A Guide to Crafting Visually Effective Scientific Posters and Imagery
Do you know the basics of effective visual communication? Do you need help improving your visuals using the elements and principles of design? This guide walks you through the steps of creating mindful science communciation pieces.
Did you make sure you considered what your font choices say about your work? Did you adequately define your audience before you started? Is your piece balanced? Here's a quick reference checklist to keep your science communication tasks on track!
What is visual literacy? Why is it important? What do your design choices really say about your work? Here is a quick reference cheat sheet to get you started understanding scientific visual language.
SMArt Science Communication
About Visual Communication
Images are an important tool for communicating science. Visual imagery, unlike traditional written media alone, can convey complex concepts, elicit emotional reactions, and relay information about author’s credibility almost instantaneously.
As scientists, we are not trained in the field of visual design. We do not take courses on visual rhetoric, and we may never consider concepts like visual literacy or the factor in the elements of design when trying to communicate science. We tend to prioritize the scientific data when creating imagery and fall away from thinking about how our audience will interpret and be able to use the data we are presenting.
Scientific Visual Literacy
Visual literacy, like literacy in general, encompasses the ability to read write, analyze, and evaluate information. We want our audience to be able to recognize or “read” the visual language we are speaking and accurately attribute meaning to it. This idea helps us consider important questions for refining our images like:
Will a nonspecialist interpret my pictorial cues the way I intend?
Which visual style would my audience find most engaging and informative?
What scientific background or understanding does my audience have? How will this affect the way the audience perceives my image?
Scientific Visual Language
Elements of visual language include:
Do my colour choices complement my information?
Are the colours distracting?
Do certain colours have any meanings associated with them that I did not consider?
What are the effects of my font choice?
Does the font type infer scientific credibility?
What is emphasized by my font?
Is this photograph necessary for communicating my concept?
Will my audience know what they are looking at?
Does my information flow in a logical order?
Where does my eye go to when it first looks at my document?
Do the graphs and charts I have chosen to incorporate help or hinder my communication of the science?
Could I choose to incorporate the data in a different way that is more effective for my audience?