self-study courses

Over 350 lessons across 7 subjects: biology, physics, chemistry, geography, literature, sociology and history.
Over 10000 content illustrations across all courses: icons, infographics, interactive experiments, maps, animations, characters, narratives and comics.

Head of Design: Polina Filippova
Design direction: Alexey Sebyakin
Art direction of illustration: Evgenia Barinova

Each course consist of a number of lessons covering the majority of themes from the school program. It was built in tight collaboration between learning designers, the UI design team, illustration, and the editorial team and continuously tested on the end user – children.  We wanted to ensure that the work is truly collaborative, allowing each area of expertise to influence another to produce unique solutions.

My job as an art director was not only to navigate visual solutions but also to promote the function of illustration and an illustrator in an educational product. 
Here, illustration is never just an image to fill the space; it's always functional – it's the knowledge itself. 
An illustrator is never just hands; they carry a conceptually different understanding of how knowledge can be visualized.

The learning design approaches had to be different for natural sciences and humanities. Humanities required a more narrative approach to learning – which needed a consistent storyline, characters, narrative illustration, and comics. Illustration for natural sciences was more about clear infographics and scientifically correct representation that helped understand processes invisible to the human eye.

One of the key production limitations that we had to work within was the timeframe for each lesson that was fixed on 4 days per lesson – this lead to particular visual solutions and limitations that were estableshed to achieve consistency in production timings. 

As a team leader I also chose to allow leading illustrators to work out their own preferable visual languages within their subjects to ensure a greater personal involvement and connection to the subject. The production of each subject laster between 1 and 2 years so a more perosnal approach to work really helped sustain quality of work and personal interest.

I worked with the illustrators on every lesson weekly, helping come up with solutions and signing off final illustrations. 


60 lessons across 3 levels
over 1500 illustrations

Leading illustrator: Maria Varazi
Illustration team: Ekaterina Tagirova, Alexey Grabilin
Animator: Anastasia Khasanshina, Philip Dobuzhinskiy

Biology course was the first one that we started to work with. 

Within illustration solutions our primary concerns were – how do we stay true to our ideas on beatifully designed images but also communicate reality rather than fiction? How do we ensure the students perceive visual information as quickly as possible and don’t get distracted? How do we make learning through images easier and more effective? Answering these questions lead us to systematic solutions that were later used in other subjects and workbook. 

Through working with content illustration for biology the general apporach to illustration emerged – we introduced a consistent outline, palette and approaches to perspective to ensure maximum legibility and clarity, but also really focusing on the design of the forms to craft an overall pleasant experience of interacting with the images. Infographics, especially when animated, really helped us communicate micro-processes invisible to the human eye. 

Maria’s careful and loving approach to the design of shapes and to colour really makes the illustrations stand out. She brought in symmetry to balance out more complex images. 
Ekaterina introduced isometric approach that help communicate more complex structures and processes with greater clarity. A few lessons experimented with more narrative apporaches to lessons, where we brought in characters and comics, which helped tell stories. Alexey was a key team member to introduce comics solutions to the lessons. 


35 lessons across 3 levels
over 700 illustrations

Leading illustrator: Ekaterina Lyashko
Illustration team: Lev Polyakov, Antonina Barinova

Animators: Anastasia Khasanshina, Philip Dobuzhinskiy

Physics was the second subject that we worked on basing illustration solution primarily on the rules fixed on biology, but with more stress on objects, processes and characters. 

Katya introduced black shadow as an accent tool to help bind the illustrations with typography and make them visually stand out. The palette emerged from the UI concept that was bold, bright and contrasting. 

A constant challange with content for Physics was lack of good quality photography to represent objects or processes. This wasn’t the case with biology–there’s plenty of great quality natural life photography that equally contributed to the course. So for Physics a lot of objects and processes had to be drawn, which we treated as an opportunity for more animated content. 

Physics also experimented with narrative in some of the lessons, which worked very well for specific themes such as lenses, where the whole lesson was built around an adventure story. However during user tests such approach didn’t show as much engagement as we expected so it wasn’t taken further. Was great fun to draw though!


70 lessons across 4 levels
over 1500 illustrations

Leading illustrator: Aleksandra Khalbaeva
Illustration team:  Aleksandra Dokukina,  Elena Novoselova

Animators: Aleksandra Khalbaeva, Aleksandra Dokukina, Anastasia Khasanshina, Philip Dobuzhinskiy

Geography course had to break free from the limitations of outlines and flat colours that we set with biology and physics. 

We weren’t dealing with schematic representation anymore, we were dealing with a much wider variety of subjects such as air and temperature, water and soil, vulcanic magma and ice.  These items required a different approach, something less formal and restrictive, braking away from the constraints of a black line.  

Geography leading illustrator Aleksandra Khalbaeva developed a unique approach using gradients and coloured outlines where necessary, slowly moving into a much more painterly, sensuous visual approach.  

There were maps and inforaphics that still used a more formal line-focused solutions. However, a spectrum of approaches to line, colour and shape has been inroduced, this allowed for a lot more flexibility and a greater sense of reality, which helped relate the illustrative information to the real world, especially when working with representations of air, gas, things like depth and qualities of materials. 

Geography also had a different approach to the representation of a person, most of the time the viewer was observing the world themselves, and in this world we observed people, small and schematic, rather than giving characters a major role. 


1 course for 8th grade, 17 lessons
over 250 illustrations

Leading illustrator: Lev Polyakov
Illustration team:  Ekaterina Tagirova

Animators: Anastasia Khasanshina, Philip Dobuzhinskiy

Chemistry was the final course that we worked on in the natural sciences spectrum and it really combined together all the best decisions previously 

The visual language for Chemistry was developed by Lev Polyakov with the assistance of Ekaterina Tagirova. Lev produced most of the course himself ensuring consistent quality and indepth understanding of the subject matter. 

Illustrations for Chemistry have a fantastic feel to them, the shiny gradients are mesmeric, really giving the sense of the magic of this hidden micro world of structures and reactions. These qualities, as well as clear and effective visual communication of the artwork really make the subject feel a lot more approachable and inspiring for the students. 


80 lessons
over 2000 illustrations

Leading illustrators: Diana Hoang
Illustration team:  Anastasia  Sorokoumova, Manya Kulak, Ekaterina Lyashko, Dmitry Zubenko

Animator: Anastasia Khasanshina

Production of sociology courses was structured slighly differently because each year had a different approach to narrative and a separate team worked on them simultaneously. It meant that each year had an illustrator assiged to work through each course from start to finish. 

However, all courses had a similar narrative approach wich meant an extensive use of characters, figurative illustration, representation of actions and human emotions. We also developed and produced a lot of infographics for this course. 

To ensure that the courses are consistent throughout different levels we held on to the solution with the outlines throughout and a consistent use of colour palette. So even though character design varied from year to year (from artist to artist), overall the feel of the courses is consistent – bright, bold and friendly. 


70 lessons
over 2000 illustrations

Leading illustrators: Alexey Grabilin, Diana Hoang
Illustration team: Irina Kravtsova, Dmitry Zubenko

Animator: Anastasia Khasanshina

History course includes World History and Hisotry of Russia and follows a narrative concept of using a time-travel machine to go back in time to various locations and explore them together with a character from that period. 

On the timeline of all humanitarian courses History was also the final one that we produced. It collected all the best solutions from natural sciences, Literature and Sociology. Here the visual approach for the World History was developed by Alexey Grabilin and continued for the History of Russia by Diana Hoang. 

They worked in parallel teams with support of Irina Kravtsova and Dmitry Zubenko accordingly. 

Like Sociology the lessons were based on storytelling, which included a lot of character illustrations, but also, just like in Physics, the subject lacks good quality photographic depiction of artefacts, so they also had to be drawn making the whole course highly illustrative. In addition to that maps were a big part of the course as well as various kind of infographics. 

Evgenia Barinova
Art director and educator specialising in illustration and communication design. Illustrators’ rights activist, co-founder of magazine. 
Based in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. 

Art direction
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