Background. Scientific illustrations and diagrams have been used for thousands of years to portray and relay information. As the different fields of science, technology, engineering and math progressed, diagrams evolved along with the scientific concepts they illustrated. Yet, there is no set standard for creating a scientific diagram or illustration. The field is continually evolving and growing, utilizing multiple dimensions including digital interfaces and virtual reality.
Aims. To analyze the research on the use and effectiveness of different multimedia platforms for learning and to examine the effectiveness of learning outcomes using two dimensional vs three dimensional models. A specific focus was placed on level of detail and the role of color in medical diagrams. Another aim of this project was to develop novel medical illustrations and scientific diagrams based on these findings.
Method. A literature search from January 1965 to January 2021 was conducted using the key words, scientific diagram, medical illustration, details, engagement, color, dimensions, models, learning, neuroscience, memory, among others. Databases and books from Union College’s Schaffer library were utilized.
Findings. There was some evidence that the different components that make up scientific diagrams may influence learning outcomes. For example, some colors (i.e. warm) may facilitate learning. The value in the level of detail included in a diagram seems dependent on multiple factors such as subject material, intended audience etc., . It has been suggested that certain artistic styles of illustrations better facilitate learning over others (i.e. cartoons better facilitate learning of medical information over anatomical and CT scan imaging), but the research conducted in the field was limited by inconsistent methodologies across studies.
Conclusions. Scientific illustration has real world implications given its use in educating the medical professionals and leaders in STEM fields of tomorrow, yet research on the effectiveness of learning aids is limited. Further research is needed to identify how different sensory information might enhance learning, especially as more digital interface platforms, learning aids, and virtual reality techniques are being developed.