Gill met with Barbara to review the creation of the conceptual figure to visualise dopamine synthesis.
Please note that, in all of the figures shown here, text is replaced by boxes (of the same colour as the text) to maintain confidentiality, as the final figure has yet to be published.
The process to create the figure was started during a initial meeting with Barbara and Mattia (documented in this blog post) to determine which visual elements would be required, based on a review of existing conceptual figures that depict dopamine synthesis. Two of these figures were provided to Gill as examples, and Barbara had produced her own figure to use in a presenattion, which in turn was based on an existing figure published in a Nature journal. Based on all of this information, Gill produced the visual elements shown below (documented in this blog post).
Gill also produced an initial figure, shown below, that could be used as a starting point for the next meeting.
Gill then met with Barbara to show how this figure could be edited and revised, to give that result that Barbara wanted. That meeting is documented in this blog post and the figure that was arrived at be the end of the meeting is shown below:
The Adobe Illustrator files used to create this figure were then left with Barbara for two months, so that she could edit the figure as required. The resulting ‘final’ figure is shown below:
Although this figure appears very similar to the previous version, there are a number of significant differences.
- Barbara had rearranged the layers within Illustrator so that each of the processes shown in the figure, and highlighted by the use of colour, are on separate layers. Not only does this make it easier to ‘switch-off’ an entire process by making its layer invisible, Barbara found that the act of separating out the processes into layers made her think more about how these processes could be defined and described. Having created the layers, she then found it easier to explain how the figure worked.
- In the previous meeting, the grey visual elements had been lightened, and outlines removed, to make them less obtrusive. Barbara also changed the text describing these elements to grey, to distinguish it from the black and red text that describes the processes. The positions of the elements were adjusted slightly, to ensure there was sufficient space for text and annotation, and additional dopamine molecules, and another pre-synaptic vesicle, were added. As the background elements are all on separate layers, any adjustments can be easily made without affecting any text or annotation.
- It has not been necessary to include a figure key for this figure and the overall appearance of the figure is less ‘cluttered’ than the previous version. This is achieved by many small adjustments to the positioning of text boxes relative to other elements.
- The ‘left to right / clockwise’ flow of the figure makes it relatively easy to follow, despite the complexity of the information it contains. Compared to the two figures reviewed in the initial meeting, it is certainly easier to read and Barbara and Mattia had received positive feedback when they showed the figure to their research group.
Overall, Barbara found the experience of creating the figure in Illustrator a positive one and she will continue to use the software, as she now has her own Illustrator licence. With a little practice, she should be able to create her own visual elements, or edit those elements that are already available in the image library. Barbara will use this figure in presentations as well as for a journal article, but at this stage she doesn’t see the need to edit the figure for use in a presentation – it should work well as it is.