Design Principles for Data Presentation

This tutorial is for scientists looking to improve their data figures and visualizations.  In our approach, we’ve broken down the design process into a series of practical and functional units. By doing so, we hope to help you make sense of visual design process and to show you how you can apply these principles to solve common visual problems and challenges in data presentation. By the end of the tutorial, you’ll have the tools and strategies that will allow you to design clear and strong figures that will better communicate your data.

Learning Objectives:

  • Understand cognitive design as an intersection of visual design and cognitive science.
  • Learn the three variables of cognitive design.
  • Understand how these variables can change the scope of your design.
  • Learn to focus your designs by identifying your communication objectives.
  • Learn the five key elements of design.
  • Understand how the elements can change the aesthetic nature and legibility of your designs.
  • Learn the five key principles of design.
  • Understand how the principles can affect the interpretation and communication of your designs.
  • Learn common design software used in creating data figures and visualizations.
  • Learn different formatting requirements for print versus digital media.

Illustrator for Scientific Visualization I – Drawing Scientific Figures

This tutorial demonstrates beginner-level tools in Adobe Illustrator that support data visualization.  We’ll walk through the creation of a poster and the placement of customized data plots, charts, and graphics.  The tutorial is parsed so that each chapter tackles a specific tool or function, making it easier to find the topic most relevant to your work.  With an emphasis on creating data figures for scientific publication, the topics covered here will give viewers a fundamental understanding of Illustrator and how the program may be used to create and manipulate vector graphics.

Learning Objectives:

  • Learn to set-up a new document
  • Learn to edit document settings to fit your purpose
  • Understand the difference between CMYK and RGB
  • Learn to create basic shapes
  • Understand how to handle raster and imported images
  • Understand the difference between the Selection Tool and Direct Selection Tool
  • Manipulate and transform shapes with the Transform Tool and via control points
  • Learn to create custom shapes with the Pen Tool
  • Learn to use and understand the difference between guides, grids, and rulers
  • Learn to use the Text Tool and to manipulate Text Boxes
  • Learn and understand the Graph Tools provided in Illustrator
  • Learn how to export a file in different formats


Storyboarding for Scientific Animation

This tutorial series will get you going with your first storyboard for scientific animation. We will cover the basics including: film and story structure, the function of shot types, the role of the camera, and the dynamics of lighting. Along the way, we will apply these topics to the storyboard. We’ll show you how to turn blank canvases into fully drawn panels that will communicate the production needs of your scientific stories.


  • Understand basic animated story structure
  • Draw and compose basic shot types
  • Draw character action and movement
  • Understand how cameras affect composition and framing
  • Draw camera action and movement
  • Apply colors and use them as visual cues
  • Understand basic lighting
  • Apply basic shading to colors
  • Understand the purpose of supporting graphics
  • Export images and create final documentation