Field of Science

Ros Reid - Communicating science through pictures: visual literacy for science writers (workshop)

(Live-blogging the Canadian Science Writers Association meeting)

First we're introducing ourselves, and I realize that, although I spend most of my time communicating, I have no training in this.  After her brief presentation she's going to give us a tough visualization problem to work on in small groups.

(Too bad that the visuals for her presentation are not themselves examples of good visualization.  Instead they're numbered lists of text points.  And now bullet points!  Another case of "Do as I say , not as I do.")

When interviewing scientists she first asks them to send her the PowerPoint slides from a typical presentation (a slide deck).
  • Information graphics, but also beautiful eye-grabbing decoration.  
  • Simple graphics with hand-drawn warmth.
  • 'Feel' is important: energy=movement vs static
  • Interacting with the scientist using sketching
  • Successful online graphics have long lifetimes
Caution:  Our brains treat pictures as concrete representations of reality,  So pictures can be very misleading, because they leave out all the qualifiers and uncertainties and ambiguities.

Our task:  Create a visual narrative about 'D-wave Systems' (an adiabatic quantum computing company).
  • show directly
  • by analogy
  • clarify
  • describe (±words)
  • organize
  • show passage of time 
Questions to consider:
  • medium?
  • audience?
  • main idea?
  • hierarchy of info?
  • best tools?
  • explanatory vs exploratory (better)
Choose an audience.  Create a storyboard that helps the audience understand this.

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