As public health practitioners, a large proportion of our work will inevitably involve presentation of information. However, the populations that we work with, and the target audiences that we aim to reach will vary considerably. One of the biggest challenges that we will face will be adapting the information to meet a diversity of needs, including overcoming language barriers, and low literacy levels.
One way to avoid these barriers is to use images instead of words, which is where infographics come in.
What are they?
Infographics are used to present information, data, knowledge or ideas visually.
They can include lines, boxes, arrows, symbols, pictures, text, colors and labels
They have 3 basic elements:
- Visual: graphics, colors, reference icons, charts,
- Content: statistics, facts, references, time frames
- Knowledge: the underlying message of the data being presented
Why are they so useful?
Words and language are processed by the brain in a linear fashion, such that it takes time for the brain to obtain information from text. Additionally, people only tend to remember 20% of what they have read.
Images are processed by the brain simultaneously, allowing images to be processed 60,000x faster than text. Not surprisingly, infographics can be used to present complex information quickly and easily.
To help clarify these points, check out this infographic, which presents this information visually:
How do you make an infographic?
Tools to generate an infographic:
- using paper, pencils, markers, and rules to draw the images
- Various online tools and websites (Infogr.am, Piktochart and Easel.ly)
- General illustration software (Adobe illustrator, Inkscape)
- Alignment: all items should have a visual connection with something else on the page
- Proximity: position related items together
- Helps to depict relationship
- Can make it easier to understand items and their connections
- Shape: can give meaning (i.e., boxes can be more form, icons can represent brands)
- Balance: symmetry and centering important for directing gaze/focus
Tips for designing a great infographic:
- Highlight the information that is most important
- Keep it simple
- Show comparisons, contrasts and differences
- Use clear and simple language
- Use clear, legible font
How can it be useful for public health?
Health information and statistics can be bland and boring, or hard to understand by the general public. Infographics can be used to make this information simpler to understand, more appealing, and engaging. Importantly, the visual expression of ideas and messages can attract more attention, and make them more impactful, which is particularly useful for social marketing.
They can be used to provide health education in a fun and exciting way, making the information more memorable, which can help to encourage people to follow through on making important health behavior changes
Graphics and images can have cross-cultural application, allowing the message to be shared and understood by a much broader audience
Online infographics can be easily shared, which can help your message to spread more easily, allowing for a much wider reach.
Check out this link for some examples of health related infographics