The Rotatory Motor of Bacterial Flagellum

Knowledge Gap:  How can a biological cell and its components be metaphorically expressed as a mechanical cell?
Design Solution: The "motor-like" nature of the flagellum was emphasized by 3D modelling a bacterial cell with mechanical parts and focusing on the motor of the flagellum. 
Project Details: This illustration was produced for a 3D modelling course in the Biomedical Communications program. 
Date Completed 
December 2018
General public 
Prof. Marc Dryer
Adobe Photoshop
Adobe Illustrator
Print (editorial, magazine)

Topic selection

Fascinated with the "mechanical" properties of cells, the author wished to convey a visual metaphor incorporating this topic.


Problem Solving

Design Process

The greatest challenge was narrowing down and simplifying the topic. Many sketches were drawn to experiment with many ideas regarding which direction the "mechanical" cell should take. To solve this dilemma, more research was needed. Finally, an article from CELL magazine titled, "The Rotatory Motor of Bacterial Flagellum", was the impetus for changing the initial animal cell idea to a bacterial cell. The motor part of the flagellum became the main focus of the illustration. 

3D Modelling and Layout

To make the bacterial cell appear mechanical, the cell body needed to look rigid. This was achieved by not smoothing the cell body, resulting in a plate-like appearance. Springs and gears were also sculpted to respectively represent the DNA and ribosomes found inside a bacterial cell. Specific  shaders were added to give a mechanical look to the cell structure and its components. Finally, lighting and depth of field were used to draw more attention to the motor. Arnold was used as the primary render engine. During the design phase, the flagellum was positioned in such a way as to surround the title of the work for greater emphasis. The final image was exported as a photoshop file and then brought into illustrator to add text.  

Frequent communication with prof. Dryer occurred throughout the entire process of this illustration for feedback on how to sculpt the bacterial cell, and how to use shaders and lighting to emphasize certain elements of the overall design.  

Draft Industrial Cell 


Draft Futuristic Cell 


Draft Mechanical Bacterial Cell