In honor of Valentine’s Day, I present to you four infographics that show how tiny creative twists can help non-technical audiences understand decidedly technical information.
From carbon taxes to climate change to socioeconomics, these graphs definitely show their audiences a little love.
What you need to know about Alberta’s carbon levy
This infographic by the Pembina Institute is a concise, easy-to-digest explanation of Alberta’s carbon levy. It answers basic questions an Alberta resident may have about the policy, and all information is direct and concise.
What’s particularly interesting about the graphic, however, is how Pembina got their mileage out of it. They divided the whole infographic (shown above) into smaller infographics that could then be shared on social media.
Each small image gave a snippet of information – a piece of the puzzle – and enticed the reader to click through to their site to read the rest. It’s a practical way of getting the most bang for your buck.
This graph by Ed Hawkins shows changing Arctic sea ice coverage – one in a series of graphs showing the acceleration of climate change across many measures since 1850.
Avoiding the obvious “circling the drain” analogy, this graph gets right to the point… yet is surprisingly un-graph-like. Where most climate change data is presented in line graphs like the Hockey Stick, these charts instead use something (appropriately) called a polar graph.
The beauty of this graph is twofold.
First, it’s dynamic. The motion of a gif makes it all the more eye-catching and shareable. If this had been a basic line graph, it wouldn’t have gotten anywhere near the attention.
Second, it’s math-agnostic. If you’re trying to reach people who don’t have a strong footing in science and math, this graph is an excellent choice. I don’t have to read the numbers to understand that there has been a significant change away from the norm in the last 50 years – I can see the line’s deviation for myself.
The World as 100 People
Seven and a half billion is a big number. So big, in fact, that it’s difficult to fully grasp.
Go on – try to picture 7.5 billion of something in your head. It isn’t easy.
So rather than quoting raw facts and staggeringly large numbers, this series reframes the issue into something more tangible: The World as 100 People.
These graphs are deceptively clever for a couple of reasons.
First, the socioeconomic facts are given as percentages to keep them front and center. If they were given as raw numbers, you would also have to include the global population growth curve – a distraction from the core message.
Second, the infographic never actually uses the word “percent.” Instead, everything is represented as divisions of 100 people. That might seem trivial, but if you’re trying to reach an audience that is uncomfortable with percentages, framing these societal changes as though they were happening to 100 people is a great approach. If I don’t understand percentages, I can at least understand 100 people.
Visualizing MBTA Data
Click through and play with this one! Seriously, it’s AMAZING.
As you can tell. I’m including this piece out of sheer favoritism, as I have loved it ever since I clapped eyes on it a few years ago.
Visualizing MBTA Data explores every angle of one month’s worth of Boston subway data. That may not sound particularly relevant to nonprofits, but I think there’s a lot we can learn from it.
First, it showcases a very effective model for storytelling, interspersing narrative with interactive pieces, each telling a different angle of the story. It has certainly been inspirational for my own work.
As a recovering fisheries scientist, another adaptation springs to mind – something I’ve been wanting to do since I saw it but have never found the time: Streams as Subways.
A salmon swimming upstream is limited to the stream’s path; it can’t just flop off into the woods (not successfully, anyway). In this way, salmon-bearing streams are like subway paths. And the stations? Fish survey sites along those paths.
I think it would be awesome to reimagine BC’s watershed as a massive subway system, using similar visualizations to show train delays (seasonal timing changes) and crowd sizes (changing fisheries returns).
Until then, it’s keeping a warm, slightly fishy place in my heart.
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