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Creative critiques of pharma and healthcare ads and campaigns

One Look is Worth a Thousand Words

Zuleika Burnett’s sharp eye is on ‘information overload’ in the form of infographics. One of three choices hits the five-star rating

This sentiment first appeared in the 1920s trade journal Printers' Ink, promoting the use of images in advertisements that appeared on the sides of streetcars. It refers to the notion that a complex idea can be conveyed in just a single image. This is at the root of infographics.

Infographics has long been used to build brands and educate audiences, and while some other design trends come and go, this is one that is here to stay.

Some of the most creative infographics encapsulate the most complex information. The visuals, which can be beautiful, grow organically from functional information such as statistics, and take form as sequences or comparisons.

Entire concepts, especially abstract ones, can be communicated through a single symbol. Hence, complicated information can be shown in a way that is immediately understandable. This makes it very useful for our industry. It's a completely different mindset to other forms of design, yet still requires a central concept and a degree of single-mindedness.

On the downside, infographics can be time consuming to research, and might be seen as expressing a singular point of view or inaccurate. However, the proposition of giving the masses access to data is hugely attractive – but only if done well.  

So how has infographics been used to the make the public healthier? Here are a few examples that deliver information in a rapidly digestible manner.

Hearing Loss – Ear Plug Superstore/



Hearing Loss – Ear Plug Superstore/

Infographic Design: Big Oak

Millions of people suffer from a disease called tinnitus, which is non-stop ringing in the ears and can result from various causes – prolonged exposure to loud noise being one of the more common ones.

Here, we have a graphic packed with statistics on the causes of hearing loss and tinnitus, and how to help safeguard the hearing. The graphic points out the four main ways people lose their hearing and even shows how you can tell if your ears are being damaged. And in a hard-hitting manner, it reveals that once your inner ear hair cells are gone, they don’t come back! And that’s when you lose your hearing for good.

The content is well organised and elegantly spirals outwards from the centre visual, with a good use of colour. It makes a credible call to action, without scare-mongering. But it’s just a bit messy around the edges for my liking.

Snake Oil? – Information is Beautiful



Snake Oil?

David McCandless & Andy Perkins v.2 Oct 2010
Complete sources and interactive version

This is simply the coolest infographic around! It was created by some of the masters in the field, using real-time data to illustrate scientific evidence for popular dietary supplements.

It shows the health benefits of oral supplements taken by an adult with a healthy diet. What I love about it is that it depicts these benefits as a ‘balloon race’ – the higher the bubble, the greater the evidence for the supplement’s effectiveness. But the supplements are only effective for the conditions shown inside the bubble.

The best thing is that this visualisation generates itself from a Google Doc. When new research comes out, the creators update the data and regenerate a newer image. The other useful feature is that the data will automatically reflow according to any health condition selected from menu.

So now I’m stocking up on green tea, honey and garlic! Genius – this design really ‘pops’.

Diabetes – Lloyds Pharmacy




Agency: Epiphany solutions

A good example of a clear and straight talking ‘data viz’ currently seen on the web. It is published on the Lloyds Pharmacy website, together with the web code so you can embed it into your website! Neat and clear graphics to tell a serious message about the differences between Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes.

Although not the most elegant or beautiful infographic, it does aim to tell a compelling story, reinforcing the global issue of diabetes and highlighting the growing prevalence of this disease. The story is clear and provides a universal conclusion about diabetes. It’s organised in a way that makes sense and keeps the viewer interested.

I like how the UK and US flags have been used to show the prevalence of diabetes in 2030. Also, I like that the message is uncluttered and delivered using a simple ‘totem pole’ layout that supports information hierarchy and plenty of clear space around the diagrams.

Article by
Zuleika Burnett

executive director, creative, Havas Life Medicom

6th June 2012


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