Hearing Data: Infographics on the Radio
Apr 29, 2011
Infographics are intended to make data that is difficult to comprehend more easily accessible. Borrowing a few words from visual.ly — a soon-to-launch infographic clearing house — a successful infographic is “a mix of design, journalism and analysis” intended to better inform or educate.
(And they are all the rage. So much so that we’ve reached the point where the intent of infographics is being forgotten. In many cases people are trying to out do each other on the “art” of the graphic instead of concentrating on the usefulness of the graphic.)
But who says you can only create infographics with visuals?
On NPR last night, there was an excellent example of infographics on the radio. (Does that make it infoaudibles instead?) This piece on All Things Considered took the U.S. Home Price data for the last decade and turned them into opera songs. I thought it brilliantly elucidated the dramatic rise-and-fall of prices in certain cities, and made the comparison to other cities that avoided the drama much easier to “see.”
I think these infoaudibles — and the best infographics — work due to two aspects:
1. They Simplify. By removing the enumerated horizontal and vertical lines of the grid that are intended to be helpful, but end up becoming visual noise, the plotted points can shine. In other cases, the addition of commonly accepted visuals in place of explanatory text can make the data easier to absorb, or add meaning.
2. They Tell A Story. The song — from introduction to climax to conclusion — tells a story. It amplifies the “change over time” dimension that is often lost in the at-a-glance aspect of a static chart. It adds impact to the difference between originating and final state. In the case of the housing number opera, a listener can feel the anxiousness of a slow build, and experience the emotion of a rapid decline.
So whether via graphics or sounds, always be thinking of ways to better tell the story behind the data…to make the data something experienced rather than registered. Your viewers (and listeners) will be able to better grasp why you’re presenting the data in the first place.
Watching TV as a kid, I used to run to the bathroom during the shows so I could make it back for the commercials. Those days launched me down a path that included layout and writing for the college paper; communications strategy for political campaigns; marketing strategy and graphic design for Gensler (a global design and architecture firm); and the implementation of new programming, animation and design techniques for Centerline. Today I specialize in content marketing strategy and building digital deliverables to execute those strategies. But it’s about more than just creating killer digital content. At Centerline, we help clients succeed in the digital marketplace using a three-pronged approach: strategic (message creation, brand strategy), tactical (design, development), and analytical (measurement and adaptation). This experience-tested approach allows me to build campaigns that are both well-designed and effective for clients like IBM, GE and National Instruments.