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Paper Mobile Illustration

 Staying at home during the 2020 coronavirus pandemic, I have had much time to work on my interior decoration. Putting some paper mobiles has really changed the atmosphere of the room, and watching swaying objects somewhat eases my stress and anxiety.

Paper bird mobile (designed by Katsumi Komagata) hanging in my room.

 Meanwhile, I started working on two art projects at. One was to create a key visual for an academic seminar fusion-seminar of developmental biology and bioethics. The other was to create a cover art for an academic journal in stem cell research. I was wondering somehow relate those art projects to original paper mobiles, say, “Paper Cell Mobile” in illustration. The challenge was to give the illustration a slightly 3D impression and incorporate the handmade paper cutting style of paper mobile.


Paper Mobile for the Biology and Bioethics Fusion Seminar


 This year, Dr. Tsutomu Sawai and his team at the Institute for the Advanced Study of Human Biology (ASHBi), Kyoto University, are organizing a fusion-seminar series that combines research topics on biology and bioethics. I got a request from Dr. Sawai to create a key visual for the seminar. The original plan was to reuse/modify a previous key visual for an ASHBi/CiRA Bioethics Symposium cancelled because of the coronavirus pandemic, but we decided to start from scratch. I was excited to find a chance to develop the idea of a “Paper Cell Mobile”.

Rough sketches of two types my Paper Cell Mobil.

 To show that the bioethics was the main theme of the seminar, I wanted to put “The Thinker” in the center as a symbol of reflection. Then I surrounded The Thinker with cells that show embryonic development. Two versions were made, and they picked the spiral one.

Another paper mobile in my room. This circle shape inspired my drawing of the cell membranes that appeared in the final art.

Final ASHBi Seminar poster.

 The artwork was done 100% in digital. If I had more time, I would have preferred to create the mobile with real papers. The final image will be used for not only for the fusion seminar, but also for other purposes, such as a thumb nail images for press releases by ASHBi.


Paper Mobile for Cell Stem Cell


 Dr. Shinya Yamanaka, Director of the Center for iPS Research and Application (CiRA), Kyoto University, was invited to write a review article about pluripotent stem cell-based therapies in Cell Stem Cell. The article was published in the October issue. Shortly beforehand, I got a request from him to create a cover art which is related to the content of his article. Here again, I was happy to explore the idea of a “Paper Cell Mobile.”

 Since his article summarizes the current status of many clinical trials that use embryonic stem cells (ESCs) and/or induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs), I wanted to decorate the mobile with a variety of cells, organs and DNA. Instead of The Thinker, I put a standing human in an anatomical posture in the center with a pluripotent stem cell above.

First draft of the cover art. The idea for the cover art grew from the early sketches I made for the for the biology and bioethics seminar (above). I had not fully decided what cells to draw yet. Dr. Yamanaka suggested to include an eye and platelets.

Final Cover Art (with the official CellStemCell logo.)

 Ultimately, Cell Stem Cell would accept my art and publish the accompanying legend: “On the cover: This month’s cover art comes from the Yamanaka group and highlights our Special Reviews feature on Clinical Translation and Regeneration. While stem cells provide dynamic models in the laboratory with which to understand basic biology of developing and adult systems, their power lies in translational applications, including their administration as cellular therapeutics in human disease. In this issue, we highlight the current status of efforts in aspects of regenerative medicine where stem cells are either administered or recruited and also touch upon the development of specific international regulatory frameworks for stem cell therapeutics. Featured on the cover is a Perspective by Shinya Yamanaka (523–531), who reviews two decades of research related to pluripotent stem cell-based cell therapies and discusses the major challenges encountered. In the image, human cells, organs, and DNA are portrayed as in a paper mobile. Each column shows a differentiation flow from pluripotent stem cell to a targeted cell, and then to a transplanted organ. Artwork by Misaki Ouchida. Image courtesy of the author.”

The paper can be seen at (Cell Stem Cell

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