Friday, September 16, 2011

Teaching Visual Strategies for Learning

Here is our dilemma - we know we should be teaching students skills in visual thinking but we have little training in this area and, frankly, we just like "Art". "Visual Communication" bores us to tears. It all seems so "scientific" and not very creative. We can even convince ourselves that this will in some way actually do harm to a student's tender psyche and destroy their humanity.

It's time to suck it up. Students need to learn visual literacy including visual communication, design, and visual culture as well as visual art. We can no longer justify only providing a portion of a complete visual curriculum to our students. Imagine if English teachers only taught poetry.

There is a book coming out in April 2012 called Visual Strategies: A Practical Guide to Graphics for Scientists and Engineers by Felice Frankel and Angela DePace.

The prepublication description from Yale University Press says,
"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.

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."

Click on the heading above to read what design writer Steven Heller says about the book.

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