Visual communications in the social sector

Be wise, don't play with firecrackers, WPA poster, ca. 1937

In an article for the Stanford Social Innovation Review, Curtis Chang tackled what seems to me an obvious and glaring shortcoming: the text-heavy nature of communications and promotions within the social sector.

Chang starts at the top, citing leaders of social sector organizations for their lack of visual communication skills. Many of these leaders are selected in part for their verbal fluency, without regard to their visual fluency.

These leaders, in turn, don’t prioritize or fund visual communication skills within their organizations.The result? Although the cost of video production and graphic design have plummeted as computing power continues to decline in cost, communications in the social sector often seems stuck in the age of the typewriter.

I see this at my current organization, a non-profit agency for education research and service. My term for the syndrome: Dissertation Culture. It seems that most all our communications must be done in huge blocks of texts. I have to repeatedly dissuade people from using footnotes for their 2,000-word blog posts. I swear some of them have the motto, “White space is wasted space.” Ugh.

This lack of visual communications is in part why I wrote my series on page layout using Microsoft PowerPoint.

Chang goes several steps further in his article by including links to many excellent resources on data visualization, photos, video, presentations, and collateral. Check out his article and the links it contains to raise your acuity in visual communications and have more impact in your work.

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