A picture’s worth a thousand words

For several years, infographics has sat smoldering on the launching pad, ready to take off but somehow always failing to ignite and take flight.

 

Despite the influence of the likes of USA Today and Edward Tufte, the visual representation of information traditionally served up in text has been slow to take over the printed page.

 

People readily acknowledge that visuals can be powerful tools for organizing, informing and motivating people, groups and coalitions. However, it is very difficult to develop truly innovative instances of graphic representation of data, particularly representations that engage people in testing the “truth” of the information or analysis being presented to them.

 

(For interesting exploration of and thought-starter regarding visual representation of information, you might want to check out “The Periodic Table of Visualization.”)

There are exceptions.  One outstanding example of infographics – and graphic decision making – is the T-LINK Calculator, profiled in The New York Times and now being picked up worldwide.

The calculator was created by the Kansas Dept. of Transportation’s (now) Government Relations Manager Kyle Schneweis (see p. 4).  It was designed to help KDOT educate the public about statewide transportation funding and policy by empowering them to make transportation policy decisions for Kansas and see the fiscal results of their choices. Even better, the tool enables KDOT to collect data about the choices users make to help guide the department in its decision making.

What’s not to like?  The T-LINK Calculator embodies the key principles of effective infographics by:

  • Easing the process of developing and communicating conceptual information;
  • Integrating multiple, differing types of information;
  • Highlighting relationships between different data streams; and
  • Empowering users to make and act on decisions derived from their own interpretation of the data.
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