Five great data visualisation projects (and why they should inspire public sector communicators)

Taking data and making it interesting is an art form.

Amid the bustle and overload of the digital world, it can take something exceptional to turn fleeting glances into lingering looks, especially on high turnover sites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat.

Infographics – or data visualisations – are a great way to share information in a single visual hit, often jazzed up with artwork or embedded images.

Research supports an increasing focus on visual imagery, in all its forms, as a way of communicating with and engaging with online audiences:

  • Infographics are “liked” and shared on social media 3 times more than other any other type of content. (Source: mass planner.com)
  • Facebook posts with images see 2.3 times more engagement than those without (Source: buzzsumo.com)
  • List posts and infographics generate more shares than any other content (Source: buzzsumo.com)
  • People following directions with text and illustrations do 323% better than people following directions without illustrations – we are visually receptive. (Source: Levie & Lentz)

Here are five brilliant examples of world class data visualisations to inspire:

  1. How vaccinations impact on measles outbreaks (source: The Guardian) This is an evidence based visual demonstrating the impact of vaccination rates on measles infections. It provides a simulation option, to show the spread of measles from a single case.

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There is an associated tongue in cheek flowchart about the same issue, just in case this graphic alone fails to convince:

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2. Bloomberg’s Billionaires: a daily infographic by Bloomberg showing the 200 wealthiest billionaires in the world and their total known/estimated wealth. The daily update includes a + or – figure showing the overall wealth of the total group. When I looked on February 5 2017 their joint wealth was up $8 billion up on the previous day.

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3. Global Carbon Footprint: an infographic by Sustainable Cities Collective to illustrate carbon footprint by nation. Designed by Miller McCune. Presenting the data in this format, within a footprint shape, gives it added impact.

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4. This work of art features on a great blog showcase Dueling Data, created using Tableau by designer Adam McCann.

The Beatles: an analysis

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5. Created by the same artist, Adam McCann, this colourful graphic is based on the TV phenomenon Game of Thrones, also using Tableau.

Game of Thrones: an analysis

 

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You might have an in-house graphic designer, or freelance resources, capable of creating something close to this quality.But what if you don’t, or are trying to reduce costs, or just want to gain the skills and know-how to make your own?

Three questions that come to mind (and there may be many more) for anyone considering embarking on data viz projects from a standing start or limited skills:

  1. Is learning how to make an infographic, or data viz, going to be useful and worth the time involved?
  2. What skills do I need to do it?
  3. What could it look like?

This infographic sums up the virtues of infographics pretty neatly:

What is an Infographic?

Created by Customer Magnetism.

Assuming, then, that you agree infographics and data visualisation are positive tools, and assuming too you can’t afford to use your graphic designer or bring in specialist support for every project, you might want to check out some of the free apps and websites offering to help you get started.

Info.gram is a great entry point, especially if you’ve got a simple set of data. This weblink takes you to one of a series I created in minutes to share details of school performance on my local blog wyrelife.co.uk

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Canva is another highly rated free site offering a way in to the delights of infographic creation, one which offers a huge array of templates and free-to-use photos and graphics. It also offers training. It’s possible to upgrade to a professional version at relatively low cost, which will give you the opportunity to use your corporate colours and branding.

Free data viz Tableau can appear daunting at first glance, but the level of support and training available via video tutorials and live chat make it a fantastic tool.

Creatives across public sector organisations have not been slow to cotton on to the benefits of creating easy to follow graphics and data viz to support projects – from consultations to budget plans, from informative public health advice to printable flyers for the fridge.

This example, from Barnsley Council, was created using canva.com and is a really effective way to share complex budget plans.

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(courtesy Barnsley Council Facebook page)

This example, from Bath and North East Somerset Council, shared here with kind permission, is a simple way to help residents understand changes to recycling and rubbish collection services. It can be attached to social networking sites, posted on the website and embedded or shared by email.

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Dozens more self-made examples abound, often created by colleagues happy to share their successes and highlight any difficulties encountered.

If you’ve got a trusted infographics designer, don’t bin them by any means. But don’t feel it’s outside your skill set or beyond you to learn how to create simple examples of your own.

It would be great to hear from anyone happy to share more examples of local councils using infographics or data visualisation – particularly those being made in-house by non specialists.

 

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