Information Design 101
Here at the Faunalytics, we tend to focus on hard data. We strive to provide the facts and figures that keep animal advocates informed and help them maximize their effectiveness. But using data to achieve meaningful change for animals requires more than just compiling the facts; it also requires presenting data in a way that is compelling to those we’re trying to inform or persuade. “Information design” plays an essential role by rescuing research from the dark corners occupied by spreadsheets and databases and into the light, where people can understand and act on the information.
I recently came across an excellent resource called “An Introduction to Information Design,” written by John Emerson of Backspace. The manual was published in 2008 and “is intended to provide NGOs with a useful and powerful tool for advocacy and research.” It provides quite a few examples showing how information design can be used by nonprofit organizations to make dense information easily digestible and persuasive to those who are viewing it. True to form, the manual itself is very digestible and worth a read for anyone involved in publishing or design, as well as anyone who struggles with telling a story using data.
According to the manual:
|Information design is about making your data:
Clear – It makes complex information easier to understand.
Compelling – Visuals grab people’s attention.
Convincing – People who might not be persuaded by raw numbers or statistics may be more likely to understand and believe what they see in a chart or graphic.
HRC was fortunate to have worked with the Humane Society of the United States on a project called the Humane Index, which ranks the overall humaneness of the 25 largest metropolitan areas in the U.S. We can’t take any credit for the website, but I think it is perhaps the best example of information design applied to animal protection work. The Humane Index site makes full use of the rich and diverse data that we helped collect for the project, while presenting it in a very user-friendly and visually appealing format. Check out the website at HumaneIndex.org.
“An Introduction to Information Design” provides a set of simple and practical guidelines to help improve your communications by sharing your data more creatively. If you check out the full PDF file, note the tips and free software resources listed toward the end. The manual also specifically covers the use of information design to improve research analysis by looking at information in unique ways to look for trends and patterns. The manual summarizes a few analytical uses:
|Information design can be integrated into the research process by illuminating data visually, or providing a neutral platform with which to identify trends or targets.
Translating data into a visual format may help reveal patterns that might not otherwise be apparent. Representing data visually on a chart or graph can reveal wider trends and unexpected clusters around specific demographics, geographies or time-periods.
Using information design to examine larger networks and systems can complement and provide context to individual case studies and testimonies.
Do you know of any other compelling uses of information design relating to animal advocacy? If so, please share them by clicking the “add new comment” link below (you must be logged in to use this feature).