Martin Krzywinski / Canada's Michael Smith Genome Sciences Centre / mkweb.bcgsc.ca Martin Krzywinski / Canada's Michael Smith Genome Sciences Centre / mkweb.bcgsc.ca - contact me Martin Krzywinski / Canada's Michael Smith Genome Sciences Centre / mkweb.bcgsc.ca on Twitter Martin Krzywinski / Canada's Michael Smith Genome Sciences Centre / mkweb.bcgsc.ca - Lumondo Photography Martin Krzywinski / Canada's Michael Smith Genome Sciences Centre / mkweb.bcgsc.ca - Pi Art Martin Krzywinski / Canada's Michael Smith Genome Sciences Centre / mkweb.bcgsc.ca - Hilbertonians - Creatures on the Hilbert CurveMartin Krzywinski / Canada's Michael Smith Genome Sciences Centre / mkweb.bcgsc.ca - Pi Day 2020 - Piku
This love's a nameless dream.Cocteau Twinstry to figure it outmore quotes

understanding: FTW


PNAS Cover: Earth BioGenome Project


data visualization + art

Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
To view the art you'll need a pair of red-blue 3D glasses.
The data will stand out—and you will too.

BD Genomics stereoscopic art exhibit — AGBT 2017

Art is science in love.
— E.F. Weisslitz

BD Genomics 3D art exhibit - AGBT 2017 / Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
Our art exhibit at AGBT 2017 asked new school questions in old school ways.
BD Genomics 3D art exhibit - AGBT 2017 / Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca

the art of storytelling in science

BD Genomics 3D art exhibit - AGBT 2017 / Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
Instead of 'explain, not merely show,' seek to 'narrate, not merely explain.' Krzywinski M & Cairo A (2013) Points of View: Storytelling. Nat. Methods 10:687.

Science cannot move forward without storytelling. While we learn about the world and its patterns through science, it is through stories that we can organize and sort through the observations and conclusions that drive the generation of scientific hypotheses.

With Alberto Cairo, I've written about the importance of storytelling as a tool to explain and narrate in Storytelling (2013) Nat. Methods 10:687. There we suggest that instead of "explain, not merely show," you should seek to "narrate, not merely explain."

Our account received support (Should scientists tell stories. (2013) Nat. Methods 10:1037) but not from all (Against storytelling of scientific results. (2013) Nat. Methods 10:1045).

A good science story must present facts and conclusions within a hierarchy—a bag of unsorted observations isn't likely to engage your readers. But while a story must always inform, it should also delight (as much as possible), and inspire. It should make the complexity of the problem accessible—or, at least, approachable—without simplifications that preclude insight into how concepts connect (they always do).

the story of making science stories

Just like science, explaining science is a process—one that can be more vexing than the science itself!

In science one tries to tell people, in such a way as to be understood by everyone, something that no one ever knew before. But in poetry, it’s the exact opposite.
—Paul Dirac, Mathematical Circles Adieu by H. Eves [quoted]

I have previously written about the process of taking a scientific statement (Creating Scientific American Graphic Science graphics) and turning it into a data visualization or, more broadly, visual story.

BD Genomics 3D art exhibit - AGBT 2017 / Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
December 2015. Composition of bacteria in household dust.
BD Genomics 3D art exhibit - AGBT 2017 / Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
June 2015. Relationship between genes and traits.
BD Genomics 3D art exhibit - AGBT 2017 / Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
September 2014. Similarity of human, Denisovan, chimp, bonobo, and gorilla genomes.

The process of the creation of one of these visual stories is itself a story. A story about how the genome is not a blueprint, a discovery of Hilbertonians, which are creatures that live on the Hilbert curve, how algorithms for protein folding can be used to generate art based on the digits of `\pi`, or how we can make human genome art by humans with genomes. I've also written about my design process in creating the cover for Genome Research and the cover of PNAS. As always, not everything works out all the time—read about the EMBO Journal covers that never made it.

BD Genomics 3D art exhibit - AGBT 2017 / Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
Cover image accompanying our article on mouse vasculature development. Biology turns astrophysical. PNAS 1 May 2012; 109 (18)
BD Genomics 3D art exhibit - AGBT 2017 / Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
Cover image accompanying Spark: A navigational paradigm for genomic data exploration. Genome Research 22 (11).
BD Genomics 3D art exhibit - AGBT 2017 / Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
Pi Day 2014 poster | 132 paths with E=-23 of 64 digits of Pi, sorted by aspect ratio.

Here, I'd like to walk you through the process and sketches of creating a story based on the idea of differences in data and how the story can be used to understand the function of cells and disease.

the difference is in the differences

The visual story is a creative collaboration with Becton Dickinson and The Linus Group and its creation began with the concept of differences. The art was on display at AGBT 2017 conference and accompanies BD's launch of the Resolve platform and "Difference of One in Genomics".

Starting with the idea of the "difference of one", our goal was to create artistic representations of data sets generated using the BD Resolve platform, which generates single-cell transcriptomes, that captured a variety of differences that are relevant in genomics research.

The data art pieces were installed in a gallery style, with data visualization and artistic expression in equal parts.

The art itself is an old school take on virtual reality. Unlike modern VR, which isolates the participants from one another, we chose a low-tech route that not only brings the audience closer to the data but also to each other.

data in the art

The data were generated using the BD Resolve single-cell transcriptomics platform. For each of the three art pieces, we identified a data set that captured a variety of differences.

  1. disease onset—how does gene expression in tumor cells differ from normal cells?
  2. disease progression—as a tumor grows and spreads, how does expression change?
  3. background variation—how does gene expression change between normal cells that perform a different function?
BD Genomics 3D art exhibit - AGBT 2017 / Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca

The real surprise and insight is in difference that ultimately advance our thinking (Data visualization: amgibuity as a fellow traveller. (2013) Nat. Methods 10:613-615).

Figuring out which differences are of this kind requires that instead of "What's new?" we ask "What's different?"

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news + thoughts

Cancer Cell cover

Sat 23-04-2022

My cover design on the 11 April 2022 Cancer Cell issue depicts depicts cellular heterogeneity as a kaleidoscope generated from immunofluorescence staining of the glial and neuronal markers MBP and NeuN (respectively) in a GBM patient-derived explant.

LeBlanc VG et al. Single-cell landscapes of primary glioblastomas and matched explants and cell lines show variable retention of inter- and intratumor heterogeneity (2022) Cancer Cell 40:379–392.E9.

Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
My Cancer Cell kaleidoscope cover (volume 40, issue 4, 11 April 2022). (more)

Browse my gallery of cover designs.

Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
A catalogue of my journal and magazine cover designs. (more)

Nature Biotechnology cover

Sat 23-04-2022

My cover design on the 4 April 2022 Nature Biotechnology issue is an impression of a phylogenetic tree of over 200 million sequences.

Konno N et al. Deep distributed computing to reconstruct extremely large lineage trees (2022) Nature Biotechnology 40:566–575.

Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
My Nature Biotechnology phylogenetic tree cover (volume 40, issue 4, 4 April 2022). (more)

Browse my gallery of cover designs.

Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
A catalogue of my journal and magazine cover designs. (more)

Nature cover — Gene Genie

Sat 23-04-2022

My cover design on the 17 March 2022 Nature issue depicts the evolutionary properties of sequences at the extremes of the evolvability spectrum.

Vaishnav ED et al. The evolution, evolvability and engineering of gene regulatory DNA (2022) Nature 603:455–463.

Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
My Nature squiggles cover (volume 603, issue 7901, 17 March 2022). (more)

Browse my gallery of cover designs.

Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
A catalogue of my journal and magazine cover designs. (more)

Happy 2022 `\pi` Day—
three one four: a number of notes

Mon 14-03-2022

Celebrate `\pi` Day (March 14th) and finally hear what you've been missing.

“three one four: a number of notes” is a musical exploration of how we think about mathematics and how we feel about mathematics. It tells stories from the very beginning (314…) to the very (known) end of π (...264) as well as math (Wallis Product) and math jokes (Feynman Point), repetition (nn) and zeroes (null).

Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
Listen to `\pi` in the style of 20th century classical music. (details)

The album is scored for solo piano in the style of 20th century classical music – each piece has a distinct personality, drawn from styles of Boulez, Feldman, Glass, Ligeti, Monk, and Satie.

Each piece is accompanied by a piku (or πku), a poem whose syllable count is determined by a specific sequence of digits from π.

Check out art from previous years: 2013 `\pi` Day and 2014 `\pi` Day, 2015 `\pi` Day, 2016 `\pi` Day, 2017 `\pi` Day, 2018 `\pi` Day, 2019 `\pi` Day, 2020 `\pi` Day and 2021 `\pi` Day.

PNAS Cover — Earth BioGenome Project

Fri 28-01-2022

My design appears on the 25 January 2022 PNAS issue.

Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
My PNAS cover design captures the vision of the Earth BioGenome Project — to sequence everything. (more)

The cover shows a view of Earth that captures the vision of the Earth BioGenome Project — understanding and conserving genetic diversity on a global scale. Continents from the Authagraph projection, which preserves areas and shapes, are represented as a double helix of 32,111 bases. Short sequences of 806 unique species, sequenced as part of EBP-affiliated projects, are mapped onto the double helix of the continent (or ocean) where the species is commonly found. The length of the sequence is the same for each species on a continent (or ocean) and the sequences are separated by short gaps. Individual bases of the sequence are colored by dots. Species appear along the path in alphabetical order (by Latin name) and the first base of the first species is identified by a small black triangle.

Lewin HA et al. The Earth BioGenome Project 2020: Starting the clock. (2022) PNAS 119(4) e2115635118.

The COVID charts — hospitalization rates

Tue 25-01-2022

As part of the COVID Charts series, I fix a muddled and storyless graphic tweeted by Adrian Dix, Canada's Health Minister.

I show you how to fix color schemes to make them colorblind-accessible and effective in revealing patters, how to reduce redundancy in labels (a key but overlooked part of many visualizations) and how to extract a story out of a table to frame the narrative.

Browse all the COVID charts.

Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
Clear titles introduce the graphic, which starts with informative and non-obvious observations of the relationship between age, number of comorbidities, vaccination status and hospitalization rates. Supporting the story is a tidy table that gives you detailed statistics for each demographic. (more)