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Scientific graphical abstracts — design guidelines


data visualization + art

Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
The BC Cancer Agency’s Personalized Oncogenomics Program (POG) is a clinical research initiative applying genomic sequencing to the diagnosis and treatment of patients with incurable cancers.

Art of the Personalized Oncogenomics Program

Nature uses only the longest threads to weave her patterns, so that each small piece of her fabric reveals the organization of the entire tapestry.
— Richard Feynman

A poet is, after all, a sort of scientist, but engaged in a qualitative science in which nothing is measurable. He lives with data that cannot be numbered, and his experiments can be done only once. The information in a poem is, by definition, not reproducible. He becomes an equivalent of scientist, in the act of examining and sorting the things popping in [to his head], finding the marks of remote similarity, points of distant relationship, tiny irregularities that indicate that this one is really the same as that one over there only more important. Gauging the fit, he can meticulously place pieces of the universe together, in geometric configurations that are as beautiful and balanced as crystals.
— Lewis Thomas (The Medusa and the Snail: More Notes of a Biology Watcher)

I've prepared posters in three popular size formats: 11" × 14", 50 cm × 50 cm and 50 cm × 70 cm.

All artwork is available in PDF and PNG format. Click on the button on the top-right of the image to download these files. All files include 1/8" bleed. For printing, use the PDFs.

The PNG bitmap is provided for convenience and rastered at 600 dpi with 1/8" bleed (75 pixel margin on all sides). For example, the 11" × 14" bitmap has width 11.25 × 600 = 6,750 and height 14.25 × 600 = 8,550.

An explanation of how these images were generated, along with a printable legend, is available in the Methods section.

11" × 14" posters

These posters are designed to fit a standard 11" × 14" frame.


 / Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
5 Years of Personalized Oncogenomics Project at Canada's Michael Smith Genome Sciences Centre. The poster shows 545 cancer cases. Cases ordered chronologically by case number. (zoom)

 / Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
5 Years of Personalized Oncogenomics Project at Canada's Michael Smith Genome Sciences Centre. The poster shows 545 cancer cases. Cases grouped by diagnosis (tissue type) and then by similarity within group. (zoom)

50 cm × 70 cm posters

These posters are fit to 50 cm × 70 cm and fit into inexpensive Strömby frames at IKEA.

The bigmap is 600 dpi (artboard 11,811 × 16,535 pixels) with 1/8" bleed (75 pixel margin on all sides).


 / Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
5 Years of Personalized Oncogenomics Project at Canada's Michael Smith Genome Sciences Centre. The poster shows 545 cancer cases. Cases ordered chronologically by case number. (zoom)

 / Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
5 Years of Personalized Oncogenomics Project at Canada's Michael Smith Genome Sciences Centre. The poster shows 545 cancer cases. Cases grouped by diagnosis (tissue type) and then by similarity within group. (zoom)

50 cm × 50 cm posters

These posters are fit to 50 cm × 50 cm and fit into inexpensive Strömby frames at IKEA.

You can print this poster to any square frame but keep in mind that if you shrink it down too much, the text may not be legible. At size, the text is 6.7 pt, which can be read comfortably. I would avoid printing the poster smaller than 30 cm × 30cm, which would have text of 4 pt in size.

The bigmap is 600 dpi (artboard 11,811 × 16,535 pixels) with 1/8" bleed (75 pixel margin on all sides).


 / Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
5 Years of Personalized Oncogenomics Project at Canada's Michael Smith Genome Sciences Centre. The poster shows 545 cancer cases. Cases ordered chronologically by case number. (zoom)

 / Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
5 Years of Personalized Oncogenomics Project at Canada's Michael Smith Genome Sciences Centre. The poster shows 545 cancer cases. Cases grouped by diagnosis (tissue type) and then by similarity within group. (zoom)

4" × 6" postcard

This is the standard postcard size. The bitmap is 600 dpi (artboard 2,400 × 3,600 pixels) with 1/8" bleed (75 pixel margin on all sides).


 / Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
5 Years of Personalized Oncogenomics Project at Canada's Michael Smith Genome Sciences Centre. The poster shows 545 cancer cases. (zoom)

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news + thoughts

Graphical Abstract Design Guidelines

Fri 13-11-2020

Clear, concise, legible and compelling.

Making a scientific graphical abstract? Refer to my practical design guidelines and redesign examples to improve organization, design and clarity of your graphical abstracts.

Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
Graphical Abstract Design Guidelines — Clear, concise, legible and compelling.

"This data might give you a migrane"

Tue 06-10-2020

An in-depth look at my process of reacting to a bad figure — how I design a poster and tell data stories.

Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
A poster of high BMI and obesity prevalence for 185 countries.

He said, he said — a word analysis of the 2020 Presidential Debates

Thu 01-10-2020

Building on the method I used to analyze the 2008, 2012 and 2016 U.S. Presidential and Vice Presidential debates, I explore word usagein the 2020 Debates between Donald Trump and Joe Biden.

Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
Analysis of word usage by parts of speech for Trump and Biden reveals insight into each candidate.

Points of Significance celebrates 50th column

Mon 24-08-2020

We are celebrating the publication of our 50th column!

To all our coauthors — thank you and see you in the next column!

Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
Nature Methods Points of Significance: Celebrating 50 columns of clear explanations of statistics. (read)

Uncertainty and the management of epidemics

Mon 24-08-2020

When modelling epidemics, some uncertainties matter more than others.

Public health policy is always hampered by uncertainty. During a novel outbreak, nearly everything will be uncertain: the mode of transmission, the duration and population variability of latency, infection and protective immunity and, critically, whether the outbreak will fade out or turn into a major epidemic.

The uncertainty may be structural (which model?), parametric (what is `R_0`?), and/or operational (how well do masks work?).

This month, we continue our exploration of epidemiological models and look at how uncertainty affects forecasts of disease dynamics and optimization of intervention strategies.

Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
Nature Methods Points of Significance column: Uncertainty and the management of epidemics. (read)

We show how the impact of the uncertainty on any choice in strategy can be expressed using the Expected Value of Perfect Information (EVPI), which is the potential improvement in outcomes that could be obtained if the uncertainty is resolved before making a decision on the intervention strategy. In other words, by how much could we potentially increase effectiveness of our choice (e.g. lowering total disease burden) if we knew which model best reflects reality?

This column has an interactive supplemental component (download code) that allows you to explore the impact of uncertainty in `R_0` and immunity duration on timing and size of epidemic waves and the total burden of the outbreak and calculate EVPI for various outbreak models and scenarios.

Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
Nature Methods Points of Significance column: Uncertainty and the management of epidemics. (Interactive supplemental materials)

Bjørnstad, O.N., Shea, K., Krzywinski, M. & Altman, N. (2020) Points of significance: Uncertainty and the management of epidemics. Nature Methods 17.

Background reading

Bjørnstad, O.N., Shea, K., Krzywinski, M. & Altman, N. (2020) Points of significance: Modeling infectious epidemics. Nature Methods 17:455–456.

Bjørnstad, O.N., Shea, K., Krzywinski, M. & Altman, N. (2020) Points of significance: The SEIRS model for infectious disease dynamics. Nature Methods 17:557–558.

Cover of Nature Genetics August 2020

Mon 03-08-2020

Our design on the cover of Nature Genetics's August 2020 issue is “Dichotomy of Chromatin in Color” . Thanks to Dr. Andy Mungall for suggesting this terrific title.

Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
Dichotomy of Chromatin in Color. Nature Genetics, August 2020 issue. (read more)

The cover design accompanies our report in the issue Gagliardi, A., Porter, V.L., Zong, Z. et al. (2020) Analysis of Ugandan cervical carcinomas identifies human papillomavirus clade–specific epigenome and transcriptome landscapes. Nature Genetics 52:800–810.