Visualizing the consequences of sugary drinks
April 27, 2010
Exercise: Visualizing your message to create a change
Recently, I have shown this video below to students and trainees. At first I ask them to sketch some slides on paper that incorporate this sentence: "Drinking one can of soda a day can make you 10 pounds fatter in a year." I asked them to think of ways they can make that message more visual and memorable. People come up with ideas including sketches of a year's supply of sugar on a table from just the 365 cans of soda, or 365 cans of empty soda cans and bottles around a single office cubicle, or sketches of bloated bellies and people with worried looks standing on scales, and so on. This activity gets people thinking of ways of combining visuals with type to amplify the impact of a message. After a brief discussion, I show them this PSA from the NYC Dept of Health. Watch the clip below or here on YouTube.
The PSA: Don't drink yourself fat
This 30-second video — which has no voice over — receives a lot of moans and groans from the audience. No one expected a visualization like that. Is it over the top? That's a matter of personal taste I suppose. It certainly gets people's attention and makes its point. Only time will tell if if makes any difference in New York and beyond. (For me personally, it already has had a profound effect.) On the New York City Department of Health's website you can learn more about the campaign. Here you can read a bit about the controversy. The video below (or on YouTube) touches on the public's reaction to the PSA.
Watch a short AP story on people's reaction to the ad in New York City.
Thirty seconds is not a long time, yet a visualization like the one in the NYC Dept of Health's PSA is effective for getting attention and making a memorable point. The aim was not to provide detailed information in the actual spot, but rather to make a powerful visual impression that's visceral with the hope that we'll stop to rethink our habits and investigate further on their website and from other sources. In an actual presentation situation, we can also use high-impact visualizations so long as we provide context and the details of why and how, and when, etc. In an actual presentation we can take more time to illuminate further by way of examples and by introducing more evidence to backup our claims.
* Sugar: The bitter truth Watch this 90-minute presentation by Robert H. Lustig, MD, UCSF Professor of Pediatrics in the Division of Endocrinology as he explores the damage caused by sugary foods. He argues that too much fructose and too little fiber appear to be cornerstones of the obesity epidemic. Dr. Lustig is a good speaker. If his visuals were of a much higher quality this would have been a far better talk, however. Still, if you are very interested in this topic, you will find the presentation very interesting indeed.