Why every researcher should be using visual summaries

Why every researcher should be using visual summaries

Research is undertaken because organisations want to learn something.

A key role of the researcher is to communicate those learnings to them in the most accessible and digestible way – and that’s why visual summaries should be considered a vital tool in their arsenal.

A visual summary is a graphic which compresses the insights from a post-project report – something which, as most researchers can attest, tends to be lengthy – into an approachable one-pager.

Light on words and heavy on quick-to-digest graphics, they’re an excellent method of rapidly and effectively communicating key findings to individuals outside of the project team, especially stakeholders or senior management. They also have the advantage of avoiding the often banal high level bullet points of ‘executive summaries’, and are useful in helping to ensure that research findings are communicated in a consistent fashion across an organisation.

They’re also easy to use – rather than asking recipients to download and read a multi-chapter report, a visual summary can be embedded directly into an email for a quick, at-a-glance overview.

As an example, the following visual summary was developed to provide an immediate synthesis of a complex research/design project aiming to provide restaurant design options for a major institution. 

The visualisation was created in place of the usual multiple slide deck and was hugely successful in imparting insight and engaging key stakeholders;

 The three groups visual summaries help you to reach

We’ve found that there are three groups that primarily benefit when we incorporate visual summaries into projects:

  1. Delivery staff and senior stakeholders

These groups are critical to a service’s execution, and can be challenging to communicate with effectively. By democratising the key information through a visual summary, service designers can better ensure these groups understand and are engaged with the design.

  1. Service users and the general public

Not every service needs its inner workings to be publicised – but government services in particular can benefit from making the processes which drive them more accessible to the general public. When reaching a service’s users with these details is a project goal, visual summaries are an effective method of achiving it.

  1. New collaborators and team members

Visual studies can be a major timesaver when onboarding new members of the service design team, or bringing new collaborators into a pre-existing project. We’ve found that it cuts down on the time required for briefing, and enables a faster, more comprehensive understanding of the service. 

How to get started

Before a visual summary is begun, the user journey must be walked, the new service design completed and the insights from the project collated. All of these should now feed into the visual summary.                                                 

Break out your previous journey maps, infographics and other project work, incorporate the key elements, and compress the information as much as possible, cutting everything non-essential.

Once you’ve cut the fat, add the colour. Make the graphics eye-catching and engaging to help draw the reader in. This is where visual summaries really shine, and will help grab the attention of those stakeholders who would have skimmed past a lengthy report in their inbox.

ExperienceLab are experts in research and service design and we believe passionately in the power of visualisation to communicate findings, concepts and designs. To see examples of our work or perhaps to explore how we can help you please contact us.