structure.  There were a few options:

The first option was to do a line drawing of the serotonin molecule.  Something like this.  Unfortunately, it's a little too simplistic for what I'm going for, and it's a little too technical.  Furthermore, it's not that visually appealing.

The second option was to do a space filling model in which each of the atoms filled the space in which they typically occupy in real-life.  That would look something like this second picture.  While this was technically accurate in terms of it's size, it doesn't look like what most people would think of as a molecule.  Also, it's also not the most attractive thing to look at.  It looks like some kind of weird centipede or scantipede or slugipede or something...  You know?

The last, and I think the best, option was the good-old ball-and-stick model.  It's what you see in high-school chemistry, there are actual ball-and-stick model kits out there to actually play with, and I think it's what most people envision when they think about a molecule.  Furthermore, it's 3D, rather than a simple 2D drawing.  I drew inspiration from the picture you see here, however the extra colors denoting the oxygen, nitrogen, and hydrogen atoms was a little distracting.  To simplify it and make it more appealing, I went for increasing the size of the "balls" and making everything a single color.  The oxygen and nitrogen atoms were increased in size slightly, while the hydrogen atoms were shrunk.  Then, by rotating the atom a little bit, you get some nice 3D depth.  Finally, to make the ball and sticks visible, I just had to add a little bit of a stroke to the balls so that you get a nice little separation between the balls and sticks.

So, in the end, you get a final product that looks like this:

Pretty cool huh?  After serotonin, I made some a few others based on dopamine, acetylcholine, gaba, and epinephrine.  I think they came out quite well.  Something any molecular/cellular neuroscientist might be proud to wear.

The neuroscience shirt collection

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