Troubling times, indeed.
Health crisis and pandemic, global economic recession, selfish political interests, police brutality, attacks on press freedom, abuse of power, racism, and more — all happening at once. It seems like 2020 is the new 2012 with these crises as disasters that brought us in these hard times.
As of June 15, 2020, there are already 7.5 million cases of COVID-19 worldwide with 423,000 deaths. Aside from basic necessities like food, shelter, etc., information becomes a powerful tool that can save one’s life. With the rising numbers of cases of COVID-19 around the world, different organizations and research institutions along with news sites and media platforms unite on delivering useful and relevant information to the public that will serve as a guide against the invisible enemy.
These pieces of information are usually ordinances from local government units, details on cases, deaths and recoveries from the virus, how-tos on virus prevention, health tips, and memoranda and guidelines from the national government. These can all be confusing when amplified mainly on social media. Let’s not forget to factor in the proliferation of fake information and propaganda that further overwhelms an individual.
The obvious solution for effective mass communication is to simplify it. We know that ordinances, laws, and guidelines contain jargon and words that are not easy to understand. If it is the concern of everyone, then everyone should be able to understand it. Organizations will settle on simplifying words and sentences and summarizing the whole document on delivering these pieces of information. But one effective way is through visuals.
65% percent of the human population are visual learners, according to the Social Science Research Network. It means most of us are more effective on absorbing new information if it is presented visually.
That’s where a good design plays a huge and important role in this crisis. It’s not new. People have been using visuals through graphs and charts to simplify and deliver complex information, especially if it includes statistics.
Take a look at this pub mat from Manila Public Information Office:
This is an example of an effective design. Look how it used the opacity of color red to show the severity of cases in a particular area. It also included the figures, which are the exact number of cases. Also, it uses separate colors to differentiate to indicate confirmed, death, recovered, active, probable, and suspected cases.
Imagine posting this memorandum on social media:
Do you think the readers would bother to read everything? And even if they read it, would they be able to fully understand every information written on the document. It’s not underestimating their intellectual capacity, it’s because these kinds of documents are prone to misinterpretation. And one missed information can lead to misinformation.
That is why graphic designers and communications specialists take time to digest everything and conceptualize how they can deliver these information in a visual and compelling way. Their job is to make it digestible for a population with a decreasing attention span.
That is why graphic designers and information disseminators also deserve the recognition alongside with frontline health workers. After all, flattening the curve also requires informed individuals to act upon rules and regulations.