A chat with Philip Patenall

To celebrate the 15th anniversary of Nature Reviews Microbiology and to give our readers a glimpse behind the curtains, we asked our art editor to tell us a bit about himself, his job and his inspiration for the art work, covers and cartoons that make the journal stand out.
A chat with Philip Patenall

Can you tell us a bit about yourself, your background and how long you have been with Nature Reviews Microbiology? How does your usual day at Nature Reviews Microbiology look like? 

I’ve been at Nature for 8 years, and all that time I’ve worked on NRMicro, along with a few other journals.

My background is in graphic design, more specifically information graphics. Previously I worked in illustrated book design and the design of reports for large organisations. I then fell by accident into science publishing and I am still here.

The larger part of a normal day usually involves the drawing up of ‘Nature style’ figures for my two journals, based on the author's originals and editor's notes, but alongside that I create any cartoons, journal covers, website images and occasional posters. 

Do you have a favourite cartoon or figure?

I don’t have a favourite cartoon but my favourite cover image is from the September issue, 2011 ‘Packaging machines’; its kind of surreal and weird, which is why I like it. 

How do you get your inspiration for the monthly covers?

Creating the covers is usually the best bit of the art editor job, as it allows us to show some imagination. The cover briefs for NRMicro are, fortunately, nearly always quite loose, with the editors coming up with a few ideas based on some articles in the next issue. They then choose one of those ideas and I have to create an image based on it. Sometimes its easy and the idea lends itself to an obvious image, at other times I have to sit and think a bit more. Occasionally I start creating an image only to realise its not going to work, so I throw it away and start again.

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