Infographics are powerful educators. They’re an easily digested, understood, and memorable visual representation of pertinent information. Colourful, and with information presented in small chunks that anyone can take in with a glance, the internet is full of them and people love them. Healthcare infographics could be used in place of much of the written information currently developed.Done right, it would deepen disease awareness, or make following medication instructions much easier, and be less intimidating than paragraphs of dense text, yet still convey the same level of information.
“Done right” is the operative phrase here. So many infographics are no more than pretty collections of graphics and blocks of text. They convey no real information and offer no deep insights into the subject matter.
Usually, it’s because whoever created the infographic doesn’t really understand how it should be done, or exactly what makes an infographic informative rather than an eye-catching piece of design work.
Why create infographics?
Although they’re easier to read and faster to understand, there is a lot more creative thinking put into a good infographic than there is an equally well-written piece of text. Not only do you have to think about the information included if you want to generate engagement, you also have to understand colour, layout, the impact of font, and how to lead readers logically through the facts towards concrete conclusions.
When they’re presented in this way, studies have shown that infographics are 30 times more likely to be read than text. Plus, more of the information will be remembered because we process visual information faster than we process text. The positive implications for infographics are immediately clear.
Creating meaningful healthcare infographics
Often, infographic creators produce posters or simple fact statements. These are as easy to ignore as blocks of text, regardless how important the contained facts are.
Effective healthcare infographics will have a context, maybe draw comparisons between actions or events, and offer references that lend factual weight to statements.
Here are some commonly-made mistakes:
- Data visualisations – these offer solid facts but they don’t guide the reader to specific courses of action. Infographics should have a definite goal or purpose, and that purpose should be to either give instructions or guide readers towards the desired behaviour.
- Posters – posters present one point of view. No matter how colourful or eye catching, there is usually no real-world context so they’re easy to disregard. Posters advertise things: films, books, events, shows… the list is endless. They are also used to present data alongside decorative graphics, but the graphics often don’t expand on, or offer context to, the written text.
- Failure to reference – infographics should ideally contain references to the sources of facts presented. Without them, the information can look like an opinion, and everyone has their own opinions. We find it easy to disregard opinions we don’t agree with, but harder to dispute referenced facts that contradict what we thought we knew.
- Allowing readers to draw their own conclusions – effective infographics don’t leave room for ambiguity in reader’s minds. Their purpose should be to influence behaviour through deeper knowledge. It’s a mistake to present a collection of facts (even when surrounded by relevant, contextual graphs or diagrams) if the reader has no clear idea of what they should do or think next. Always aim to guide readers to the conclusion you want them to draw.
Healthcare infographics take time to create, but leave lasting impressions in reader’s minds. Pictures, graphs, diagrams, flowcharts or cheat sheets can all be used to great effect to gently nudge audiences along desired channels. Memorable, attractive and ultimately shareable on social media channels, they’re a powerful tool in either health marketers’ or HCPs’ communication armoury. But they have to be done right, or they miss their mark and lose effectiveness.