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What are infographics?
Over the past five years there has been a rise in using infographics to display public health data. This is based on the idea that images are processed faster in the brain than words. Infographics are graphic visual representations of information, data or knowledge and their purpose is to transform and condense complex information into graphics that are visually appealing and easy to understand. Social media sites like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn are thought to have led the way in the use of infographics as they require 'bite-size' chunks of information which can then be spread quickly and easily.
How do I start?
An infographic uses visual clues to communicate information. Infographics usually consist of a heading, a visual representation of data in the form of graphs/charts, an illustration representing the subject of the infographic, brief interpretation, a key message or call to action and finally the source of the data.
A health infographic is basically an artistic representation of health data and information using different elements. These may include:
Infographics allow us to tell a story about public health data and the focus of a good infographic is always on communicating insights. While some infographics have used qualitative information (e.g. quotes of patients), it lends itself so much more to quantitative data. The numbers are used to tell the story. In public health, 'numbers' can refer to health probabilities (e.g. personal health risks) or health quantities (rates, percentages etc).
You also need to think of who your audience are and where they will access your information. In your talks, social media or as an A4 print? Print will use more words and social media will use more graphics. Remember to condense your information into the key illustrative points. If you do decide to use words (e.g. advertising a preventive service) you can use what's called a 'Twitter Visual' (effectively like a PowerPoint slide) but your word limit is restricted to 100 words in order to be effective as a visual.
It's really important to have a clear idea of what story you want to tell. Also give considerable thought to what numbers you are going to use. What quantitative data is there to support the message? Is there an associated document, webpage or hashtag to signpost? Use as few words as possible to get the point across.
The 7 Graphic Principles of Infographic Design
- Get to know your audience - who are they? how will they see this? what is your key message and any barriers to communication?
- Restrict colour - think about legibility and also some colours are associated with different feelings like red signifies danger/negativity and green can be seen as being positive.
- Align elements - keep text consistent
- Prioritise parts - make sure the focal point re-enforces your message
- Highlight the heading
- Invest in imagery wisely
- Choose charts carefully - keep charts simple!
See www.visualisinghealth.com for more information.
Where can I get help?
There are a growing number of free infographic tools on the internet which you can use (although many organisations like Public Health England and NHS England have their own in-house team). These can be easy to use but you are restricted by the templates. For some, you can export your data from Excel to create graphs, maps or charts. Others are more linked to creating something to sit on a website or for social media.
ExamplesGoogle Developers - good for developing charts which you can use on your website or in talks
Infogr.am - similar to Google Developers and is good for designing charts, graphs and maps.
Piktochart - I've used this one to develop infographics to display strategy, signpost findings and results of a project. It's a bit restrictive in its free templates but easy to use.
Easel.ly - This is similar to Piktochart and is good for illustrating a pathway or strategic milestones.
Venngage - similar to Piktochart and Easel.ly in that you can choose templates, themes but you can animate your infographics too.
Visual.ly - this is a community platform and links those commissioning infographics with designers. You can also create your own infographics.
Visualize.me - turns your CV/resume into an infographic (I've not seen this needed yet in public health jobs but given more and more jobs are being advertised on LinkedIn, this could come in handy).