The Netflix series Brainchild explores the science behind the everyday — social media, germs, superheroes, dreams — and it’s hosted by Sahana Srinivasan, a talented actress and science communicator who helps carry the series that matches sensible messaging for teens (example: “social media isn’t real life”) with scientific truth.

Notably, Brainchild offers the sort of easy flow of information that makes it brainfood for people of all ages, like Bill Nye the Science Guy was for an earlier generation. Many Netflix programs are designed to compel the viewer to binge-watch, with last-minute cliff-hangers in each episode, but Brainchild is accidentally bingeable, a program that continuously fills you with knowledge with little effort, an IV drip for the mind.

Aiding Srinivasan’s capable hosting are the show’s engaging use of graphics, which are often a mix of heady, tactile, internet-powered, occasionally trippy. They’re essential for explaining sometimes-abstract scientific concepts for a wide and young audience. On Brainchild, they shine.

Inverse asked Ryan Paterson, the creator of the graphics for the show, about where he found inspiration. Originally from Toronto, Paterson got his start making animated films in art school before working on motion graphics in music videos, where he says he worked on visuals for Ke$ha’s “Warrior Tour” in 2014, and on music videos for Justin Timberlake, and Kanye West and Drake.

Inverse: So what did you do for ‘Brainchild’?

Paterson: For the show, I did the main title sequence animation as well as designing the show’s logo (mascot included) and I designed and animated the majority of the in-show graphics.

From where did you take inspiration for your graphics?

The creators [Jerry Kolber] and [Adam “Tex” Davis] were super open-minded about combining different styles and techniques — throughout the show you’ll see hand-drawn animation as well as 3D, stop-motion, and then lots of basic “slidey text” type stuff.

I would just take long walks on the internet and grab images from all over that I thought were interesting — in particular, the illustrations of Ori Toor and Sara Andreasson were great guides whenever I got stuck. Other than that, I just tried to tap into my own childhood nostalgia and draw from that, which is probably where the opening title sequence came from!

A graphic from the "Super Heroes" episode of Brainchild.
A graphic from the "Super Heroes" episode.

What shows inspired you as you were thinking about how to present the information in the show?

There’s been a rise of a certain type of video on the internet lately. They take a huge topic (like say, cryptocurrency, or global warming or something) and they break it down into a digestible two-minute animation. The graphics themselves used in these videos have to be very clever in order to not only entertain the audience but also to accurately illustrate what’s being discussed. I tried to utilize this way of thinking as best I could. Hopefully it worked out.

What shows like ‘Brainchild’ did you watch growing up?

I literally wanted to live on Sesame Street. I had a spot all picked out and everything; and some Bill Nye here and there. Mostly though, I watched brainless action cartoons, which is probably why I draw pictures for a living and I’m not a programmer or something.

Brainchild is streaming now on Netflix.


Full disclosure: Paterson has produced motion graphics for Inverse productions previously.