Designing Instructional Science Visualizations in the Trenches: Where Research Meets Production Reality

  • Gaël G. McGill


Research-based design methods for dynamic visualizations can be successfully implemented in practice only if they take into consideration the pressures of ‘real world’ projects and integrate the vagaries of client-designer communications. One must take into account both the complicated power dynamics and numerous variables inherent to the relationship and dialogue between those who commission or control the creation of instructional media and those who produce it. From a researcher’s standpoint, there are myriad opportunities with which studies in human perception, cognitive psychology and educational research can inform and improve the design of dynamic visualizations. Despite these opportunities, however, designers do not always know or are not always able to leverage relevant aspects of perceptual and cognitive psychology (i.e., how the human visual system works and its relationship to thinking/learning processes) as part of their efforts to satisfy a client’s design preferences and meet stated learning objectives. In this chapter, I introduce both idealized and more realistic models for the designer-client relationship to consider the major variables that interfere with learning objective-driven design. I discuss these variables in the context of both the client- and designer-related disruptions through the use of examples drawn from recent production projects in the life sciences. Variables that transcend the designer-client divide are also addressed. In conclusion, specific strategies for integrating this knowledge within the context of effective instructional visualization design are presented.


Learning Objective Learning Module Design Thinking Instructional Medium Dynamic Visualization 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



I wish to thank members of both my collaborative academic team at Harvard Medical School and the University of Toronto, as well as members of my Digizyme team who were involved in creating many of the examples shown in this chapter. Funding in support of some of the research activities was provided by the NSF and NASA.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Harvard Medical School & Digizyme Inc.BrooklineUSA

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