Our society is progressively oriented towards a more visual culture. Scientists need to communicate their discoveries with figures in scientific contributions (papers, posters, congresses, etc.). Communication is a very important and powerful function of design and this rising awareness is fundamental for the scientific community.
In modern scientific publications figures play a vital role, they may occupy more than half of the space and often take up the majority of time once a manuscript is in preparation. Most journals limit their number due to space constraints and focus on their importance, often asking authors to improve them before publication. With research papers being released at an amazing pace, compelling figures ensure that years of laboratory work are not ignored. Thus, the few figures that can be included need to be well focused.
Providing professional design principles can improve drastically a scientific figure and simplify its content by eliminating unnecessary elements that do not contribute to the main message.
Even if there are some excellent writing centers at different universities, there are no equivalents for the specialized illustrations accompanying the text. It seems odd to have support only for writing when this is only half of the story in a scientific publication. Similar to language, illustrations communicate information to other people.