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Visual Strategies

A Practical Guide to Graphics for Scientists and Engineers

Felice C. Frankel, Angela H. DePace


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For researchers in all disciplines, this book offers a practical, hands-on course in communicating scientific findings and concepts through visual graphics

Any scientist or engineer who communicates research results will immediately recognize this practical handbook as an indispensable tool. The guide sets out clear strategies and offers abundant examples to assist researchers—even those with no previous design training—with creating effective visual graphics for use in multiple contexts, including journal submissions, grant proposals, conference posters, or presentations.

Visual communicator Felice Frankel and systems biologist Angela DePace, along with experts in various fields, demonstrate how small changes can vastly improve the success of a graphic image. They dissect individual graphics, show why some work while others don't, and suggest specific improvements. The book includes analyses of graphics that have appeared in such journals as Science, Nature, Annual Reviews, Cell, PNAS, and the New England Journal of Medicine, as well as an insightful personal conversation with designer Stefan Sagmeister and narratives by prominent researchers and animators.

Praise For Visual Strategies: A Practical Guide to Graphics for Scientists and Engineers

"[Visual Strategies] will be useful for anyone who wants to make clear presentations of data of any kind. . . . The book offers general guidelines, with illustrative graphics, and many real-life case studies. The authors show how they would improve actual graphics, and they invite improvements to their improvements on their Web site, . . . Ms. Frankel and Dr. DePace speak as if they were looking up from the laboratory bench. Usually their suggestions are simple, and the results are striking. Add color, subtract color, color  only one part of an image - these kinds of relatively simple steps can add clarity."—Cornelia Dean, The New York Times

"Smartly and accessibly designed."—Steven Heller, New York Times Book Review

"This guide is the first book to be exclusively dedicated to providing direct advice on how to improve scientific graphics through actual examples. In this way Visual Strategies is among a handful of resources and comprises a valuable, important, and useful guide for scientists, illustrators, and data designers alike."—Cell

"Visual Strategies speaks individually to readers to cultivate unique interpretations of how design principles can improve their data representations."—Anne M. Andrews, ACS Chemical Neuroscience

"This book delivers beautifully illustrated examples in a comprehensive and practical manner. . . . Informative and inspiring. . . . This guide will help researchers in multidisciplinary collaborations, as it demonstrates that each discipline requires different strategies when it comes to visually presenting results. Whether you’d like to enhance your future journal submissions and grant proposals, or simply brighten up a conference poster or presentation, this could be the practical guide for you."—Emma Shiells, Chemistry World

"Science photographer and systems biologist Angela DePace offer a wonderful solution to the problem. Visual Strategies: A Practical Guide to Graphics for Scientists and Engineers is a how-to book on effectively utilizing modern computer graphics. Both authors have extensive experience in presenting complex data."—David Weitz, Physics Today

"In this technoscientific century, with knowledge doubling every decade, researchers and designers alike need to ramp up their presentation of the material they describe. This beautifully illustrated book shows how."—Edward O. Wilson, University Research Professor Emeritus and Honorary Curator in Entomology, Harvard University

"A thoughtful and useful series of recommendations that will actually help you understand what you are doing when you are trying to make yourself clear."—Milton Glaser

". . . unique. . . . an essential guide to literacy for fields that are essential to all our lives."—Steven Heller, School of Visual Arts

"Many visualization books “round up the usual suspects” of well-known examples, but Visual Strategies is quite original in its choices...I’ll buy it as soon as it is available."—Patrick J. Lynch, Yale Office of Public Affairs and Communications

"A user-friendly guide for scientists and engineers to express data concepts in a variety of media and well timed to address the growing demand for communication of increasingly complex scientific concepts and processes."—John Maeda, President, Rhode Island School of Design

Yale University Press, 9780300176445, 160pp.

Publication Date: May 29, 2012

About the Author

Felice C. Frankel is a research scientist in the Center for Materials Science and Engineering at MIT and the recipient of numerous awards and honors for her work in visual communication. Among her previous books is Envisioning Science: The Design and Craft of the Science Image. Angela H. DePace is an assistant professor in the Department of Systems Biology at Harvard Medical School, where her lab studies the mechanism and evolution of gene regulation.  They both live in Boston. Stefan Sagmeister, a leading graphic designer and typographer, has a design firm in New York City