So it turns out that the credit cards issued by the NIH Federal Credit Union have chemical structures all over them. Isn’t that a good thing, recognizing their scientific roots and all? Don’t you find these chemical structures meaningful and inspiring? Don’t they make you want to kick something?
The graphic designers strike again. The problem seems to be that they don’t recognize that these things aren’t art – they’re a language. In an artistic work, there’s no right or wrong place to put a line or a dot or a letter, and the choice between them is purely an aesthetic one. But chemical structures have grammar and rules, and there are most definitely right and wrong ways to draw them.
When they use chemistry this way, designers are treating it exactly the way a cheap tattoo parlor treats Chinese characters, at the “yeah, cool” level. That tattoo on your shoulder that the dude told you meant “Hard life rebel” actually says “horse bang waffleiron”, which means that what it actually says is “I’m an idiot”. And those chemical structures that are supposed to say “cool science” end up saying the same damn thing. Hey graphic designers: those chemistry drawings aren’t pictures. They’re a language that you don’t yet read, and it wouldn’t hurt you
to ask someone who does.