Visualizing Information for Advocacy:
An Introduction to Information Design
By John Emerson
Tactical Technology Collective
Printed in India, January 2008
Creative Commons License
Downloadable from http://www.tacticaltech.org/infodesign
Reviewed by Frederick Noronha
You’ve got data. Now what do you do with it? Can you tell an effective story with the information you have? Can you “move your audience”?
This is a manual that “offers an introductino to information design”. And it is indended to provide non-government organisations “with a useful and powerful tool for advocacy and research.”
TacticalTech’s Marek Tuszynski, who announced this booklet, said: “Modern life is saturated with ever increasing amounts of information, advertising and media with little time to
digest what is being said. Against this background, NGOs and advocates too often find the information they want to communicate, either buried in long reports full of professional jargon and statistics, or overlooked in an endless stream of media releases.”
Next, we go to the link between information design and advocacy, analysis, consumer education and strategy. To make it practical, there’s a “how to begin” chapter, and another how-to on “planning your information design”.
Keeping in sync with the tone of the book, the short, visually-rich chapters of the book focus on assessing your data, sorting and sketching, assessing your media, designing your graphics, clarifying your graphics and more.
This publication has been sponsored by Soros’ Open Society Institute Information Program. It leads you thought an explanation of what information design is, how you could use it, and specificially where it fits into advocacy.
But this is a practical book. Using images and comparisons, for example, it explains how spectrum lobbying works.
It points to sites like justvision.org, and the time-line on it, as examples of the good presentation of data (of stories of Palestinians and Israelis working together for peace, in this case). See http://justvision.org/en/timeline
There’s more eye-candy (but of a serious kind!) too. A project of Greenpeace, Exxon Secrets charts funding by the Exxon Foundation to institutions and individual ‘climate change skeptics’ working to undermine solutions to global warming and climate change. The interface makes it easy to visualize and navigate the research. See http://exxonsecrets.org
Some fascinating use of facts, figures and images here. As we’re told: “Information design uses pictures, symbols, colours, and words to communicate ideas, illustrate information or express relationships visually.”
There are practical tips:
“There are many ways to tell a story or to present data. How do you know what kind of presentation to use? The main thing to consider is: how will your information design be used? Is it for planning? Or advocacy? Are you trying to tell a specific story? Or are you trying to create a more neutral map to guide a process of discovery?”
In its 25 pages, there are a whole lot of examples … that really make you think.
Of special interest is a section focussing on how Free Software tools can be used in these tasks. OpenOffice does your office-computing work. NeoOffice works for Mac OS. Ajax13 is a web-based office suite at [http://us.ajax13.com]
InkScape is a vector graphics editor “with capabilities similar to Illustrator, Freehand or CorelDraw”.
PDFCreator will create PDF files from “nearly any Windows application that can print”. Scribus can create layouts for newsletters, stationery, posters, training manuals, technical documentation, business cards and more. The GIMP is an “image manipulation programme”. GIMPShop is a version of this tool modified to be more user-friendly for Photoshop users.
Share useful digital resources
Blogged with Flock