Engage my brain, not my eye: the non-negotiables in visual communication of data and concepts – a graphic design workshop

March 31, 2023


Martin Krzywinski, Staff Scientist, Canada's Michael Smith Genome Sciences Centre at BC Cancer

Most people can agree that written communication should be clear, concise, free of grammatical and spelling errors and have the audience in mind. To achieve this, we spend time exploring style manuals and painstakingly editing manuscripts. So, if a picture is “worth a thousand words”, why not spend as much time refining graphics?

In this workshop, Martin Krzywinski, data scientist and visualization artist, will explore what makes a good visual explanation: theme, continuity, clarity and a simple style.

Using audience submissions and other examples, Martin will walk through a step-by-step process for redesigning visuals and highlight practical guidelines in this process.

“Our goal,” says Martin, “will be to consider function above form and dispel the charms of visual garnish.”

Prior to attending this workshop, please watch these two very short videos:

Information on submitting files for this workshop
For this workshop, the approach is critique by redesign: Martin will use the graphics and scientific figures submitted as case studies.

Submissions will be made public. Please do not send anything that may be considered confidential.

A note on submissions:

  • All submissions must be received no later than midnight on Sunday, March 19, 2023, for a chance to be reviewed.
  • Scientific or research-based figures, posters, slides and other graphics or visual materials will be accepted.
  • Submit your work via Dropbox.
  • PDF/Adobe Illustrator or any other line art format is preferred, but you can submit whatever you have.

After this webinar, the audience will be able to:

  • Understand the components of a good visual explanation: context, message, emphasis.
  • Apply key design principles to create good visual explanations: function leading to form, continuity, theme.
  • Identify and remove unhelpful graphics and visual elements.


Martin Krzywinski is a staff scientist with Canada’s Michael Smith Genome Sciences Centre at BC Cancer.

“To present clearly, connect broadly, spark imagination and encourage enthusiasm for inquiry,” is Martin Krzywinski’s motto. He values visuals with analytical clarity and artistic dimensions. His information graphics have appeared in the New York Times, Wired, and on book covers and scientific journals such as Science, Nature, and PNAS. He is the co-author of the Nature Methods Points of Significance and Points of View columns, and contributes to Scientific American’s Graphic Science. Every year, he makes Pi Day art, and he is the former owner of Alex, the world’s most popular rat.

Stay tuned…

Check back soon for details of future webinars

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