I had two experiences this week that got me thinking about the potential benefits of scientists working with designers. First was when I received the proofs of an evaluation report that I’d written – since the report was to be given out to the community partners with whom the program works, it was sent to a designer to take my lowly MSWord document to spruce it up a bit. What I thought would just be an “OK, that looks nice” kind of decision, actually resulted in a fairly long conversation about how presenting the information in different ways might be, or not be, appropriate to the actual findings of the report. It got me thinking about how through all of our talk about the communication of science to broad audiences, one thing I hadn’t thought about before was the importance of design in communication. My sister is a graphic designer, so I’ve learned that design is about a lot more than making things look pretty – it is, in part, about communicating ideas in a way that makes sense to your audience.
Shortly after that, I was working on a logic model and was struggling with finding a way to convey a key piece of information in the model. I’d drawn up something that made sense to me, but when I’d shown it to others, it was clear that the concept I was trying to convey was not getting across. So I called up my sister for help. Using her knowledge and skills at communicating ideas visually, she was able to help me design something that worked. And it again got me to thinking: we’ve talked here before about the importance of being able to communicate scientific ideas clearly, but I’d never really thought about designers as part of that equation. I’ve done a fair bit of work around the idea of multi-/inter-/transdisciplinarity, looking at how to get, for example, neuroscientists, epidemiologists, sociologists, health care providers and policymakers to work together, but I’ve never thought of including designers in that list of disciplines.
These thoughts are pretty embryonic at this stage, but I’m curious to see if any scientists have done work with designers to convey their scientific ideas? Or if you have any other thoughts on the topic?