Tuesday, October 21, 2014

10 Simple Rules for Better Figures

In the September 2014 issue of PLoS Computational Biology there is an excellent brief tutorial article titled Ten Simple Rules for Better Figures by Nicholas P. Rougier, Michael Droettboom, and Philip E. Bourne. You can read it here.

Their rules are:

1. Know Your Audience

2. Identify Your Message

3. Adapt the Figure to the Support Medium

4. Captions Are Not Optional

5. Do Not Trust The Defaults

6. Use Color Effectively

7. Do Not Mislead the Reader

8. Avoid “Chartjunk”

9. Message Trumps Beauty

10. Get the Right Tool

Their discussion on how to use color effectively references another article (Ref. 6) by Okabe and Ito titled Color Universal Design (CUD) - How to make figures and presentations that are friendly to colorblind people.

Before today I never had heard of PLoS Computational Biology. How did I find that article then? I went to the wonderful PubMed Central (PMC) full-text free magazine article database, and did a search on the key word storytelling. Then I changed the Display Settings to sort the results by Electronic Pub (publication) Date, and reveal the most recent articles. 

The image of a drawing class in 1916 came from the photo collection at the Library of Congress.

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