The designs for the COX enzymes were developed in collaboration with the scientist who discovered the two forms of this enzyme.
His work showed the COX enzymes to be funnel-like structures with a central enzymatic channel through which arachidonic acid
enters and prostaglandins emerge.
Considerable artistic license was used to create the enzyme designs. The goal was to clearly communicate the fact that COX-1
is a "good guy" and is associated with normal body functions. The use of smooth edges with COX-1 makes the design look almost
floral. On the other hand, COX-2 is the "evil twin" associated with disease. It was given angular shapes that convey a sense
of danger. The rounded shapes of COX-1 are supported by the use of soft blues and greens to create a soothing aquatic motif
associated with normality and health. COX-2's cold colors and jagged surfaces help to convey the intuitive sense that the
enzyme is not part of a healthy process. These creative devices support the scientific and marketing messages. In the top
two images on the left, the bobby pin shape of the prostaglandins can be seen leaving the tops of the enzymes.
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are molecules that bind nonselectively to both enzymes. This idea is reflected in the
relatively formless and indistinct designs created for the NSAIDs. The impression is that it does not require a high degree
of specificity to block both of these enzymes. This makes the NSAIDs and aspirin seem less sophisticated. On the other hand,
the key idea behind a COX-2 inhibitor is that it enjoys selectivity because it targets the structural difference between the
two enzymes. This specificity is reflected in both the sophistication of the drug and its specific lock-and-key binding to
Adopting the language of science allows the opportunity to communicate more effectively and relevantly with physicians. The
most effective product launches spend considerable effort investigating the science for new opportunities for product differentiation.
Using effective visual design that builds upon a firm understanding of the science helps to build a lasting impression of
the product and to bring the product and its science to life.
Michael Shaw is president of Shaw Science Partners. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Charles Goetz is VP and creative director of Shaw Science Partners. He can be reached at email@example.com