NAC SETAC 24th Annual Meeting
Short Course: Creating Effective Graphics for
Instructor: Kevin Bonham, Ph.D.
Short Course Date: Monday, May 21, 2018 (8 a.m. – 5 p.m.)
Location: University of New Hampshire Durham Campus Conference Center
Communicating complex scientific ideas in words alone is often challenging, especially when the target
audience does not come with an understanding of the data’s fundamental background. Well-crafted
images, illustrations, and graphics are essential tools for communicating scientific information that will
supplement chemical and biological data. Yet scientists rarely receive any training in visual arts.
This short course provides an introduction to the creation of effective, high-quality vector images for use in
scientific presentations and publications through a combination of lectures, discussions and hands-on
workshops. In addition to discussing the aesthetics of effective graphics, the workshop will include an
introduction to the use of Adobe Illustrator for creating graphics.
Creating effective figures starts with an understanding the visual elements of a graphic. Some elements
such as color, line weight, and font can be used to communicate a great deal of meaning, but overuse or
excessive variation in visual elements can be distracting or misleading. Even as visual elements are
understood, avoiding overuse in our own work can be challenging. This one-day course is designed to help
scientists identify and avoid these pitfalls when generating figures. Students are encouraged to bring ideas
or data (e.g., on a thumb drive) that could potentially be used as examples during the workshop.
After successfully completing this workshop, participants will be able to:
● Identify graphic elements that are distracting or irrelevant in published figures.
● Compare visual elements (such as color, weight, and positioning) that communicate meaning.
● Use vector-editing software to modify and improve existing figures generated using other software.
●Create a vector illustration from scratch modeled on a hand-drawn sketch.
About the instructor
Kevin Bonham received his PhD in immunology from Harvard in 2014, and is currently a computational
biologist at the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT. Not satisfied with using PowerPoint to make scientific
figures in graduate school, Kevin watched hours of YouTube tutorials about drawing strawberries and
advertising logos to learn how to use Adobe illustrator. Dr. Bonham became the go-to figure creator in his
department. To ensure no scientist would have to go through the same torment, he created a series of
YouTube tutorials specifically tailored to the tools that scientists need.