InfoViz – function before form

An audio slideshow on the BBC News website caught my eye. It describes a selection of photos that made it into the Wellcome Image Awards, and is nicely narrated by the head of Wellcome Images, Catherine Draycott.

Confocal micrograph of cell division

Confocal micrograph of cell division in a cress seedling

Apart from the stunning imagery (and it really is amazing!), I was impressed by something that the narrator said:

“[The images] look beautiful, but they are not art… They are striking, aesthetically, but they weren’t created to be so”

These images are visualizations of complex biological structures or concepts, in the same way that visualizations of giant biological datasets are. Yes, they may be beautiful to look at, but function comes before form. They are a powerful communication tool, and their aesthetic value, while important, is secondary. I thought it was interesting to have that reiterated here.

Anyway, if you haven’t already seen this slideshow, please enjoy!

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