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 In Articles, DataBlog, Viz

Beautiful things get all the attention – and raw data can be pretty ugly. Much of what nonprofit data collectors do involves impressing or convincing people who (somehow) don’t have time to sift through pages of stats. For busy decision makers, pictures really do speak 1000 words. We have explored visual charting of Interaction Effects. But even graphs can be hard to grasp – so sometimes Infographics provide a better solution.

Good Infographics convey complex data with clarity and style. They combine the best of statistical graphics and digital design. Admittedly, there are many bad statistical graphics and insubstantial Infographics. But Alberto Cairo, especially in his book Functional Art, clearly argues that they can represent the best of both worlds, united form and function, become more than the sum of their parts. (He also teaches an annual MOOC on the subject that is free and absolutely worth the time.)

“Uniting form and function” might sound more baffling than helpful. In the spirit of practicing what I’m preaching, take a look at a real-life infographic from Datassist. Last May we used 3 basic charts to explain the work of Bangladeshi milk farmers. Here’s how a picture compares:

Wowza! Suddenly, the same findings refuse to be ignored. And for this project, it worked wonders. It’s not the full story. In this case, we should mention actual values in Bangladeshi takas to convey the scale. But these essential details flow better when a conversation or presentation starts with the fact people care about, and builds from there. Get ‘em hooked! For the farm supporters, they needed to see that women teams led by women yielded a 7% increase in milk production.

Giving this kind of sit-up-and-listen “oomph” to the world-changing stories that nonprofits create can help rally community and financial support. Nonprofit reporting can be more convincing with images and infographics. The rule of infographics: when pretty works, use it.

Watch this space next week to find out about moving from verbal to visual, and how nonprofits can communicate their cause more effectively and concisely visually.

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