How design can make science captivating | by Louis Charron | Jan, 2024


Turning complex systems into enjoyable experiences is a challenge facing many industries. And most have realized design could help solve it. There are occurrences of solutions all over design: navigation patterns in UX design, data visualization in visual design, affordances in industrial design, or emergent gameplay in game design. But there is a space which hasn’t yet fully turned to design to help solve this issue: science.

Science is probably our most complex system. And making science more accessible, understandable and enjoyable could have a huge impact on all of our lives.

So how do we communicate science’s complex concepts and ideas to broad audiences? How do we get people to care about science? Let’s look at it from the point of view of design.

It takes two to share science. So our first step is to understand our audience and its motivations. Why are people reading, listening, or watching science related content? Why are non-scientists interested in science in the first place?

A group of researchers asked 2590 adults in the US in 2021: people pursue an interest in science first to spark their imagination and sense of wonder, and second to gain new knowledge or skills. These answers should guide us. Curiosity and the desire for knowledge are our best ways to get to our audience. When provoked, they are great sources of motivation.

So what is stopping people from getting engaged with science? From the same study, four barriers emerged: logistics “I don’t have time”, value proposition “this is boring”, belonging “I don’t feel welcome”, and identity “I can’t relate” (in italics these are my words). Once again, we can learn from these answers. To communicate science to broad audiences we need to make sure to not waste people’s time, to not be boring, to make everyone’s comfortable, and to communicate ideas from diverse points of view.

Overall we need to remember that however complex ideas are, we are communicating them to other humans.


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