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How to evaluate visual science communication art?

From the perspective of a user experience designer, effective communication is key. Regarding visual science communication, visuals are used to convey complex scientific concepts to a broader audience. However, how do scientists and artists collaborate on a visual?

Because not all scientists are trained in art or design and might feel uncomfortable or unclear about how best to provide feedback to artists, I will try and outline a potential approach for providing feedback. In this blog post, I will outline the process for critiquing a piece of artwork intended for visual science communication and provide a rubric to help scientists give constructive feedback to their artist collaborators.


The Process of Critiquing Artwork for Visual Science Communication


It all comes down to the project goal. Artwork for visual science communication should be evaluated based on its effectiveness in conveying scientific information to the intended audience. Or if the objective is to have people be inspired by the work being done in the laboratory, "inspiration" ignited within a viewer could be the main objective. It all comes down to the goal.


The following steps outline the process for critiquing a piece of artwork if this is the main objective:

  1. Identify the goal of the artwork: Before critiquing the artwork, it is essential to understand the collaboration's objective and the intended audience. What is the primary message? Who is the target audience? Understanding the goal of the artwork will help in evaluating its effectiveness.

  2. Evaluate the visual elements: The visual elements of the artwork include color, composition, typography, and imagery. Evaluate each element based on its effectiveness in conveying the message and engaging the audience. For example, does color enhance the message, or is it distracting? Does the composition guide the viewer's eye toward the intended message?

  3. Evaluate the scientific accuracy: Artwork for visual science communication should be scientifically accurate. Evaluate the artwork based on its accuracy in conveying scientific information. Are the scientific concepts represented correctly? Are the labels and annotations accurate?

  4. Evaluate the accessibility: Artwork for visual science communication should be accessible to a broader audience, including those with visual impairments. Evaluate the artwork based on its accessibility. For example, is color contrast sufficient for those with color vision deficiencies? Is the typography legible?

  5. Provide constructive feedback: Based on the evaluation, provide constructive feedback to the artist. The feedback should be specific and actionable. For example, instead of saying, "I don't like the color," provide feedback on how the color could be improved.


Rubric for Providing Feedback to Artists


Providing feedback to artists can be challenging, especially for scientists who may not be trained in art or design. A rubric can help provide a structured framework for feedback. Here is a rubric that scientists can use to provide feedback to artists:


Criteria

Feedback

Goal

Does the artwork effectively convey the primary message? Is the target audience clear?

Visual Elements

Do the color, composition, typography, and imagery enhance the message and engage the audience?

​Scientific Accuracy

Is the scientific information represented accurately? Are the labels and annotations correct?

Accessibility

​Is the artwork accessible to a broader audience, including those with visual impairments?

Actionable Feedback (Review your answers)

Is the feedback specific and actionable? Does it provide suggestions for improvement?​

Using this rubric, scientists who may feel uncomfortable evaluating visuals provide constructive feedback to artists, helping them improve their artwork for visual science communication.


In conclusion, effective visual science communication requires collaboration between scientists and artists. By understanding the process of critiquing artwork and leveraging this rubric for feedback, scientists collaborate with artists to create inspiring artwork.


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