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The Study of Life

For my last quarter as a visual communication design student, we were each to design and create a project entirely of our own choosing. I was very excited about this. I wanted to help students learn complex scientific concepts in a way that made them feel both capable and excited for their own futures.

Opportunities

Process

I started by examining several textbooks. Quickly I realized I was becoming very preoccupied by the photos and diagrams alongside the text-filled pages. The imagery pulled me in, but once it had my attention, I was often distracted by its chaotically arranged elements: labels and lines crowded the white space, while arrows galore attempted to illustrate a sequential biochemical process all in one go.

I wanted the lessons feel as applicable to real life as possible from a student’s perspective. As I curated the content to include, I also developed and collected additional materials that related to actual scientific happenings and practices, beyond the established findings and theories that made up the main lesson. I organized this supplementary information into five categories, including advice about careers in the sciences and articles about the latest discoveries (which could theoretically be switched out for newer findings with software updates to the book).

I searched public databases for images and videos to include, and created illustrations to include alongside the content. The tricky part was getting the pacing down: to avoid having several pages of text with few images, or vice versa.

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I made rearrangeable Post It notes to represent each image and chunk of content, so that I could easily experiment with the pacing.

I wanted to embrace the interactivity afforded from making a book available on-screen. [Beyond videos and slideshows, I looked for ways the reader could control the on-screen behavior to truly interact with the content.] The way cells move with cilia and flagella particularly lent itself to user-controlled interactivity.

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The user can swipe to control the speed of the animation, allowing them to more closely examine the cell’s method for movement.

After identifying the gestures required by each interactive element, I explored how to style them: I wanted each action to be clear, but also for the icons’ styles to fit together cohesively.