Why data visualization is critical to driving sustainable change
It is difficult to put into words just how wasteful our current economic system is. Harnessing the power of graphic design can help us stop, understand, and make better decisions.
One of the tough things about tackling our linear, throwaway culture is that the consequences are largely hidden out of sight. Resources are harvested in distant farms and mines, and when we are done with our products the waste is taken away to distant landfills or incinerators – and that’s not even mentioning all the unseen energy expended along the way in transport and processing. We struggle to comprehend how much waste we create as individuals, so what hope do we have of understanding how much is generated across the entire economy?
That’s where data visualization and graphic design have a vital role to play in realizing the transition to a new way of thinking. We’ve found that in helping organizations understand their waste streams, creating compelling graphics doesn’t just make information easier to digest. It helps us to truly understand the scale of our material flows – and to identify points at which we can intervene and change the system.
Metabolic Industries Team Lead Pieter van Exter says graphics have a vital role to play. “Our work is about developing the right insights and strategies based on the analysis of complex systems,” he says. “Visuals are essential to communicate the interactions, implications and impacts of these systems instantly.”
A picture is worth a thousand words
Visual representations of data are easier to understand and remember than columns and rows of information packed into a spreadsheet: reading numbers simply doesn’t give you the full picture. Infographics enable readers to grasp complex ideas, see certain patterns or relationships, and come up with new intervention points in creative ways that wouldn’t necessarily be thought of if they were looking at the raw data. One University of Minnesota study found that presentations with visual aids are 43% more persuasive than presentations without them.
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