“People, Parasites, & Plagues”: An Adventure in Science Communications

The podcast “People, Parasites, & Plagues” aims to introduce concepts about pathogens, how they work, and the interesting research being done with them to the general public. It is hosted by professors of the UGA Department of Infectious Disease.

When I was hired as a graduate assistant, “PPP” was returning from a long hiatus, and it was my job to get it back on its feet. I was passionate about what the podcast stood for, and I wanted to do everything in my power to make it a successful means of disseminating information to people who may not know much about science. This would involve building a style guide and fixing some sound engineering issues.

The first step in this process was rebranding- or rather, creating branding. The hosts explained to me that they hoped to target mostly college-age individuals, both those who were well-versed in the sciences as well as those who were not. With this in mind, I set about creating some guidelines.

“People, Parasites, & Plagues” needed a color palette, font set, and logo. I chose a color palette with red and black that would tie the podcast to UGA as well as some vivid colors to really make everything pop.

The color palette for "People, Parasites, & Plagues".

We also had no established font set. I proposed CCMonsterMash, an Adobe font reminiscent of classic horror posters to attract those who may be interested in the scarier aspects of the subject matter. To accompany it, we added in Merriweather in order to give us a more serious, academic option.

The font choices for "People, Parasites, & Plagues".

Of course, even the best brand is dead in the water without a good logo. Since there was no preexisting one, I had a lot of creative freedom. The original Spotify cover for the podcast used a medieval wood-block print of a plague doctor, so to preserve this, I created a plague doctor mascot and two variations of the logo to give us versatility.

The first logo for "People, Parasites, & Plagues".

Finally, we needed a cover for our streaming platforms. I used our new mascot, font set, and color palette. The hosts wanted to include a medieval plague piece of art, so I made sure to reincorporate one as well.

The old and new versions of the "People, Parasites, & Plagues" cover.

With branding out of the way, we were free to start producing content. My role here was to help screen possible guests with a pre-interview, assist with recording, and edit the result into an episode. I was able to successfully transform the audio quality of current episodes using Adobe Audition and add in a “teaser” soundbite to the beginning of the episodes. Here is an example of a “before” episode:

As well as an “after” episode:
As you can see, the sound quality has improved immensely.

This project came with a number of hurdles: there was not a lot of pre-established branding, and the audio quality was not very good. By using the marketing and design skills I’m learning in my graduate studies as well as the audio editing skills I’d picked up from my undergraduate degree, I was able to transform this podcast to make it more accessible to those who need to hear it.

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