Lessons-learned: What works...and what doesn’t?

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Lessons-learned: What works...and what doesn’t?

Take a step back and reflect on your work. There's a lot we can learn from your experiences - here's your chance to share these lessons! What do you wish you had known when you started visualizing information advocacy? Or, if you're new to this, what questions or challenge could you use some help with? Consider these questions below when sharing your comments in this discussion topic:

  • What can go wrong? (i.e. visual cliches, data manipulation, emotional manipulation) Share examples of visuals that didn’t work.
  • What advice can you share with newcomers to this work?
  • How do we measure the impact of visualizing information?

Share your thoughts, experiences, questions, challenges and ideas by replying to the comments below.

For help on how to participate in this conversation, please visit these online instructions. New feature: you can now add images and video to your comments!


image manipulation and subversion.

hello everyone!

I just want to say that, being also an artist mainly dealing with not only human rights but also focus on identities of cultures, I am aware of image manipulation and subversion. Personally I think subverted the pre-existing images and recycle and reuse them are powerful ways of visually communicating a new message and build new meanings to the mass public. Double-take on traditional images or images having historical significance especially so. 

would love to hear everyone's thoughts!



Examples of images of subversion

Thanks for joining the discussion, Del! I'm glad you raised this point about how powerful image manipulation and subversion can be! We have a number of examples shared by the community in our past conversations:

Share other examples by replying to this comment!

-- Kristin Antin, New Tactics Online Community Builder

Pink Tank
One more example of subversion

Hey Del and Kristin  - great examples! I have one more to add. One of my favourite examples of subversion is from Icaro Doria, a Brazilian artist, who created the Meet the World campaign. As flags have certain social conventions associated with them, or have become iconic, with authority vested in them. Meet the World uses national flags in an unexpected way to subvert such meanings. He used real data taken from Amnesty International and the UNO. 

There are 8 flags in the series that portray on data about the war in Iraq in the States, violence against women in Africa, social inequality in Brazil, Malaria in Angola and four more. 

This is my favourite one below which is the flag of China but the stars represent something very different to feelings of pride. 

Throwing 'stones'

Hi all, nice examples! I really like this example, from Tools for Action http://www.toolsforaction.net/ (based in Berlin, last I heard) - who use giant inflatables in protests. 

In Berlin on May 1st there are protests across the city, (funnily enough, on the same day and in the same place each year) - and last year, this group made giant inflatable cobblestones and 'threw' these at police instead. I saw a funny video of police not really knowing how to react to the giant inflatables, bouncing them back to the protestors until eventually they were basically all playing with a balloon together. It's a great example of turning the protest into a game and humanising the whole process. 

They also did a similar thing with a "Hungarian Orange" in Budapest in 2012- more details on that here: http://www.toolsforaction.net/hello-world/


giant inflatable cobblestone

Hey Zara! Great example. I really like the idea of bringing visualisations into the physical world. It would be interesting to look at whether viewers connect more with something no-tech/ low-tech over a visualisation using complex design and programming.

Here is a great summary of physical visualisations that both passive (no electronics included) and active (electronic) physical visualisations. 

Below are a couple of my favourites  - a picture of a sculpture showing keyboard frequency by Mike Knuepfel and the video showing the process of making a visualisation using sponges that grow in height according to how thirsty the country will be with the decline of urban domestic water. 



Thanks Gabi. I really like what Icaro is doing. It is so easy to understand but the narrative behind is quite strong and powerful. I'll definitvely keep this as a resource. Again, thanks for sharing. For the rest, here is a link to the rest of the flags for those that also found it interesting: http://www.brazilianartists.net/home/flags/

meet the world

great! glad you liked them. I completely agree, they are eye-catching and powerful - and thanks for including the link! 

Resource for Visual Storytelling Best Practices

Hi everyone,

I wanted to flag for you a visual storytelling best practices guide we released in April of this year: Seeing is Believing. We cover brain science (read: how the brain processes visuals!), how people make decisions and how you can use visuals to influence people's decisions around your causes. I hope you find some new tips in there, but I am also eager to hear from you about other resources out there. As well, if anyone wants to guest blog for us on your visual communications lessons learned or great case studies, we welcome them for our Visual Story Lab.

Thank you!


Thank you for participating in this conversation!

Thank you to all those who participated in this conversation! A total of 63 comments were added to the discussions by 15 people. The conversation was viewed about 1300 times last week. And the conversation was mentioned on Twitter over 150 times! It’s great to see so much interest in this topic!

I especially want to thank Emma Prest and Gabi Sibley from Tactical Tech, our wonderful facilitators for this conversation, and our conversation leaders: Hend, Enrique, Susan, Zara, Mirko, Heather, Jacky. Thank you for your commitment to this exchange.

This conversation was an opportunity to learn more about visualizing information for advocacy: how to collect and analyze the data you want to visualize, how to plan your approach based on your audience and your goals, and how to implement your plan. Many great examples of compelling visualizations were shared (with pictures!), along with lessons-learned and visualization tools.  I hope you are taking away new ideas, resources, perspectives and allies!

We will begin the process of writing a summary of the comments posted here. It will most likely take a few weeks and once we're finished, we'll post the summary on the front page of this dialogue. For those of you who added comments, I'll notify you by email when the summary is posted.

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-- Kristin Antin, New Tactics Online Community Builder