Figurative Data


Visualising health doesn’t have to be abstract. People tend to remember infographics that feature recognisable objects (Borkin et al, 2013; Stones & Gent, 2016 forthcoming). For instance Zigmund-Fisher et al. (2014) found that risk recall was significantly more accurate in icon arrays when more anthropomorphic icons were used, (such as restroom icons, outlines of heads, and detailed photographs) than with other abstract icon types such as blocks, ovals or simplified faces.

By using ‘real’ images we can also make the data more real for most of our audience (though there is still unease about using them with low-literate audiences).

It’s easy to source free-to-use mockup shots though it’s harder to be creative with them. My design maps very well onto the underlying photograph implying that the liver is real and in all of us. There’s already been interesting work around medical visualisation and clothing ( so there’s no shortage of innovative ways of bringing data to life.

Borkin, M. A., Vo, A. A., Bylinskii, Z., Isola, P., Sunkavalli, S., Oliva, A., & Pfister, H. (2013). What makes a visualization memorable?. Visualization and Computer Graphics, IEEE Transactions on, 19(12), 2306-2315.

Zikmund-Fisher, B. J., Witteman, H. O., Dickson, M., Fuhrel-Forbis, A., Kahn, V. C., Exe, N. L., … & Fagerlin, A. (2014). Blocks, Ovals, or People? Icon Type Affects Risk Perceptions and Recall of Pictographs. Medical Decision Making, 34(4), 443-453.

The background image was taken from :

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