We are in an era where we get our news and entertainment in increasingly brief chunks and on smaller, mobile screens. Councils, like other organisations, are in the race for people’s attention.
Whether interactive, beautifully designed or creatively ‘cobbled together’ by enthusiasts – infographics are a useful weapon for informing, persuading and starting conversations.
Here are five interesting ways data visualisations are being used by councils.
1. An attractive and intuitive way to discover more about a council spending and performance
Nottinghamshire unveiled their lovely looking interactive graphic this month, which allows anyone who’s interested to dive into the spending figures.
Image by Coventry County Council (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
2. A helpful and simple guide to a complex process
Just because the workings of a council are often complex, it doesn’t mean the experience of dealing with a council can’t be easy. This infographic from Devon doesn’t need to be funky to be great – it beats any other way to explain adoption procedures that I can think of.
3. Reflecting the tone and culture of the organisation
This graphic overview from York is very sober, it gets straight to the point and proves that you don’t have to lose the tone or formality you’re comfortable with because you’re using a different medium.
The point of infographics is to make data more easily understood. Sometimes, when facts and figures surrounded by jargon are extracted from heavy documents, the result can be shocking.
In this infographic from Lincolnshire, the impact is not in the design necessarily, but in the message – it shows the wide reaching extent of domestic abuse.
When people see how many calls are made to the local police force, people will perhaps better understand the devastating impact of violence. I hope it also shows those who are suffering abuse they should not not feel alone or unusual.
This infographic could positively influence decisions to get help.
Incidentally, this appears to made using a low cost tool called Picktochart. Infographics need not be expensive and using a tool like this is a great way to start experimenting without spending.
A beginning, a middle and an end – this infographic from City of Melbourne council tells a story, showing the challenges faced in saving trees in the city.
It’s easy on the eye and creates a path for your eye to move through the facts and figures.
I think it has all the qualities of a good infographic.
Learning what works
I hope councils will learn what works and what’s less effective from each other and partner organisations.
My favourite recent example of an excellent use of infographics is the #crweek14 campaign by Care & Repair Cymru.
Their infographic about the services available to older people in Wales has the title ‘Helping nannies and grampies all over Wales’. It’s friendly, local language and feels relevant and authentic.
The simplicity of the graphics will help people quickly see the work that the organisation does (repairs and redecoration, heating and grants for example). It also shows the value and success of the service so people have confidence in the service.
It includes facts that make sense out of the context of the graphic, making it tweetable and so increasing potential reach.
Ultimately, as with all other forms of communications – success depends on the information communicated being relevant, interesting, timely and entertaining.
Perhaps one day councils will be brave enough to produce infographics showing councillor attendance at meetings. It can’t be long until councils provide residents with interactive infographics at elections too, as the BBC has since 1974.
And of course, councils can also open more of their data to let anyone make their own infographics. Sometimes, the best insights and campaigns come from the people councils serve.