Bringing Science and Design Together Through Visual Storytelling

Author: School of Design
May 18, 2023

(image: Josie Iselin)

School of Design, May 02nd 2023.

This semester, students in Prof Fernando Carvalho’s DES.410 Product Design 2 class will be participating in the Biodesign Challenge (, an international competition promoting the integration of design, innovation, and biotechnology. This is the very first time San Francisco State will be a part of this prestigious event, taking place in late-June, in New York City.

Students heard from lecturer faculty Josie Iselin and her deeply inspirational work, combining design, art, activism, ecology, and storytelling focused on kelp, and the marine coastal life.

Chasing Kelp: an artist’s journey into the science of seaweed

Josie Iselin took our Product Design 2 class on a visual journey into her process as an artist, writer and designer deeply involved with bringing the world of marine algae (seaweed) to a broad audience as artwork, architectural installation, and visually beautiful books. She concluded with her current project, designing a comprehensive website bringing art and science together to tell the story of bull kelp, the foundational forests of the California oceans.

Josie Iselin

Josie Iselin

Josie Iselin is the photographer, author, and designer of many books, with new projects always in development in her San Francisco studio, Loving Blind Productions. Her books focus on those forms in nature we find at hand and in particular, at the beach. Her newest book, The Curious World of Seaweed features visually rich narratives of sixteen iconic West Coast seaweeds and kelps. It was released by Heyday Books in August 2019 and has been shortlisted for the Northern California Book Award and the Alice Award, recognizing illustrated books. It was awarded The Tiffany Award for science communication by the Phycological Society of America and is the basis for a traveling exhibition of prints.

Josie’s writing and art focusing on seaweed, kelp, and sea otter put her at the forefront of ocean activism, presenting and working with scientists, other artists, and environmental groups working to preserve the kelp forests of our Pacific Coast. She is the co-director of a collaborative known as Above/Below, working to bring the recognition afforded the forests on land to the kelp forests below the ocean’s surface.

Josie holds a BA in Visual and Environmental Studies from Harvard and an MFA from San Francisco State University, where she currently teaches in the School of Design.