Amusing Monday: Cartoon characters tell a story about the elements

Elements — the basic building blocks of chemistry — come alive in cartoon characters created by Kaycie Dunlap, who created 112 individual illustrations for her senior project at Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design.


Kaycie, whose website is KcD Studios, got the idea for her elemental characters in high school chemistry class while watching a video, according to a profile of Kaycie in the online magazine “Women You Should Know.” In the video, the narrator acted out a few of the elements.

“High school chemistry class used to be confusing at best,” Kaycie said. “Then I imagined what the elements would be like as characters. Suddenly everything became a lot more interesting.”

Kaycie’s characters fall into one of three themes. My favorites are those in which the properties of the element are embodied in the cartoon figure. For example, fluorine, a highly reactive element, is depicted as an angry woman with fiery hair. Hydrogen, being the lightest element, floats in the air and has the ability to control water.


Some characters describe how they are used. Aluminum is a strong and lightweight female drinking a lot of soft drinks. Other characters simply depict the person for whom the element is named. It is impressive how Kaycie is able to convey a truly unique personality for each character.

Her original exhibit, “Elements — Experiments in Character Design,” was first shown at the 2011 MIAD Thesis Expedition, where observers could press a key on a touchscreen to call up any of 72 elements and see the cartoon character with a sample of the material. She later completed another 50 characters. (See MIAD Alumni News.)


Kaycie, who now creates illustrations for a game company in San Francisco, has developed a set of flashcards to help students remember the elements. Each card features a cartoon character on one side and basic information about the element on the other side. Order from her shop at Etsy. In her spare time, she is also working on a story in which she hopes to bring the elemental characters together.

To see all 1112 characters, visit this page on BuzzFeed.



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