The cartoon periodic chart

The EE&O editorial staff is happy to reach out to our friends who teach chemistry. Zak Zych has recently published the The Cartoon Periodic Chart. In his artist’s statement, he says that “my ambition is for my art to engage the viewer and to illuminate topics related to health and science, [and] these dynamics are on display in much of my work, but especially with The Cartoon Periodic Chart,” which can be seen at, the chart’s distributor. Zak also created the Evolution Flipbook and Hazardous To Your Health. His artist’s statement continues.

I love popular culture and I seek for my work to offer all the enticements of a beautifully illustrated children’s book or animated movie while at the same time serving as a catalyst for learning.

The Cartoon Periodic Chart uses associations, personification, word play and whimsical thinking based on the names of the elements – or syllables from the names of the elements – to make learning chemistry, biology and physics fun and engaging!

My objective was to create a compelling visual and conceptual experience that would help bridge the gap between the worlds of science and popular culture; to design a visual game where scientific literacy is the objective and everyone who plays is a winner!

The earliest version of The Cartoon Periodic Chart date back to 1990. I continued to develop and refine the idea (which took on many forms over the years) until it’s completion in 2012. During this same time I began a career in advertising – most notably as an art director on Absolut Vodka for TBWA Advertising – pursued a degree in experimental animation from the California Institute of the Arts and accepted a teaching job at St. Louis Community College, so I wasn’t able to work on it full time, but I considered it the driving purpose of my life during all that time.

I generated almost 4,000 drawings in order to achieve the 118 illustrations which appear in the final poster.

The different shades and colors in the names of the elements serve to call out the pun or association used as the basis for the illustration of the element.

Each element is framed by a boarder which ranges from white (white = elements in group 1), through gray, to black (black = noble gases), to help the viewer identify the element’s position on the chart even if it is seen outside the context of the chart as a whole.

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