It is, in fact, all in how you look at it

By March 20, 2009Uncategorized

A fascinating article in AdAge recently on, of all things, data visualization has demonstrated what may be the next wave in building patient relationships online.

The article begins as follows: Today's consumer seems to have an insatiable appetite for information,
but until recently making sense of all of that raw data was too
daunting for most. Enter the new "visual scientists" who are turning
bits and bytes of data — once purely the domain of mathematicians and
coders — into stories for our digital age.

To put this a little differently, the idea here is that in any setting where there's a great deal of information, or a large number of items that constitute the whole, how that information is arranged and presented has an enormous impact on how clearly people understand what it all means. As an example, there has been a lot in the news about trillion-dollar stimulus packages. It's one thing to see that a trillion dollars is $1,000,000,000,000 dollars. It's another to see what it would look like as actual cash — think of a football field of money, stacked about eight feet high. It looks like this:


Incidentally, that tiny little object in the front left corner of the pile is a human being, drawn to scale.

As examples of this, the article goes on to introduce us to several online services and microsites where individual items or stories have been visually organized to better allow people to explore them, to understand them, and so on. A few examples:

The Hard Rock Cafe's Memorabilia site (warning — requires a quick download of Microsoft's free Silverlight utility)

The Oakland Crimespotting site

The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art ArtScope site

Using the SFMOMA site as an example, it's a display of the museum's entire collection online, in one big tiled display. Viewers can move a window over it, expanding any item they select in order to get a closer look. It's essentially a virtual visual file of the entire museum, right in front of your eyes. It gives the size and scope of the collection a whole new dimension, and is an outstanding way to explore, and see art you otherwise would probably have missed.

We have written before of the need patients have to engage, to be connected to one another, and to the brand. It's easy for, say, an MS patient to feel as if she is very alone in coping with her condition. There are online communities springing up, like, that create environments for communication. However, these communications are typically manifested as words and numbers. Not a lot of images.

What if a pharma company marketing an MS drug, say, Tysabri, created something like the ArtScope site for patients. Instead of a list of names, the site would feature a tiled group of pictures (or video — take a look at the Flickr Clock site) of fellow patients, which would then break down when clicked upon into individual profiles, histories and so on.

It's the same information. However, it's presented visually, and in a way that supports the patient's understanding of how enormous, diverse and yet similar this group is. This approach would knit patients together like nothing they've ever experienced, and would also powerfully position the brand as the foundation of the patient community.

As we said, it's all in how you look at it.