This month I was pleased to write a guest blog for the excellent @comms2point0 covering some top tips on visual communication tools: http://www.comms2point0.co.uk/comms2point0/2013/8/6/have-you-overlooked-visual-communications-tools.html
Word clouds have been popular for a while now and are great for summing up consultations or customer feedback. Two of my favourite free and easy cloud generators are Tagul and Wordle. Tagul now allows you to generate clouds as shapes, either using their range of pre-sets or import your own image. Recently for a work project I wanted to provide a visualisation of what language is used to describe clients with dementia in relation to our training so I put a shape in of an older man, plugged in the identified words and this was the result.
As part of the Guardian’s Higher Education Network I have found it really interesting to keep up to date with what is happening in the research community. Recently I was asked to share my experiences of being a PhD student as part of a series on self-funded students:
Infographics are now widely used in the media and commercial world to visually communicate data but have you considered using an infographic to support an award nomination? You are usually restricted to a certain number of words and a few images but with an infographic you can pack a lot of information into a small space and save words for your aspirational content rather than stats.
Below is an infographic I produced for a recent award entry. The original submission I was supplied with contained very little evidence and was un-focused so the process of producing the infographic actually helped improve the content as well as allowing me to design something pretty!
I’m a bit of a super geek when it comes to numbers. I’m the kind of person who loves test cricket because it’s five days of batting averages and run rates, calculating the ball angles in snooker and watching Jeremy Vine bounce around his giant virtual charts during Newsnight as he explains voting patterns.
I have spread sheets for everything and over the years I’ve realised that no matter how pretty I make my data, some of my marketing and communications colleagues just aren’t interested.
I was at first offended on Excel’s behalf that team members would not appreciate its functional beauty and awesome calculating and organisational power. I was then saddened that the way the information was being presented might prevent people from making evidence based decisions when shaping campaigns.
So, in much the same way a mother might blitz vegetables into their child’s tea to try and ‘sneak’ the goodness in I started to look at ways I could sneak my stats into work reports and the minds of my managers through a cunning plan – make them look pretty.
Infographics I have found particularly useful in terms of pitching campaign plans, presenting evaluation or just monthly reporting. Piktochart is a good free site that can generate them for you if you don’t have design skills.
These are some of my other favourite methods of presenting information in creative ways:
• Sketch casts – One of the most fun projects I’ve been involved with in a while was working with my student staff to create a sketch cast to encourage students to vote in the spring elections. It was quick and cheap to produce and got un-engaged students to view it. The RSA animate series is my favourite other example of sketch casts.
• Comic strips – No longer just a good way to communicate with children, if you’re not convinced check out PhD Comics explaining the Higgs Boson. With no drawing skills I had a go at a comic strip using images to present my research.
• Rich pictures – Good for pictorially displaying a range of issues or perceptions around services on one page. IT’s more of an engagement tool and could be used to represent the outcomes of consultation. Trafford Healthcare NHS Trust commissioned this really effective rich picture to capture and communicate engagement work around its vision.
• Kinetic typography – Good when you just have audio and want to add a quick and easy visual element to it.
• Word clouds – Good for identifying the most frequently used words in a document, often used for social media analysis. Check out Wordle if you want to have a go at generating your own word cloud.