Ernst Haeckel: The man who did it all…and did it well.

Ernst Heinrich Philipp August Haeckel is an 1800s German biologist, naturalist, philosopher, zoologist, physician and artist. This was a man that was able to take all of his interests and do some very rather impressive things with them. The part that interests me most is that he is responsible for discovering, naming, and depicting thousands of species around the world. It’s one thing to be able to discover these new species, to see them for yourself, but quite another thing to be able to bring those images to the masses.

The multi-color illustrations of animals and creatures of the sea by Haeckel, in my opinion, are some of the best examples in the world. This man’s attention to detail (most likely brought on by his other interests in biology and the medical world) seems unparalleled to me. There were no computers, no quick digital photographs to come back to for reference. This man was in the field, taking sketches and getting detail that a camera would be lucky to capture, especially if the subject was moving. When his images were put to the test, using 21st century technology, they easily stood the test, even at a microscopic level. Talk about being good!

While most of his images were published separately, you can now find books with his complete illustrations. My favorite are of his underwater sea creatures. They’re simply breath-taking! I marvel at both the man’s skills and capabilities, but also that species such as these exist in nature. Can you say passport please!

While Haeckel is not a graphic designer, nor did he even remotely profess to be, he had an air about him that makes me think he might have appreciated meeting one. The best graphic designers that I know live very full lives. They have multiple interests, know everything about their own discipline (read: eat, sleep, breathe), but also have knowledge and interest in disciplines that affect their’s (photography, video, illustration, letterpress, etc). They are not only focused on what is in front of them but they use ALL their knowledge to influence their work and be as connected to the world as they possibly can. With computers and internet, that’s not necessarily hard to do in today’s world, but Haeckel had none of that, yet still managed to do more than most. In short, he was no slouch.

So be inspired by his work, take a page from his book of life and continue to have multiple and varied interests. Then if you can combine all this…well then you might just make a name for yourself!