How academics, scientists, and evaluators can use Affinity Designer in their work

 
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Written by Echo Rivera & Jason Rivera

We’ve already written a blog post about why you should learn to make your own visuals. Now, we’re going to share some examples of how researchers, academics, evaluators, and scientists could use professional design software to create engaging and effective visuals relevant to their work.

Although the contents of this blog post could apply to just about any professional design software, we’ve specified Affinity Designer because it’s our favorite design app. We’ll be explaining why in a future post, but for now, we wanted to show you some ideas for how this could be used in your day-to-day work.

Here are some examples of what you could make using professional design software like Affinity Designer:

  • Models (e.g., logic, theory of change, scientific, or theoretical models).

  • Processes & Flow charts (e.g., your mixed method data collection and analysis approach).

  • Visual abstracts about your publication, report, project, or presentation.

  • Infographics and visual summaries of your material, publication, or project. This also includes graphic representations of info in your reports.

  • Conference posters (PowerPoint limits your ability to make visually engaging and effective posters, you can make some truly great ones using design software, though!)

  • Flyers (e.g., to recruit participants, get the word out about your seminar).

  • Survey response options (e.g., maybe you want to visually show participants the relative difference between “agree” and “strongly agree” in your survey).

  • Sketches or drawings of a concept that you teach or present.

  • Comics or cartoons (research shows this is an effective way to share complex info).

  • Logos for your lab/research team website!   

  • Custom icons for just about anything else you create (e.g., slides, handouts, flyers).  

  • Social media graphics for Twitter, Insta, LinkedIn, Facebook to promote your work, project, report, publication, blog post, video, and more.

  • Custom thumbnails for your video (because apps always choose the worst moment of your video! Ugh!).

  • Info/contact cards (e.g., to provide organizations helping you recruit participants, so they can give it to their clients interested in participating in your study). This of course could also include business cards.

  • Stickers & buttons to build your network or promote your work, material, publication, or project. (I use a sticker instead of a business card).

Hopefully you noticed that many of these are practical and useful for your work as an academic, scientist, researcher, evaluator (or similar professional). I will now show you examples of some of these.


Before we get started…there’s a free PDF download available that’s related to this post. It has:

  • Two short checklists to help you determine whether making your own visuals would be helpful for YOU.

  • A list of 15 ideas for the types of visuals that academics, scientists, researchers, and evaluators could make using design software, and which ones are particularly perfect for making in professional design software.

  • A description of 3 key benefits of using professional design software (e.g., Affinity Designer) instead of non-professional software (e.g., Canva).

GET YOUR FREE PDF DOWNLOAD BY JOINING THE COMMUNICATION CAFÉ (TOTALLY FREE) USING THIS FORM:


Models, Diagrams, Frameworks, and Processes

Example 1

One client needed to merge two models together for their research work. One was a Venn diagram with a context border and the other was a list of items. PowerPoint does not provide the level of control over the design to do this well, plus it would most likely look blurry when added to a report. So, we used Affinity Designer to design it.

 
Before

Before

 
 
After

After

 

Example 2

Another client needed a model demonstrating their mixed method design. Qualitative and mixed methods researchers will be really familiar with this mode (I’ve even used this same process before!). Their version included specific details from their project, but here is an anonymized version to protect their confidentiality.

 
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Again, it may have been possible to create this in PowerPoint, but Affinity Designer allows for significantly more control over the design. For example, I (Echo) was able to make the arrowheads exactly how I wanted, and the shape outlines in the style I wanted. Finally, the edges and shape of the rectangles were easier to set compared to PowerPoint. Overall, it was faster to make it in Affinity Designer than to fight with PowerPoint. Plus it has excellent exporting functions that made it better to make it in Designer. That can be the difference between a model that was obviously made in PowerPoint vs a model that was professionally designed.

Example 3

I (Echo) teach presentation design using a framework, and needed a way to explain my approach to others. The foundation of it is a pyramid, and the SmartArt option is hideous, and didn’t provide the customization I needed to explain it. So, I asked Jason to make a custom framework in Affinity Designer.

First, I needed the basic shape of the pyramid. Have fun trying to do this in PowerPoint in less time than Jason did in Affinity Designer. Keynote, you can, but PowerPoint? Not worth the hassle. Besides, that’s not all I needed.

 
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I also needed each of the layers divided into three parts with a very specific color-coding. Why? Because the way I train people on design is to apply ALL layers at once — but still in three big steps. This is how you get quick wins and immediate transformation in your slides (because baby steps don’t work) while also working towards long-term improvement. This also allows you to, then, advance at your own pace.

Then, thanks to the exporting functions in Affinity, I had each piece and easily added them to my slides. Add in some animations and ultimately the presentation looked like this:

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(If you want to see me explain this entire framework, it’s lesson #5 in #StellarSlidesin5)

Reports, Handouts, and well-designed PDFs

Affinity has a new app just for creating beautiful documents called Publisher. But it’s brand new, so in the meantime I’ve used Affinity Designer for some report design. You wouldn’t want to design an entire report this way, but it’s great for things like cover pages or special pages.

Example 1

These are the section and callout pages I made for the #StellarSlidesin5 workbook (which, by the way is a FREE training course. If you haven’t taken it yet, here’s where you can enroll).

This would have been an absolute nightmare to create in Word (and blurry if created in PowerPoint), but Affinity Designer made it go smoothly and I’m thrilled with how it turned out.

 
 

Example 2

I have also used Affinity Designer to create some handouts about services that we provide. One thing to keep in mind is that this is based on my own personal style and brand for Creative Research Communications, LLC. What I hope you’re seeing is how flexible and customizable these are.

Unfortunately, what you can’t see is how easy this was.

Some of this might be possible and look okay in something like PowerPoint, but it would be hard and annoying to do. For example, even things like clicking multiple items and changing their design simultaneously is ridiculously hard in PowerPoint. But, it’s a breeze using something like Affinity Designer. As another example, sometimes it’s incredibly frustrating to select or click into a specific object in PowerPoint without clicking another object. It’s much easier to do that in professional design software.

By the way, this might be a good time to remind you that neither of us were trained as graphic designers. My background is in academia. So, if we can learn it and find it easy, then so would you.

 
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Infographics

Affinity Designer is fantastic for creating infographics. Here is one we made to use during the week I was host for @iamscicomm. Everything was done using Affinity Designer: creating the icons, the typography styling (I especially love the pink water color brushes), and the person. Then, it was arranged in—and exported from—Affinity Designer.

 
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Icons and logos

Example 1

You can find great icons online or use the built-in ones from PowerPoint or Keynote, but you still might not always find the one you need. If you know how to use Designer, you can just make your own whenever you need to.

 
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Example 2

You can also use Affinity Designer to make your own logos. Want one for your lab or research team? Then I highly recommend you make it in Designer and not something like PowerPoint.

The main reason is the quality of the logo will be significantly better if you make it in Affinity Designer. Plus you can give it a white background or a transparent background. And, because it’s a vector you can adjust the size without it looking pixelated.

 
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Website graphics

Example 1

If you have a website (which you should), then you’ll want to have some graphics so it looks professional and is visually engaging. For example, all of my recent blog post cover images are made in Affinity. I make them the same size as Insta posts, so I can re-use them for that purpose.

 
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Example 2

The thumbnails for my services were made in Designer, too. I found an icon pack that I liked, but they weren’t perfect for what I needed. So I edited the icons to make them exactly how I wanted.

 
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Avatars/People

About 10 years ago, it was really hard to find any stock photo or illustration of people that were not white cis men. It’s better now, but there is still an overall lack of diversity in photos. That’s another advantage of learning an app like Affinity Designer because you can make your own people, and have exactly the type of representation you want. Here are some of the characters that Jason made for a video we were working on.

 
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Science comics and cartoons!

One of the great ways to use professional design software is to create comics. Professionals use things like Clip Art Studio, but you don’t need to go that far to make them. Comics in my early blog posts were made using Adobe Illustrator:

 
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But then, I (Echo) finally switched to Affinity Designer:

 
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And then I finally handed off the comic illustrations task to Jason. Now, he does the initial illustrations and I help with color and typography.

Dr. Allison Coffin commissioned us to create a science comic about her lab’s research on hearing loss. Dr. Coffin is an Associate Professor at in the Integrative Physiology and Neuroscience Department of Washington State University - Vancouver. You can see the entire comic on The Coffin Lab’s website. 

Hopefully this gives you some idea of what you could make in Affinity Designer that’s relevant to your work.

We have a new course that will show you how to make some of these and how to get started with Affinity Designer. It’s a course made just for academics, scientists, evaluators, and researchers.

Or, if you aren’t interested in learning how to use Affinity Designer, but want professional and custom visuals, then we can do that for you! Send us an email for a quote.


Before you go…there’s a free PDF download available that’s related to this post. It has:

  • Two short checklists to help you determine whether making your own visuals would be helpful for YOU.

  • A list of 15 ideas for the types of visuals that academics, scientists, researchers, and evaluators could make using design software, and which ones are particularly perfect for making in professional design software.

  • A description of 3 key benefits of using professional design software (e.g., Affinity Designer) instead of non-professional software (e.g., Canva).

GET YOUR FREE PDF DOWNLOAD BY JOINING THE COMMUNICATION CAFÉ (TOTALLY FREE) USING THIS FORM: