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Top 10 Tips for Designing Graphical Abstracts

Written by Scribendi


Now that we have discussed reasons to include science figures in your research paper, let us look at what to keep in mind while designing them. 

Here are our top 10 tips for designing graphical abstracts.

1. Define the Type of Graphical Abstract

A graphical abstract can be designed in many ways. Based on your approach, your final graphical abstract will embody the style and aesthetic that you define for it.

When you start designing your abstract, define the type at the very beginning. This will help you come up with an authentic design that will work best for your purpose. 

What are the different types of graphical abstract, you ask? We have a handy list to answer that very question:

  1. Diagram: This type of abstract comprises diagrams and technical language and is often used in journals dedicated to chemistry. 

  2. Visual Abstract: This type of abstract comprises a title, some visuals, key data, and a visual icon. 

  3. Infographic: This type of abstract highlights visuals and tends to use less text. 

  4. Comic: This type of abstract mixes attractive visuals with humor and supporting text to convey key ideas. 

When choosing the best type of graphical abstract for your paper, keep your audience in mind. Are they experts? Laypeople? Somewhere in between? Knowing your audience can help you choose the best type of graphical abstract design to clearly and concisely convey information. 

2. Use the Right Tools to Create Your Graphical Abstract

Once you have chosen a type of graphical abstract, the next step is to find the right tool to design it. You will need a tool that allows you to intuitively seek shapes and graphics that are appropriate to your subject matter. Since it is not possible for every researcher or student to access professional software such as CorelDraw and Photoshop, finding a worthy alternative is imperative.

Mind the Graph offers a user-friendly graphical abstract maker that can help you create aesthetically pleasing and scientifically accurate graphical abstracts in just a few clicks. This online tool's interface combines the prowess of professional graphic design software with the ease of use to give students and researchers creative freedom.

NOTE: All graphical abstracts in this article were created using Mind The Graph.

3. Focus on the Objective of Your Graphical Abstract

While a graphical abstract is an element that you add to your completed research paper, it is not separate from it. When you are designing your graphical abstract, remember to highlight the objectives that you set out to achieve in your paper.

The objectives of your paper should be the driving force behind your graphical abstract. Focusing on your paper's objectives will help to ensure that your graphical abstract works and aligns with the content of your research paper. That means ensuring that the core message, important points, and results are present and easily visible in your graphical abstract. 

Graphical Abstract Objective Example

4. Highlight the Core Message of Your Graphical Abstract

The primary purpose of a graphical abstract is to effectively communicate the core message and primary points of a research paper to its viewers. Every research paper sets out with a predefined purpose and a core message to communicate.

When you are creating your graphical abstract, highlighting the core message through graphical elements is important. Graphical elements can include colorful shapes, illustrations, arrows, banners, clip art, and artistic graphic text. You can highlight the core message by tweaking the size, style, colors, and spacing of the elements in your graphical abstract.

Graphical Abstract Elements Example

5. Show the Results of Your Research

During the process of creating your research paper, your instructor or thesis advisor probably emphasized the importance of using the right methodology and highlighted that strong research is key. However, when it comes to graphical abstracts, the results take the cake.

Remember how crucial highlighting important points is to creating an effective graphical abstract? Well, the results of your research constitute one of the most important points. Results should always be included in a graphical abstract. 

Since the results section of your paper discusses the key findings, it is likely to encourage people to read the rest of your paper. The same principle applies to your graphical abstract. 

Graphical Abstract Results Example

6. Implement Text Wisely in Your Graphical Abstract

Contrary to popular belief, having a lot to say about a topic does not necessarily make you look wise and intelligent. In fact, the most knowledgeable people often use words quite sparingly—in both written and oral communication. 

When creating a graphical abstract, you will want to put your best foot forward and you may (understandably!) get carried away and become too wordy. To be more effective, take proactive steps to avoid this.

Use only words that you think would add value to your abstract. Lower text density can make your graphical abstract more easily readable, which can translate into higher engagement. Also, be sure to follow the rules for effective academic writing.

Graphical Abstract Low-Text Volume Example 1

7. Use Simple Labels in Your Graphical Abstract

Always remember the famous K-I-S-S (Keep it Simple, Silly) principle that is followed just as often in academic writing as in copywriting. The labels on your graphical abstract should be able to communicate an idea even to readers with no additional context.

Here is an example of a published graphical abstract that highlights important information using labels.

Graphical Abstract Conclusions Example

8. Declutter Your Graphical Abstract

No one likes clutter, especially not in an infographic or image that is supposed to educate them. It slows down the reader's processing speed and breaks the flow of the graphical abstract.

This is why having a clear, decluttered design is critical. It is natural to feel that many of the points in the paper that you put together with so much perseverance should be included in the graphical abstract. However, the real skill is knowing that some points are more important and that others, unfortunately, will not make the cut.

Here is an example of a graphical abstract that highlights the core findings to sum up the message of a research paper.

Graphical Abstract Low-Text Volume Example 2

9. Make Your Graphical Abstract Minimalistic

Creating a unique and attractive design along with the textual elements is crucial, and it is definitely easy to go overboard with visual elements. The smart way to go about designing a graphical abstract is to achieve a balance between the information and the visual elements.

Minimalism is often described as "vanilla," but the reality is that minimalism has a lot to do with maintaining the most essential elements and letting go of the rest. This philosophy can work wonders for your design and ensure that your graphic abstract is uncluttered, simple, and easy to understand. 

Here is a great example that demonstrates minimalism.

Graphical Abstract Minimalist Example

Use simple elements and space them adequately while minimizing any extra text or descriptions to achieve minimalism in your graphical abstract.

10. Make the Right Color Choices for Your Graphical Abstract

When you are designing your graphical abstract, you will want to maximize its impact. One proven way to do this is by using the right colors.

Bright, bold colors are always a great choice for highlighting important elements and data in graphical abstracts. You can even use gradients to add extra detailing to the data that you want your reader to specifically engage with.

If you use dull colors or ones that merge into the background, there is a high chance that those specific parts or elements will either be overlooked or skimmed.

Graphical Abstract Colors Example

One final element that is important to remember when choosing colors for your graphical abstract is that some viewers may be colorblind. Consider researching colorblind-friendly palettes and incorporating them into your design. That way, a wider audience will be able to fully appreciate your hard work and impactful research. 

Conclusion

Designing the graphical abstract for your research paper can become an arduous task, especially when you want it to stand out. After all, isn't that what a great graphical abstract should do?

To help it stand out, adding a professional touch to your graphical abstract is always a great idea to explore. Consider having your graphical abstract proofread to ensure no remaining errors get in the way of your message.

The final part of our graphical abstract series outlines the best software for creating graphical abstracts: Mind the Graph.


Let's prepare your figures for journal submission.

About the Author

Scribendi Editing and Proofreading

Scribendi's in-house editors work with writers from all over the globe to perfect their writing. They know that no piece of writing is complete without a professional edit, and they love to see a good piece of writing transformed into a great one. Scribendi's in-house editors are unrivaled in both experience and education, having collectively edited millions of words and obtained nearly 20 degrees. They love consuming caffeinated beverages, reading books of various genres, and relaxing in quiet, dimly lit spaces.

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