This section has close links to parts of Module 4, which deals with databases and indicators from the conceptual and methodological points of view.
The visual part of communication is often underestimated. Ever since the birth of the printing press, there has been a cultural assumption that information is best communicated through written formats, and people often consider words the most important form of human communication. Supported by the invention of the computer and desktop publishing, media and advertising, the role of visual messages in the communication process has expanded since the late 1980s.
It is becoming increasingly important to recognize that the two communication systems—visual and verbal—are interdependent. It is probable that the most powerful, meaningful and culturally important messages are those that combine words and pictures. Memorable visual messages with text have the greatest power to inform, educate and persuade an individual.
Visual communication can help us shape the interpretation of data, and strengthen messages delivered through the text. Images, maps and graphics can simplify complicated insights as well as displaying complex information in a very condensed way. So, by using the right images and colours, and by getting your maps and graphics properly done, your IEA’s messages and readability will be strengthened. See the presentation material on improved visual communication.
Box 7: Visual communication: Example of the Vital Climate Graphics, Africa
The Third Assessment Report of the UNEP/WMO Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) noted a warming of approximately 0.7°C over most of the African continent during the 20th century, based on historical records. While the exact nature of the changes in temperature or precipitation, and extreme events are not known, there is general agreement that extreme events will get worse, and trends in most variables will change in response to warming. To explain these changes, a large number of graphics were developed to make the issue more understandable. The information is available at: http://www.grida.no/climate/vital/