This article discusses design strategies used in the infographic accompanying this article in The Seattle Times: https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/health/facts-about-novel-coronavirus-and-how-to-prevent-covid-19/. Many thanks to Graphics Editor Emily Eng for allowing us to discuss her work!
Science researchers and communicators are stepping up to the plate in this time of need. We see many examples of great scicomm surrounding COVID-19 on our news and social media feeds. In this post, we highlight one of our favorites. Below, we breakdown some of the strategies that have made this graphic effective. We hope that you can put similar strategies to use in your own work. Not so coincidentally, we teach similar strategies in our S.P.A.R.K. online course and hope you’ll check it out :D.
Spreading the word about COVID-19
This graphic was created by Graphics Editor Emily M Eng, and was published in The Seattle Times. It provides basic, useful facts about the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) that causes COVID-19. These facts include:
- How the virus spreads
- How the disease affects the body
- How you can protect yourself
Chunking—breaking the graphic into easily digestible parts
As you can see, there’s a lot to cover. But Emily makes great use of chunking—breaking the graphic into easily digestible parts. She does this by clearly delineating the separate sections of the graphic using boldface text, divider lines, and colored boxes (enclosures).
Chunking is incredibly useful because it enables viewers to take in individual pieces of information one at a time. Viewers don’t get a cognitive overload from a ton of info at once. Chunking also helps viewers focus on discrete parts of the graphic without being overwhelmed visually.
Chunking is particularly useful in this case because it enables various parts of the graphic to be dispersed throughout the accompanying news article. The distinct chunks are easily placed next to the appropriate sections in the text. Also, chunking makes it easier to share small parts of a complex graphic on social media platforms, like twitter, that tend to serve up bite-sized bits of information.
Consistency for a coherent whole
While the graphic is chunked into parts, it still forms a coherent whole. Nothing seems out of place. This is because Emily uses consistent text, colors, and representations of objects throughout the graphic.
In terms of text, Emily doesn’t change the style and keeps similar sizing throughout. She uses boldface to divide up separate sections, and only increases text size to emphasize very important points (such as the percentage of patients who die from COVID-19).
The use of color is particularly notable for its consistency and simplicity. The only colors used are black and orange, along with varying shades of each. The limited color keeps the graphic clear and coherent, while still providing plenty of contrast for emphasis and guidance to the viewer. Indeed, throughout the graphic, the color orange is associated with the SARS-CoV-2 virus and anything related to it. These splashes of orange direct the viewer’s attention to various important points in the graphic.
Finally, Emily consistently uses the same imagery to represent specific objects in the graphic. This is most obvious in the representation of the virus itself. While the virus may grow or shrink, it is always orange and circular. Lungs and cells are also portrayed consistently throughout the graphic.
Actionability in the infographic
One final thing we like about this graphic is that it’s highly “actionable.” That is, rather than simply providing viewers with a series of facts, Emily gives them a way to respond to what they’ve learned. They know how to wash their hands, buy supplies, and take action if they show signs of illness.
Of course many other things go into making a great graphic like this one. We discuss many more strategies in our S.P.A.R.K. course and hope you’ll check it out. If you have a favorite science graphic, please share it with us on Twitter!