Explaining complex information in a relatable manner to readers can often be a challenge for those working in digital health. But there are huge benefits to being able to do so well.
Health content has never been more available. Readers can access any number of complex and intricate articles, studies and statistics relating to nutrition, exercise and medicine online; but the more complex and intricate this content is, the less inclined the reader will be to process the information presented.
Harnessing the power of infographics then is a necessity. While following SEO principles and conveying your idea using simple-to-understand text might do the trick in capturing readers who are already looking for your content, to grab the casual viewer’s attention, you’ll need to be able to present your data in a neat, consumable visual package.
When assembling visual health data, factual accuracy and the use of reliable sources are obviously key in collating the info you need; that's the first stage. The second stage, where you and your team transform this info into an engaging visual campaign fit for public consumption will require creative inspiration, and an understanding of your intended audience.
The keys discussed below then do not constitute the entire array of tools you’ll need to ensure your visual piece is both engaging and informative. However, they should help to frame your thinking and set you on the right path to creating something memorable:
1. Use a recognisable visual as your basis
Perhaps the most effective way to ensure that your audience will relate to your concept is to take something they see or use everyday, and then adapt, mimic or recreate it to deliver your message.
These public transport calorie maps developed by Treated.com serve as a deft example. The producers of these campaigns have worked out how many calories the average person can expect to burn walking between stops on the London Underground and Manchester Metrolink systems, and added this data to the network maps, with the aim of demonstrating how effective walking can be as an exercise tool.
By applying a novel twist on materials the viewer sees everyday, campaigns such as these immediately pique interest. The intended reader instantly recognises the design, and their own participation in it (in this case, the number of calories they burn on a journey to work).
2. Make it current
Timing can also determine how well a recipient responds to your visual piece, and there are two ways you can use it to your advantage.
Utilising a subject which is very relevant to the present increases the likelihood that your reader will already have a stake in the topic at hand; and be more predisposed to viewing the information you intend to present. For instance, if the subject you are discussing is currently making news headlines, the visual you are presenting has the advantage of being a means of further reading.
On the other hand, if your reader is not up to speed on the topic you are discussing, you can use your design to convey why the subject is relevant right now, and why they should find out more. This Mental Health Month poster by Beacon Health Options is an example.
Readers, social media shares, links and website features are always more forthcoming to those whose material is situated firmly in the present. The poster by Beacon uses the timeliness of this awareness campaign as the basis to introduce some important statistics on its subject matter.
3. Substantiate your message with statistics
Readers can quickly ascertain stories told through numbers, so statistics are a powerful tool. The more you can simplify these, the better: in the majority of cases, percentages and fractions make for easier and more consumable reading than plain numbers. Equating numbers into costs too, as demonstrated by this design on American workplace wellness, can help to translate an issue into relatable (and often, more attention-grabbing) terms.
Where numbers are the basis of the message your design is conveying, it’s crucial to make them the star of the show; giving numbers prominence in your visuals and using text and design features as supporting elements will make your overall message easier to digest.
4. Incorporate achievable aims and benefits
When your audience already knows about a particular health issue, or is distantly aware of how it could affect them personally, they will be more receptive to informative content which tells them how they can prevent it.
Using your design to break these principles down into practicable measures then, is an effective way of getting your message across and increasing engagement. Clearly illustrating the benefits of positive lifestyle changes too is crucial, as it allows the reader to see what they can achieve by incorporating them into their routine.
This infographic on student health presents a series of simple means in relatable terms, in which readers can improve health, and in turn improve grades. Each of the 12 very achievable measures are illustrated in a clear, attainable, easy to understand manner (with, in this case, no medical terminology in sight).
Simply put, the more readers can see how a certain action will benefit them and their health, the more likely they are to take on the intended message.
5. Use the power of metaphors
Accessibility is perhaps the most crucial element of infographic creation. In the health industry, this can be tricky. Complicated technical terms often abound, and over-simplifying these can be problematic and risk misinterpretation.
Using relatable metaphors then can help to create better understanding, and make health information easier for a reader to process and retain.
The Know Your Lemons campaign by Worldwide Breast Cancer is perhaps the best example of this practice in recent memory.
When we read about the symptoms of a particular condition, we often face a binary choice of either trying (but ultimately failing) to imagine what these might realistically look like, or turning to Google Images and perhaps getting more unfiltered candidness than we were expecting.
The Know Your Lemons campaign strikes a useful balance right between the two. It utilises subtle metaphor to inform and substantiate its subject matter in a clear, accessible way.