Making health statistics more ‘sticky’

Two designs of the same message used in our recall research. Statistic Source: USDOT, Federal Highway Administration, 2009 National Household Travel Survey

What makes an infographic more memorable? We’re all busy designing them or commissioning them, but do we really know what people remember about them? What makes the graphic and its message stick in our minds?

One of our projects recently involved testing short term free recall of health infographics. Whilst we’re still analysing all the data it’s interesting to share a few thoughts so far.

We interviewed 90 members of the general public. We spoke to a wide range of people from all walks of life, aged 18-79. We showed them various single message infographics, captured what they remembered about them and we also asked them why they think they remembered them.

According to the participant comments, what seems to make infographics (and more importantly their messages) ‘stick’ is down to (in order):
1) A personal connection with the data
2) Surprise/Newness
3) Visual appearance

Content that relates to us personally and tells us something new, according to participants comments, seems more important for recall than the visual qualities of the design. This is a challenge for public health data which focuses on the health story of the population rather than an individual. How then do we get the individual into this story?

One idea that we’re testing is the use of local spaces, to bring the data closer to the people and it make it more relatable. We’ve been doing that through mock ups but will be implementing some of the ideas in reality too after more development and testing.

The top two images here are of a street infographic mock up and the same data presented more conventionally. When we showed these two designs to people (as part of two different sets of 12 infographics of mixed styles)  they were more likely to remember the street infographic than the plain version and, most importantly, remember what its message was. 36% of the group that saw the embellished version remembered it whereas only 2% of the group that saw the plain version could recall its message.

Given the fact that on average people didn’t have a high recall rate (on average people remembered only a third of the infographics they’d viewed) 36% is actually quite high so in fact the visual presentation of this image DID make a difference to recall. Perhaps it did that by forging a more personal connection with the data through the depiction of a familiar space or perhaps the ‘newness’ of the presentation technique helped recall.  It’s early to make such a claim but it does suggest that what makes health infographics sticky is a complex area which we need to spend more time thinking about.

These findings and more will be published in a forthcoming journal paper though a fuller set of results will be made available on this site too in the form of an extended abstract.

Do you have any studies/case studies on recall and infographics you’d like featured here? Let us know…

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