I have recently started to appreciate the importance of illustrations and figures in scientific publications. Be it a visual abstract, a visual TOC, or part of a poster or a presentation, I always find a nice illustration to be quite catchy. Because of this, I want to put in some effort and learn what goes into preparing these illustrations.
Of course, I have the usual problem: I was never good in arts, and I can't really put my thought into a visual illustration, nor make the eventual idea into reality. Since I am working in theoretical physics I think I also have a harder time than some other sciences - the objects that I am working with are usually mathematical objects and proofs, and I can't really draw an equation, can I?
In contrast to illustrations, however, I've spent quite a lot of time on learning how to create good plots. In the case of plots I always had clear guidelines: from a given data, create a visualization that follows some basic principles with color scheming and choosing markers; using then the right software it's not hard to create visually appealing graphs. There's very little creativity involved in this process though.
Are there any similar "guidelines" for creating illustrations not based on qualitative data, rather abstract ideas? Is there maybe a book and/or a course that I might take?
I understand that scientific art and communication is a field in itself, however I am hoping that if I put in the time and effort, then, using the right tools, I could at least be mediocre in preparing illustrations. Or is creativity a pre-requisite for all of it?