| 11:50 AM EST

Information Design & COVID-19

We don’t need to see any more pictures of the virus that looks like the Death Star. We need clear, accurate information. Here’s some.


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I don’t know about you, but if I never see one of those images of a creepy red ball of evil that is now a part of seemingly all news—digital or broadcast—it will be soon enough.

COVID-19 is bad. We know that.

Too Much of a Good Thing Is Bad. Too Much of a Bad Thing. . .

But a steady diet of closings of everything from your local bistro to—as of March 19 for an unspecified period of time—all Ford factories in Europe is enough to make one feel dismal and uncomfortable.

That is another aspect of the virus: Because it is something that we are unfamiliar with and because it is something we can’t see or be certain where it is coming from (e.g., “Did that woman behind me cover her mouth when she coughed?”), it causes unease. Which is unpleasant. And upsetting.

There is a lot of information out there about what to do about protecting yourselves and your loved ones. (As simple as covering your mouth when you cough or sneeze.)

And there is a lot of that information which is, simply, crap.

If there were regimens or amulets that could protect us, we’d all know about it, not just those who are being victimized by those who are promulgating these lies.

Real Information Is Really Important

If you want to know what to do and how to do it, then go to a reputable site, like that of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: https://www.cdc.gov It does have that creepy red ball on its homepage, I must point out.

One of the problems with all of the reporting about COVID-19 is that it isn’t well contextualized. We hear the number of cases reported and the number of people who have died. We hear about the possibility of a surge that will overwhelm the hospital system (and if you know anyone who works at a hospital at any level, from neurosurgeon to custodian, thank them, tell them that you appreciate their work).

But we don’t know what it means. Which contributes to that unease.

Still Bad But You Might Feel Better

This morning a colleague forwarded me a link to a website titled “Information Is Beautiful,” which was established by a British designer, David McCandless.

And using excellent graphic design there is an abundance of information about the numbers related to COVID-19.

Given that the sources include the CDC, the World Health Organization, Johns Hopkins University, and the like, I can only assume that the information portrayed is accurate.

This, I’d argue, is a case where design is a key factor in improving things by making them clear.

That is, it leads to better understanding of what is actually happening. This is design done exceedingly well.

And it is a whole lot more encouraging than that vile red ball.

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