Visual Communication and Infographics

Have you ever heard the story of why Bill Gates began donating money and time to curing diseases around the world? Would you be surprised to know he says it’s because of a graphic he saw in the New York Times? Here’s how Nicholas Kristof tells the story:

From: Nicholas Kristof Subject: the power of art

in september i traveled with bill gates to africa to look at his work fighting aids there. while setting the trip up, it emerged that his initial interest in giving pots of money to fight disease had arisen after he and melinda read a two-part series of articles i did on third world disease in January 1997. until then, their plan had been to give money mainly to get countries wired and full of computers.

bill and melinda recently reread those pieces, and said that it was the second piece in the series, about bad water and diarrhea killing millions of kids a year, that really got them thinking of public health. Great! I was really proud of this impact that my worldwide reporting and 3,500-word article had had. But then bill confessed that actually it wasn’t the article itself that had grabbed him so much — it was the graphic. It was just a two column, inside graphic, very simple, listing third world health problems and how many people they kill. but he remembered it after all those years and said that it was the single thing that got him redirected toward public health.

No graphic in human history has saved so many lives in africa and asia.

I’m sending you a copy of the story and graphic by interoffice mail. whoever did the graphic should take a bow.

nick kristof

You can see the graphic he’s referring to here.

As you’re working on your team’s infographic, you’ll want to spend plenty of time exploring other effective infographics and reading more on your own about effective visual and graphic design. Here are some places to get started:

Lastly, here is the link to “The Beauty of Data Visualization” TED Talk we watched in class.

Chapter 7: Crafting Messages for Digital Channels

If you didn’t take a chance to check out the additional resources our textbook provides on their online site, here are a few of my favorites from this chapter:

  • Forbes, “Are You Prepared for a Social Media Crisis?” link
  • “Social Media Tools: The Complete List (2017 Update)” link
  • Inc., “Here are the Business Podcasts You Should be Listening to” link
  • “20 Creative Ways to Use Social Media for Storytelling” link

And, something not from our textbook’s website but that you might be interested in, here is a link to a post titled “16 Killer Social Media Management Tools.”

Let’s Talk about Tweets, Baby

Thick vs. Thin Tweets: Some people use Twitter to tell people about their lunch (“Lunch was good!”). However, that’s not how businesses are going to use Twitter. If you are representing a business or organization, you want to think about the value you are adding for your readers. And you want to include language and images that are engaging and perhaps even useful. David Silver writes a blog post to explain the difference between thick and thin tweets. Keep in mind that you should be aiming for thick tweets.

Tips for Twitter Newbies: Wired offers some “Critical Tips for New Users,” including useful information about knowing the lingo, FOMO, and privacy. Hootsuite also offers some useful information about Twitter lingo in their “18 Practical Twitter Tips for Beginners.” And whether you’re new to Twitter or use it often, you might want to check out Hootsuite’s “The Do’s and Don’ts of How to Use Hashtags.”

URL Shortening: Before Twitter automatically shortened your links for you, people used sites like tinyurl and bitly to shorten the link themselves. This was, of course, a way to save some of those 140 characters for what you wanted to say and not waste them on excessively long URLs. Here’s an interesting article from CosSchedule’s Blog from 2014 about the pros and cons of URL shorteners. And here, written more recently, is Twitter’s explanation of their link shortening services.


Hello and welcome, members of WRC 2214: Business Writing. We have an exciting semester ahead of us full of reading about, researching, and practicing what it means to be a writer in the businessworld. We’ll grapple with some often-cited concerns about effective business writing, such as how to make writing short yet still complete, and we’ll create several documents business professionals use/create on a regular basis.

This website will serve as our shared space this semester. This is where you will find the syllabus, the daily schedule, assignment sheets, occasional updates, links to each other’s blogs, additional readings, and more. I recommend you bookmark this page.

I have prepared a list of readings and designed what I hope will be meaningful and engaging projects for us. However, I also look forward to you all bringing your unique interests, passions, and curiosities to bear on all of the work we do, and I hope that will include your suggestions about ways we might alter and improve these proposed readings and activities. No doubt, throughout this semester, you all will be reading and discussing interesting, relevant topics and texts in other classes and on your own; share those with the rest of us! I’d like for us all to support one another and play a part in creating a classroom environment that is characterized by rigorous, creative intellectual pursuits.