Many companies promote quality visual design in their products or deliverables and understand the benefits of design beyond just eye-catching novelty: clarity, elegance, efficiency, coherence and innovation. This commitment is not often extended to internal communications. Such an uneven approach privileges the consumer, end user or external client, but fails to internalize the advantages of design within a corporate culture. Top companies will adopt a design philosophy throughout the organization–not just as a set of standards to follow but as a way of operating or thinking.
Apple, for instance, is celebrated for its innovations in product design and user interface. A closer look reveals that similar attention is paid to everything that could be associated with its brand: from websites, packaging and advertisements to its presentations and reports.
I came to Market Strategies as a devout believer in data visualization guru Edward Tufte’s strict design principals. I shunned chartjunk and the blasphemers who used it; I tried to keep my data density high and my data-ink-ratio higher. Requests would come in, especially for infographics, to “add some jazz,” “make it sexy” or “make it pop.”
I thought, “How could people disrespect their data in such ways—dress it up in cartoony costumes and house it in statistically inaccurate or misleading graphs—especially since I know how much care went into collecting and analyzing the data. Why not display the data with as much respect and care as they were shown during the rest of their life?”
I’ve come to realize these requests, sprinkled with glittery descriptions, don’t come from a place of disrespect but from a desire to add context, human emotion and deeper meaning to abstract data. Another request we hear is to “bring the data to life,” which I think comes closer to the true objective. It’s a desire to connect the reader to the data; to help explain what the data mean and why they should care about it. Although we strive to make data relevant to clients in our regular reporting, requests to “jazzify” are especially prevalent when we’re asked to design infographics. Often these requests come with slides pulled from a larger report deck. That’s a good starting point, but there are four steps to complete before producing an effective infographic:
Tell a story well, and it can change the way we think, feel and act. Stories can be powerful business tools to illustrate our ideas, stimulate our passions and inspire us in a way that hard data and facts often can’t. They create a personal connection between your audience and your message, and, from a market research perspective, they can change opinions and shed light on insights in an engaging manner. This is exactly where many market researchers fall short—they may deliver great results, but they don’t wrap it up into an impactful, memorable story.
Hello, Engaging Research Portal
Marketers named 2013 the “Year of the Image.” Americans continued to join and post to social media sites that favor images over text as a means of communicating en masse. Think Pinterest, Instagram, Tumblr, Vine, Selfie.
Perhaps we should not be surprised. Cognitive psychology tells us that humans are wired to favor visuals over text. We process images faster. We remember visuals better. We find well-designed visuals more credible. And when credible images engage us, they trigger emotional processing that leads to creativity and higher-quality decision-making.
All of these things—speed, recall, credibility, engagement and quality decision-making—are critical to the delivery of market research insight and to a company’s ability to turn insight into strategies and actions. Continue reading