Thursday, September 5, 2013

Five Kinds of Illustrated Graphics for Health Care Textbooks

There are only two kinds of people in this world: Realists and dreamers.

Wait, wait.

There are only two kinds of people in this world: Generalists and specialists.


There are only two kinds of people in this world: Givers and takers.

Oh, this is ridiculous. There are way more than two kinds of people in this world, but from my perspective, there are five (maybe six) key kinds of illustrations that can be used in a health care textbook:
  1. Statistical (charts/graphs, tables) 
  2. Clinical (anatomy, physiology, pathology, comparative)
  3. Schematic (how something works)
  4. Storyline (recreates an event, page “decorations”)
  5. Icons
Let's take a look at each one.

#1 Statistical

Statistical graphics convey quantifiable data. Mostly. There are a wide variety of statistical graphics commonly used in health care textbooks. This list, in fact, is enormous, but here are some of them:
  • Maps
  • Bar graphs
  • Line graphs
  • Histograms
  • Area charts
  • Pie charts
  • Timelines
  • Flow charts or algorithms
  • Infographics
The more complex the data being presented, generally, the more complex the graphic.

#2 Clinical

Clinical graphics commonly take the form of one of four types:
  • Anatomical
  • Physiological
  • Pathophysiological
  • Comparative
Comparative graphics, such as the one at right, can be extremely helpful in clarifying pathology or surgical interventions.

#3 Schematic

Schematic illustrations are useful for showing how something works. Some schematics use some kind of anatomical illustration as the underpinning (below, left). Some are more architectural in structure, as in the example below, right.

#4 Storyline

Storyline graphics recreate an event of some kind, such as an office patient speaking with a receptionist, a physician taking a patient's blood pressure, or a nurse holding a newborn. Sometimes these kinds of images serve a real purpose, but often they're just page decorations and carry no content weight.

#5 Icons

Icons are used frequently in health care textbooks. They're generally quite small and tend to identify particular types of content, such as alerts, communication-related content, patient education, and so forth.

~ #6 Maybe one more — Infographics

We haven't used infographics much so far, but I think you'll begin seeing more used as time goes by. Infographics provide a mix of data types in, typically, a vertical format and are heavily illustrated.

So, there you go. Five kinds of illustrated graphics for health care textbooks.

Wait, maybe six.

Oh, bother.