The power (and pitfalls) of infographics in emergencies

03.30.2020insights, Inspiration, Tips

As we’re navigating this “new normal” of COVID-19, one thing seems to be certain – we all have a LOT of questions.

Whether it’s about the virus itself, how it is transmitted, what our local and national governments are doing about it, or how to talk with our children about it, we need information, and QUICKLY.

Social media has been one of the most accessible sources of quick info, but it’s not always easy to sift through it all and determine what is important and what to share onwards.

I’ve seen a lot of infographics coming across my WhatsApp and Twitter accounts, and it made me think about how important they can be in communicating essential info in an easy-to-understand, timely manner. Of course, they also have a few drawbacks as well.

The plus side of infographics:

Infographics quickly convey a message
It’s easier to see at a glance what the key message is in a well-designed infographic than in a dense block of text. This is particularly important at times when you need your audience to quickly understand or act on information. They can also be particularly useful for sharing information simply across an audience with a wide range of knowledge and understanding.

 Infographics deliver information in a memorable way
We’re much more likely to remember something if it is paired with a compelling graphic than through text alone – the image remains embedded in our memory and can help to trigger recall

Infographics convey authority
Infographics that look professional and on-brand convey an air of authority and expertise that a written message might not be able to. An infographic with your logo on it may hold more weight and credibility with your audience, which might mean it is shared more often and the message more widely circulated. In an era of fake news, authority and credibility are more important than ever.

Yet infographics may not always be the best use of your time and resources:

Infographics can be costly
Creating a complex, detailed infographic like this one can be a lot of work, and require the support of professional designers who use software like Adobe Illustrator and know how to apply your brand style effectively.

You can address this by paring down your infographic into smaller, more bite-sized chunks rather than trying to address all of a complicated issue graphically. You can also use free programs like Adobe Spark or Canva to create quick graphics if you don’t have access to professional software. Both offer discounts to nonprofits for their premium plans (which allow you to set up branded content and use premium templates) 

Infographics aren’t always timely
Even simple graphics take time to create (especially if you’re trying to do it on your own). You might need to ask yourself whether it’s more important that the info gets out quickly, or that it is conveyed graphically.

One way you can save yourself time by creating templates (before you need them!) that you can quickly add your content into – both Adobe Spark or Canva allow you to create template libraries for graphics you use often. You can also always circle back and create a graphic later if you realize the info is being shared widely or has a longer shelf life.

Simple infographics don’t express complexity very well
Sometimes your message really needs more information than can be conveyed in a simple graphic. The WHO’s COVID-19 graphics library provides text that should be used alongside the image, but you should always assume that people may share them onwards without the text. Make sure to ask yourself if your infographic still effective on their own without explanatory text, or if it needs context to really be understood?

Infographics are a powerful way to quickly and succinctly convey easily digestible info to your audience both in times of crisis as well as in our more everyday work. Just make sure to ask yourself whether they’re the right medium for your message before you spend valuable resources creating them for every message.

How about you?

How have you created and used infographics for your organization during your COVID-19 response? How about on other (non-emergency) issues? Do you find them useful, or are they too time consuming to create regularly? Have you tried out programs like Spark or Canva, or do you rely on an in-house or contract designer to create them for you?

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