Resilience – the ability of communities, economies, and ecosystems within South Carolina to anticipate, absorb, recover, and thrive when presented with environmental change and natural hazards – is managed by multiple state and federal agencies. The South Carolina Office of Resilience’s well-done guiding graphic explains those separate and overlapping responsibilities to decision makers. The graphic is well done because it is decorative and also stays true to the credibility concepts of information visuals.
Decorative visuals are added for aesthetic appeal and humorous purposes. Decorative visuals are eye candy that usually interferes with learning processes. These visuals are a form of visual art; as such, they represent a one-way communication between the artist (from the marketing or communications department) and the data.
Explanatory visuals, or information visuals, are meant only to show the important things in the data. These visuals are a two-way communication between the receiver (audience) and the data. Unlike decorative visuals, these visuals focus specifically on the central message of the data.
Technical Professionals Use Explanatory Visuals
Effective communication has everything to do with the receiver, not the sender; therefore, decorative visuals are poorly aligned with effective communication of issues with complexity and uncertainty. However, one or two decorative visuals can add some appeal and pep.
The SCOR Graphic
One good place to use decorative visuals is related to guiding graphics. A guiding graphic usually shows processes and milestones, "this is where we have been and this is where we are going," or depicts areas of responsibility.
The South Carolina Office of Resilience combines both decorative and explanatory aspects to its graphic. The graphic is not overdone in either direction. In its simplicity, there is conciseness and usefulness.
The place for decorative visuals is in guiding graphics. Decorative visuals provide a little 'wow factor.' As always, do it with finesse.