Identify My Archetypal Scientist with Adobe Illustrator

Students create a graphical representation of your ideal (i.e., archetypal) vision of a scientist

About This Strategy

In this 1- to 2-hour strategy, students reflect on their preconceptions of who a scientist is and what a scientist does.  Students use Adobe Illustrator to assemble images that symbolize their archetypal vision of scientists.  This short assignment can be a great icebreaker, introduction to a discussion on identity and diversity in STEM fields, and careers in science.

Adobe Illustrator empowers students to quickly assemble and edit imagery to construct a visual narrative. This strategy can easily be adapted for implementation using Adobe Spark Post by asking students to find a single image from the web that best represents their vision of a scientist.

Supporting Tools and Resources

  • Student Sample
  • Adobe Illustrator

  • Adobe Spark Post

  • Editable Resource Bundle

  • PDF Resource Bundle

Outline for Teachers

60-120 minutes


Students will learn about using Adobe Illustrator. (20 minutes)


Students list descriptive words for traits, objects, or jobs they associate with scientists.  Depending on the class context, you may want to narrow the prompt to one type of scientist (e.g., chemist, biologist, earth scientist, etc.). (10 minutes)


Students search for imagery based on their word list. (30 minutes)


Students create a visual narrative illustrating their vision of a scientist using Adobe Illustrator using these steps. Students can examine an example here. (20 minutes)


Students write a short paragraph explaining their choices. (10 minutes)


Students share their visual narrative of a scientist and participate in a discussion that explores similarities and differences in different perceptions. (20 minutes)


Students revisit their imagery and first reflection to consider whether they held preconceived notions about scientists that have now changed. (10 minutes)

Steps for Students

This 1- to 2-hour strategy asks you to create a graphical representation of your ideal (i.e., archetypal) vision of a scientist.  This activity will help you to think about who scientists are and what they do.  You will use Adobe Illustrator for this activity, which will allow you to quickly and easily assemble imagery into a compelling graphical narrative. 

Adobe Illustrator is leading software for graphic design.  Scientists and engineers often use Illustrator to create figures and schematics to communicate complex sets of ideas.


1. Learn about Adobe Illustrator.  For this activity you will need to learn some quick basics about how Illustrator works to place and manipulate images using clipping. (20 minutes)

  • Learn the basics of Illustrator in 5 minutes with this video.

  • Place an image in your Illustrator file with this video.

  • Use clipping masks to crop an image with this video.

If you are interested in learning more about Illustrator, this 3 hour set of tutorials is a great place to get more details.

2. Think about what it means to be a scientist.  

  • What are the characteristics, tools, and jobs that scientists typically possess?  

Brainstorm a list of words for each of these categories. (10 minutes)

3. For each of the words you found, search for an image online that captures that idea and download it. Be sure to follow copyright laws. (30 minutes)

4. Place each of your images into Adobe Illustrator and arrange them to create a visual narrative expressing your vision of a typical scientist.  Try using basic shapes to crop your images to highlight the features that are the most important.  Use the text tool in Illustrator to add the word inspiring each image as a part of the narrative.  Remember that text doesn’t have to be horizontal in Illustrator, especially if you use the path tool to create a curved line and then add your text to it. (20 minutes)

For more guidance on using Adobe Illustrator, check out these steps. For inspiration, check out this student sample.

5. After creating your masterpiece, write a one paragraph description explaining some of your most important choices related to your design.  What would you want people to take away from this? (10 minutes)

6. Discuss your choices with other students.  During the discussion, listen carefully to see if you can identify any features that others included that you now think may be important. (20 minutes)

7. Write a follow up reflection explaining what you missed in your design or why you don’t think that there is anything to be added. (10 minutes)

Considering exploring Adobe Illustrator. There is a lot that you can do with Illustrator and the guidance will just give you a taste of what you can do to get started.  Make sure to refer back to the tutorials when you start to feel like you need to understand more about how Illustrator works.  Also search online when you get stuck on a specific problem as there are many detailed resources and tutorials that can help you out.

Rubric for Successful Analysis

Consult the attached rubric in order to evaluate students' archetypal scientists.