The visual side of science— how concepts and processes are communicated to the average person— is a vital component of the field. Written text is, of course, often the place to start when one professional scientist communicates ideas to another. But in order to visualize a process or a physical object, even professionals must use diagrams and images.
Each of the TED Talks had slides or a video to accompany them for a reason. Beyond simply visually engaging the audience, a successful image or series of images enhances a talk or has the potential to muddle it. “What Humans Will Look Like in 100 Years” had spectacular, engaging slides to accompany spoken words. When Juan Enriquez spoke about an image he was showing, he could not have described it and made the audience truly understand the scope. For example:
Imagine a slightly grainy image, and a speck in the distance. The tiny speck is Earth.
That doesn’t have quite the impact of the visual he used, which is below.
But take, for example, the editing and visual decisions of “Conception to Birth”. While the video is interesting, the portrayal of the fetus is constantly changing. The “camera” angle, the moving text, and the rapid switching between showing different combinations of systems makes the visualization of fetal development harder to follow than it should be. The following images are very close together in the video, yet they have completely different styles.
It would be great if such design choices did not affect the communication in the video, but the truth is that they make the video almost impossible to fully follow, and distracts greatly from the content. Science does not happen in a bubble, and neither does art. In order to communicate ideas, design and art are key. Particularly in disciplines like Biology where complex physical systems must come to life on paper, the quality of visual design choices can make a concept clear, or muddle it beyond recognition.