Oral Presentation 25th Annual Lorne Proteomics Symposium 2020

Fitting big science on a small page (#47)

Martin Krzywinski 1
  1. BC Cancer Genome Sciences Center, Vancouver, BC, Canada


Without good practices in data exploration, we cannot have answers. Without good design practices, we cannot have good explanations of these answers. This is confounded by the fact that most answers are neither self-explanatory nor immediately obviously correct. Moreover, their reception and impact is directly related to the quality of the explanation.

There are many guidelines for visualization, backed by compelling perception studies that can help us make good choices in shapes, colour and layout. The principles that underpin these choices are now generally well accepted and implemented in many applications. Though it is now easy to make a pile of plots, it is generally very challenging to determine how to sort through the pile to select and order a set for an engaging and expository data presentation. 

I will distill the core concepts of information design into practical guidelines for creating scientific figures, presentations and scientific storytelling. Topics include use of colour, information flow for data, process and concept figures. Using examples of published figures in the literature, I apply these guidelines to a redesign process that isolates and emphasizes the essential aspects of the figure without losing context.

This process of design, which is a kind of choreography for the page, can be of great help in assembling individual data visualizations into a cohesive explanation across many levels of detail. In the same way that visualizations are a way to organize data, design is a way to organize visualizations.

I will share with you my experiences in applying tools such as Circos and hive plots, among others, to combine science with visualization and design to create explanations, promote engagement, inspire imagination and, where possible, provide visual support in the often vexing process of research.