I have the idea to commission a local artist to make an artistic version of a couple of figures I often use for presentations, and that I would probably use for my thesis cover. The figures does not present any numbers, but rather conveys the general idea behind the work (subject area is theoretical chemistry). The artist does not have an online portfolio, but a lot of his work is probably best described as "kind of abstract, bad for people who suffers from trypophobia".

I already know that most of the conservative seniors at my department would think it is a bad idea. Normally we go with quite bland figures and monochrome covers (there is nothing in regulations stating that we can't spice it up though). But I am interested in hearing what you would think, if you saw such a thing, a bit out of the ordinary.

I would, by the way, probably pay him out of my own pocket, as I don't think my grant includes art money. And I am perfectly fine with that.

  • 1
    "if you saw such a thing, a bit out of the ordinary" - I have seen all kinds of skillfully designed thesis covers, each in the author's individual style. Hence, it is difficult to say what would be "out of the ordinary". Sep 1, 2016 at 20:04
  • The only thing to watch out for is sacrificing function for the sake of form. As long as the figures convey the ideas they're supposed to convey, and you give him proper attribution, I don't see why anyone would object.
    – user37208
    Sep 1, 2016 at 20:05
  • Ordinary meaning "not artistic covers". We usually go with monochrome.
    – nabla
    Sep 1, 2016 at 20:05
  • @nabla: You may want to include that in the question, maybe as a precondition for those who answer. Otherwise, answers (to a question that borders on an opinion poll, anyway) might be quite uncomparable. For instance, in my CS subfield at the universities I am most acquainted with, coloured, semi-artistic covers are the norm, and the one noteworthy aspect about your plan would be that you have not created the cover art yourself (which I might perceive as negative, albeit very insignificantly so). Evidently, this is not comparable with someone's impression who is used to monochrome covers. Sep 1, 2016 at 20:13
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    In Stockholm University I have seen a thesis cover with a hand stitched topographic map (I thinkg it was geology), and another with a painting of two giraffes (bigravity, theoretical physics). There is no rule nor expectation that you should be the creator.
    – Davidmh
    Sep 2, 2016 at 5:44

3 Answers 3


It's your thesis, and so long as the work --- including the cover ---conforms to the requirements set down by your institution, then I see no problem with it. Yes, you might upset some of the more conservative of your colleagues, but if you continue in research no doubt you will in future perturb the status quo again.

The only concern I have is whether such an unconventional decoration would influence a grader. However, I suspect you are considering the final version of the thesis, after any corrections set down by your examiners, so this isn't an issue.

Naturally, you should give credit to your artist.


I see no problem when it comes to presentations (eg on the first slide to give the general idea). As long as the "corporate design" of the academic institution is still recognizable. Otherwise slide 2 or 3 would work.

Thesis cover might work as well, as long as it's within regulations (eg cover not nitpickingly specified). And as long as there isn't even a hint that you want to put style over substance. Also, conform when it comes to the spine. If the thesis is in a library as physical copy, it's the spine that counts (and should look the same way as the rest). The cover is invisible.

As for figures to actually convey data in the thesis, I'd stick to the convention. There are reasons -- beyond a departments preference -- why graphs look the way they do. Any fluff is clutter that has no place in a scientific diagram. The primary aim is to argue, not to entertain.

But yeah, go for the cover. Reminds me of Randy Pausch's ("Last Lecture") story about the color image in a article ("Are there allowed to do that?!?!").


If everything fine by the standards of your advisor, then it would be fine to include the artwork. Also consider including the artist in our acknowledgements section. It should be completely acceptable for your presentations.

Your thesis is graded for your academic content. Your figures are added to illustrate concepts. If the idea and the concepts behind the figure itself is yours then worry not for the critic of others. As long as those figures are not copyrighted or published by another author, it should be alright to include them in your thesis.

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