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That COVID virus you've seen printed everywhere could put people off the vaccination

Louise Pau
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Louise Pau
That COVID virus you've seen printed everywhere could put people off the vaccination
Artwork by Louise Pau and Simon Tyler

Has it occurred to you that the 3D COVID virus you’ve seen everywhere could have a detrimental impact on how many people vaccinate? Could the graphics we choose serve to further your audience’s understanding or cause unwanted confusion?

If tasked with making posters to promote genetic testing, would you use a 3D double helix in full molecular detail or use a simple cartoon?

The function of the DNA graphic in this context is solely to catch your eye and inform you that this poster has something to do with genetics.

Which will be a more effective graphic?

As a doctor tactfully chooses the right words and tone to explain a patient’s situation, so does the right level of graphical abstraction have an effect on the receptivity of your message. Cartoonist Scott McCloud examines cartooning as a form of amplification through simplification. He speculates that when we abstract an image through cartooning, we’re not so much eliminating details as we are focusing on specific details.

By stripping down an image to it’s ‘essential meaning’ we can amplify that meaning in a way that realistic art can’t.

Good visual communication strips away information that distracts, leaving no room for the receiver to understand it as something other than the author intended. Visual simplicity refers to the perception that a visual message presents “orderliness, balance, and clarity—the concepts of figural goodness defined by Gestalt psychology. So can a 3D COVID virus be replaced with a simpler version and still have equal effect, if not more?

Ultimately, our common goal is to find ways to effectively communicate to the public vital information that can help them make informed lifestyle and health choices and safeguard everyone from catastrophes like the current pandemic. Using images and animation is always a guaranteed way to catch people’s eyes, but does it have the ability to sustain their attention and ultimately affect their decision making?

Here are some guiding questions when choosing images to accompany your message.

  1. Is your message targeted to a general or expert audience? An expert audience can process a lot more information so using 3D is probably appropriate. For a general audience, too much details become confusing.
  2. Does your image/animation highlight the single most important element that they need to understand?
  3. Does your image/animation convey your message in the most uncomplicated way?

If used well, visual language serves as a supporting structure for your message. However, using images that are beyond your audience’s scope will cause confusion rather than further understanding.