I think infographics can help make data actionable and I’m super eager to learn how to build them. In my free time. Ha!
How might they help make data actionable, you ask? By making it accessible, concise, targeted, and action-oriented. I’m not totally convinced that ALL infographics promote action, or are useful, however. Here’s a fun example that seems timely given that I’ve been trying to will my garden to grow grow grow lately…. Do you think this promotes use of the data? Are you more likely to shop for fruit & veggies in season now? Or does this serve solely a visualization purpose — making the information look more interesting than it would in a boring list or article or report?
Certainly presenting findings in an interesting-looking way in itself can help promote use of those findings. If a report is too dry for anyone to read it’s unlikely the findings in that report will be used or even that the right folks will be aware of and understand those findings (these are prerequisites for use, yes?).
Some (many?) infogaphics can serve as a call-to-action even, with a purposeful message about how the information could/should be used. This infographic was released by Anytime Health in time for the U.S. State of the Union Address at the end of January (I discovered this through a fun blog aptly found at www.coolinfographics.com).
I do worry a bit about the power of these tools, actually. Being more persuasive, potentially, than a dry report, it seems likely that infographics could be used for good and evil…. More about that another time perhaps (the dark side of actionable data — how it’s not all used for “good”….something like that).
Lastly, it’s simply not fair to post about infographics without mentioning Tufte, who’s done so much work on data visualization, which may well have laid the groundwork for “infographic thinking” to borrow from the fastcodesign blog. To see more of Tufte’s work, visit his site here.