Screenshot Frontiers in Bioinformatics Article


Strategies for the Production of Molecular Animations


Perspective article in: Frontiers in Bioinformatics, May 16th 2022,

Part of the Research Topic "11th International Meeting on Visualizing Biological Data (VIZBI 2021)"

Download open access Article and Supplementary Material.



Molecular animations play an increasing role in scientific visualisation and science communication. They engage viewers through non-fictional, documentary type storytelling and aim at advancing the audience. Every scene of a molecular animation is to be designed to secure clarity. To achieve this, knowledge on design principles from various design fields is essential. The relevant principles help to draw attention, guide the eye, establish relationships, convey dynamics and/or trigger a reaction. The tools of general graphic design are used to compose a signature frame, those of cinematic storytelling and user interface design to choreograph the relative movement of characters and cameras. Clarity in a scientific visualisation is reached by simplification and abstraction where the choice of the adequate representation is of great importance. A large set of illustration styles is available to chose the appropriate detail level but they are constrained by the availability of experimental data. For a high-quality molecular animation, data from different sources can be integrated, even filling the structural gaps to show a complete picture of the native biological situation. For maintaining scientific authenticity it is good practice to mark use of artistic licence which ensures transparency and accountability. The design of motion requires knowledge from molecule kinetics and kinematics. With biological macromolecules, four types of motion are most relevant: thermal motion, small and large conformational changes and Brownian motion. The principles of dynamic realism should be respected as well as the circumstances given in the crowded cellular environment. Ultimately, consistent complexity is proposed as overarching principle for the production of molecular animations and should be achieved between communication objective and abstraction/simplification, audience expertise and scientific complexity, experiment and representation, characters and environment as well as structure and motion representation.

Supplement: Principles relevant for the production of molecular animations - methodology, analysis and results

The main article is based on the author’s B.A. thesis entitled “Science vs. Design, Principle strategies for the production of molecular animations.” that was submitted to the design academie berlin, SHR Hochschule für Kommunikation und Design (dab; now: SRH Berlin School of Design and Communication, BSDC) in July 2019 to earn the degree of Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) in Film and Motion Design. Due to the thesis being only available as hardcopy at the school library, the methodology, results and first analysis are replicated here in parts. Please also see the summary poster presented at VIZBI 2021. The specific research question of the B.A. thesis was: “Do the principles of design, animation and motion design contradict those of scientific visualisation and especially molecular animations or can they be applied to them?”. The thesis collected principles from general (graphic) design, motion graphics and design, animation, cinematography/film and user interface design, principles of scientific visualisation and principles of dynamic molecular animations. The design related principles were investigated with regard to their compatibility with the principles of scientific visualisation. From there, a set of rules and strategies was developed by balancing the complexity of the specific communication objective, the available knowledge on molecular level, the target audience knowledge level and other influences.

logo2 berlin4



RNS Berlin UG (haftungsbeschränkt)
c/o betahaus
Rudi-Dutschke-Str. 23
10969 Berlin

phone +49 30 3974 3106

Copyright © 2010-2024 Erik Werner, Berlin - All Rights Reserved - Legal Notice - Data Protection, Cookies

Cookies user preferences
We use cookies to ensure you to get the best experience on our website. If you decline the use of cookies, this website may not function as expected.
Accept all
Decline all
Read more
Tools used to analyze the data to measure the effectiveness of a website and to understand how it works.
Google Analytics