Communicating Ideas More Effectively by Expanding Your Design Toolkit

May 17th, 2016 | Viewpoint


The use of infographics and data visualizations has proliferated in the global health community in recent years. Groups like the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation and the Humanitarian Data Exchange and notable figures like Hans Rosling with his Gapminder Foundation have done much to raise the profile of sophisticated visual analytics.

But as Amanda Makulec recently noted on this blog, we as global health professionals are asked more and more to pull together presentations and reports that are visually impactful, often without the time to consult with communications or data viz experts. Amanda writes about the need to train global health professionals in information design and communication skills in order to make sure our products are visual, accessible, and meaningful. But in building capacity in these areas, we need to go beyond just focusing on creating more effective graphs and charts; visualizing qualitative information can be just as important to communicate ideas effectively, be it in presentations, reports, or other materials.  Audiences in both the global health sphere as well as the general public expect more engaging and better-designed presentations of information. As global health professionals, we need to be sure to keep up with the demand in how people consume information today.

In this regard, JSI’s Center for Health Information, Monitoring & Evaluation has been working to build capacity to communicate ideas visually, beyond just quantitative data.  Recent in-house presentations include “Visualizing Qualitative Information in Powerpoint” and “Choosing the Right Typefaces”. With these types of trainings, our goal is to demonstrate concrete techniques that anyone can use to design better communication products: from finding and using icons effectively, to using photographs in more creative ways, to thinking about what your font choice says to your audience, and more.

Not everyone has the time or the desire to become expert designers, but you don’t need to be a designer in order to employ basic design principles that help to communicate ideas more effectively.

Written by Tahmid Chowdhury

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