While there are simple figures like what we discussed in the quantum physics paper, there are also figures consisting of several panels. We use this approach when there needs to be a series of evidence to support a claim. Papers describing complex experimental studies often employ figures that contain multiple panels. Today’s materials science paper is an example of such studies.

In materials sciences, it is important to understand the mechanism where the differences in the molecular structure leads to the differences in the properties. This paper shows an example of such phenomenon: how water molecules can participate in the hydrogen-bonding of the supramolecular polymers and how it affects the mechanical properties.

In this figure, the authors were successful in putting everything in a nutshell from chemical structure, methods and results. The composition of the figures are easy to follow and yet allowed to fit in ample amount of information.

Here are some improvement this paper can take to make its composition even better.

Chemical structure

The chemical structures look skewed and it takes a while to realize that these are 2D molecular structures displayed at an angle. In this figure, the authors intend to show the basic molecular structure, in other words, how one atom connects to another. The current projection does not carry more information than the conventional 2D drawings, and gives a misleading cue that the figure intends to convey the 3D molecular structures. To avoid confusion, I would focus on showing the structure in 2D.

Arrow from figure C to D iv

The arrow is jumping from figure C to Div. As a reader, I initially got confused whether this is intentional or derived from just a lack of space and distracted me from the message of figure C that depending on the water amount, the form becomes different. I would consolidate the last photo in figure C and include in D iv.

Better photos for figure D

The fibrous structure is barely visible. I would use the photo for Di into the inset and have the more closed up look on the photo. Also it would be desirable to take a closer shot on Diii. I will focus more on the photo editing on the later post.

And here is my edits in sketch. You see the more emphasis is put on legibility? It is important to focus on what you want to show. Tips to deliver a clear message is to:

  • Make the figure big enough to see the features
  • Reduce as much noise (irrelevant information)
  • Arrange in an organized way.


Dong, S., Leng, J., Feng, Y., Liu, M., Stackhouse, C. J., Schönhals, A., … & Jin, L. (2017). Structural water as an essential comonomer in supramolecular polymerization. Science Advances3(11), eaao0900.