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Visualizing the terror threat. The impact of communicating security information to the general public using infographics and motion graphics

Lonsdale, Maria dos Santos; Lonsdale, David; Baxter, Matthew; Graham, Ryan; Kanafani, Aya; Li, Anqi; Peng, Chunxinzi


Maria dos Santos Lonsdale

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Dr David Lonsdale
Senior Lecturer/ Programme Director, BA War Studies/ Programme Director, MA Strategy and International Security

Matthew Baxter

Ryan Graham

Aya Kanafani

Anqi Li

Chunxinzi Peng


Terrorism represents one of the most pressing contemporary security threats. As a consequence, governments provide information to the public on threat levels and on how to respond to terror incidents. To effectively reassure the public, and to increase their vigilance, it is essential that the information communicated is accessible, clear, actionable and engaging. This is the first study to explore the impact of information design principles and visualization of information on the communication of security-related information. Two different but complementary strands were devised: Strand 1 – compared whether more visualised information was more effective than text dense information at communicating to the public; Strand 2 – compared whether a motion graphics was more effective than an infographic at communicating to the public. A survey questionnaire and interview were used to identify problems and needs. Several usability tests and iterations were conducted to develop new design solutions. Empirical testing was then conducted for final evaluation and validation, collecting quantitative and qualitative data. Results show significant differences between pre- and post-knowledge of the Terror Threat Levels. Results also show significant differences between text dense information and more visualised information. Results further show no significant difference between communicating information via an infographic or motion graphics in situations where information needs to be assimilated as a crescendo (i.e. levels of severity) or as a series of steps to be followed (action in an emergency). This study provides important guidelines on how to effectively communicate security information to the public, with practical implications for security agencies.


Lonsdale, M. D. S., Lonsdale, D., Baxter, M., Graham, R., Kanafani, A., Li, A., & Peng, C. (2019). Visualizing the terror threat. The impact of communicating security information to the general public using infographics and motion graphics. Visible language, 53(2), 37-71

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Feb 5, 2019
Online Publication Date Aug 1, 2019
Publication Date Aug 1, 2019
Deposit Date Mar 14, 2019
Publicly Available Date Mar 15, 2019
Print ISSN 0022-2224
Electronic ISSN 0022-2224
Publisher University of Cincinnati
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 53
Issue 2
Pages 37-71
Public URL
Contract Date Mar 14, 2019


Article (3.3 Mb)

Copyright Statement
This article is protected by copyright, all rights reserved. This is an
author produced version of the paper accepted for publication in
Visible Language journal. Visible Language should be contacted for permission to re-use the material in any form.

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