Visual Storytelling for Data & Development: Infographics for the World Bank

Here at Reboot, we believe deeply in the power of design. We often find ourselves applying its principles and processes in shaping programs that focus on meeting the needs of people. And fundamental to this challenge — that of addressing complex ideas with real world impact — is the ability to spread information through compelling communications design.

We have found that many of our colleagues in the social sector undervalue the role of communications design. This perspective is understandable – when creating a $200 million program to overhaul a nation’s water and sanitation system, the significance of fonts and colors and layout can seem quite minor.

Yet this stance has real drawbacks. No matter how well that water program might get put together, its purpose and intentions must still be communicated to a range of audiences: government officials who need to support the program, community members who are asked to participate, and international policy makers who may decide when and how the money is spent. Each audience will make key decisions that influence the outcome of the program based on information that has been communicated to them.

If we neglect the role that communications design plays in ensuring that information is accessible, clear, and compelling, we risk undermining our hard work at the “last mile” in those telling moments when ideas are transmitted from one person to another.

It is because we care about these issues that we were excited to have had the opportunity to work with the World Bank, in translating a complex set of ideas about technology and development into a format that hopes to inspire and inform.

The development community is still openly debating whether or not mobile phones are materially improving human outcomes. As a bold new addition to that debate, today the World Bank is releasing Information and Communication for Development 2012: Maximizing Mobile. The report argues that there is ample evidence of a “mobile revolution” in terms of development outcomes, and that we are only just at the beginning of this transformation.

To help make this argument in a way that might reach some new audiences, our colleagues at the World Bank called upon Reboot to expand upon the traditional format of this report with a compelling visual data-driven narrative. Drawing on our own knowledge and expertise in the sector and our in-house design chops, we designed the publication’s centerfold infographic tracing the emergence of mobile phones as a critical platform for service delivery.


It has been invigorating to witness the World Bank, an established policy leader, come to embrace the use of visual design as a powerful means of communicating its important data. We look forward to continuing our collaboration to make development issues and data meaningful for everyday people.

To view the full report on IC4D in 2012, please click here.

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