Not just an update, but a redesign

Disaster Impacts / 2000-2012

The hugely popular infographic I designed for UNISDR on the impacts of disasters from 2000-2011 required a bit of an update. And with over 7,000 views already on Flickr, it was pretty straightforward to update it with new stats from CRED for 2012. But just updating the graphic wasn’t enough. There were some trials and tribulations designing this infographic and I wanted to address them in this updated version.

First, UNISDR had a new brand in early 2013 and so we needed to rebrand the design with the organization’s new corporate visual identity. This included an updated logo with visual interest (i.e. see the color band underneath the logo?). Instead of using the corporate blue which not only made the graphic color heavy for printing, but having a bit more white space created a fresher and modern look to the graphic. Also with more white space, the title of the graphic pulls you in. And instead of the standard credits/metadata that I had learned and applied in the lower corners of OCHA situation maps, the style of putting the credits in a line under the title was elegant, non-intrusive, and just worked.

Second, after having done some user research, the most commonly used numbers were the large accumulated totals. Even though proportional numbers (think %) would provide a better representation, according to CRED, the accumulated totals were referenced regularly. This made it clear that these numbers should stand out more in this updated graphic.

Finally, the line chart provided a simple snapshot of the peaks and valleys of the disaster impacts for the three variables. Having them stretch across the width of the page also made them take a backseat and gave prominence to the total numbers. Rather than put the icons of major events below the graph, which I found drew eyes away from the story of the lines, situating them just by their peaks made it that much more readable. I also removed the borders around the icons to make the design more elegant. While the colors in the totals matched the line graph, I also understood that the graphic gets printed and most likely in B&W. So there are small titles on the left side to repeat the categories.

Thanks to OCHA again for making these icons available on the Noun Project and ReliefWeb.

The graphic can be found on Flickr here.


UPDATE 4 July 2013 – in a bit of daze, I wrote this for another post until I realized I already had written about this infographic above…

Try not to be boring when designing an infographic

I find updating an infographic infinitely more challenging than doing one for the first time. Blame it on my creative right-hemisphere brain the fact of just updating an infographic with revised data is down-right boring. There are several reasons for this. One, when I create an infographic, its a snapshot in time of the data currently available, the design variables that I have on hand, and the story that I want to tell. Two, since its a snapshot, reproducing the same graphic with new data (i.e. adding another year of info), doesnt make the graphic special anymore. And also since humans are typically visual creatures, an infographic that just has a new set of data with the same design doesnt stand out how would you know that the first graphic is different than the second? Finally, where is the challenge is just doing the same old thing when you can learn from what was wrong the first time to improve the next time?

Based on these principles, I took the challenge of taking the yearly release of disaster statistics by CRED to come up with a new way to visualize the stats from 2000-2012. Its not drastically new, but it does incorporate feedback from people, as well as try to develop a stronger visual hierarchy that draws people into the graphic step by step. The original idea capitalized on the 10-year trend of global disaster damage, people affected, and mortality. The updated version for 2012 provided the same visual trend, yet with more of an emphasis on the total numbers since this was what people tended to focus on from the graphics so why not make it more obvious and easier to see? Another innovation was to highlight the key disaster events by the peaks/valleys of the data trend rather than having to move your eyes away from the graph to find the info.

Overall, I think the infographic turned out to be a creative way to communicate the same thing but with a slight update to keep it fresh, relevant and visual. If we cant outdo ourselves or learn from our mistakes and try new things based on what weve learned, it would just be boring and ineffective.

You can download the updated version here:

(By the way, happy 4th of July to all my American friends and family!)

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