Part 1: Objectives

The questions for this week:

  • Why is visual communication such a powerful tool in science?
  • Are visualizations essential to the scientific enterprise?
  • What are some of the ways that diagrams, graphs, and other visualizations play a role in disseminating scientific information?

Part 1: To-Do List

  • Blog post last week’s work (design or visual accessibility issues) OR mid-semester reflection and commenting on other blogs
  • Texts on visualizing science
  • Optional live session
  • Look over Making Visuals Accessible assignment

Part 1: Overview

In many ways, it is hard to think of scientific fields without visuals. Images, diagrams, graphs, drawings, models associated with science and technology have permeated our educational system and popular culture so much so that it is hard to think of one without the other. We often recognize these images even if we don’t completely understand them.

Visuals like the model of the atom, the periodic table of elements, the standard curve, and Audubon’s bird drawings. Often the boundary between art and technical drawing is porous as in the case of Michaelangelo’s Vitruvian Man and the best scientific illustrations.

Da Vinci Vitruve Luc Viatour.

But as you will see, it is not always accuracy that makes a visual powerful or captures the popular imagination.

Part 1: Blog Posts

There is a change for your blog posts for Unit 6: One of them should be a reflection of the previous week’s work, and the other should be a mid-semester reflection on the course + an exploration of your classmates’ blogs. You can choose whether you want to do the mid-semester reflection for this week’s blog or for next week’s blog.

For the reflection week’s blog post there are two parts:

  1. For the week that you do the mid-semester blog post, please reflect on the class at the midsemester point. Look back and peek forward in this reflection;
  2. Please explore your classmates’ blogs and leave some comments for them. If you are unsure of how to comment, refer to the guidance in the syllabus on expectations for your comments on each other’s work.

For the other week’s blog, it is your usual reflection on the previous week’s class.

In other words, if you do a regular blog this week, it should be on design principles or on visual accessibility issues, and next week your blog will be your mid-semester reflection and looking at (and commenting on) other people’s blog posts.

If you do the reflection and commenting on other students’ blogs this week, next week’s blog will be about visualizing science.

Basically you have a choice as to whether you want to step back and do a blog post looking at your class experiences and that of the other students this week or next week.

I hope that is clear. If you have any questions, you can email me.

Part 1: Texts & Readings

  1. The History of Visual Communication: Scientific Illustration
    • The rise of science and technology as fields of study coincides with changes in art and with changes in media technology. Of course there were scientific illustrations and manuscripts before the Renaissance, but it is the rise of paper and the printing press that allows production and distribution on a scale that is more affordable and widely attainable. As the technology improves, there is better quality of mass produced illustrations. There is no doubt that the changes in Western European art, technology, and academic fields from the Renaissance through Early Modern Europe to what is sometime called the “Age of Reason” are all linked.
  2. Abigail Weinberg, “The ‘Flatten the Curve’ Chart Was Ugly and Not Scientifically Rigorous. Why Did It Work So Well?” Mother Jones, July/August 2020
    • This essay discusses three (3) of the most important and effective public health charts ever created, but focuses on the one that became famous around the world: the “Flatten the Curve” chart. (Be sure you look at the other two charts, which both happen to come from 19th Century England.) Weinberg’s theme is one that we should always remember: a chart is an argument. So what is the creator of the chart trying to convince you of?
  3. The Coronovirus and COVID-19

As you read these texts and look at the visuals, think about the effect these have had on you and whether you agree with what the authors are saying.

Part 1: Assignment

Making Visuals Accessible Assignment

Image description allows us to verbal language to represent the visual world or objects for those who have difficulty experiencing the visual world directly. Through words, we try to create a mental picture of a physical visual object.

For this assignment you will create an image description of a photograph and a painting for someone who is not able to see the actual work you are describing. To read more about the assignment, go to “Major Assignments – Making Visuals Accessible Assignment

Part 2: Objectives


The questions for this second part of the unit:

  • Why have infographics become so popular?
  • What makes infographics so effective?
  • What makes a good infographic?
  • What are some techniques for designing effective infographics?

Part 2: To-Do List

Part 2: Overview

Infographics are everywhere! They have become the medium of choice for conveying information and constructing arguments using data in business, public health, and public relations when numbers and information are involved.

This week we will go a little deeper into the world of infographics and look at examples that show their power to make convincing arguments.

But we will also look at some cautionary tales of how they can be used badly and mislead people either inadvertently or deliberately.

There are great infographics out there. The best help you see the world differently.

I hope this unit will help you deepen your appreciation of infographics and give you insight on how to avoid the traps that lead to the worst types.

Part 2: Blog

If you did a midsemester reflection for your blog post last week, this week’s post should be one about visualizing science.

If you didn’t do the midsemester reflection last week, do it as this week’s blog assignment. Don’t forget to look at some other students’ blogs and leave comments on a few of them. You can email me the blogs that you commented on and the name you used if it isn’t obvious.

Part 2: Texts & Readings

  1. NeoMam Studios, 13 Reasons Why Your Brain Craves Infographics
    • This page, in the form of a somewhat dynamic infographic, explains why infographics have become so popular.
  2. Canva, “How designers do it: 15 easy steps to design an infographic from scratch
    • Canva has a lot of free templates to help you create infographics, and, in this article, they present model infographics (and associated templates) that illustrate the most important principles in designing infographics.
  3. Two essays on what NOT to do with an infographic:
    1. John Brownless, The Worst Infographic of 2014 (So Far)
    2. Kenneth Field, Changing Face of America. Bravo!
  4. Creative Bloc, 62 of the best infographics
    • Many of these fantastic and imaginative examples of how to combine the best of design and data. The first few also present information on infographics. There is so much here that it is best to dip in to a few at a time and not try to look at them all at one sitting.

Part 2: Assignment Due

Go to Making Visuals Accessible assignment for the details for this assignment.

Go To Unit 7