How to enhance the accessibility of climate change data visuals

Data visuals are integral to the communication of the IPCC. They contain important information relevant to stakeholders in society, but they can be difficult for non-experts to understand. The 12 guidelines help climate researchers enhance the accessibility of their data visuals. A full report is also available.

IPCC AR5, Working Group II

Data visuals are crucial for the communication of climate change. Particularly the reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change IPCC are dependent on data visuals, but as well the communication of climate change reserach in general.

The University of East Anglia and the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research developed twelve evidence-based guidelines, encapsulated by the 'MADE' principle.

The MADE principle

Effective data visuals of scientific evidence are ones that are ‘MADE’. That is, they consider the:

Message: Does the visual communicate a clear message?
Audience: Is the visual appropriate for the intended audience(s)?
Design: Does the visual use evidence-based design principles?
Evaluation: Has the visual been tested with the audience(s)?


  1. Identify your main message
  2. Assess your audience's prior knowledge
  3. Consider how your audience 'thinks'
  4. Choose visual formats familiar to your audience
  5. Reduce complexity where possible
  6. Build-up information to provide visual structure
  7. Integrate and structure text
  8. Avoid jargon and explain acronyms
  9. Use cognitive perceptual design principles
  10. Consider cognition for digital animation and interaction
  11. Consider cognition when visually communicating uncertainty
  12. Test visuals to check comprehension

The 12 guidelines provide building blocks for putting the MADE principle into practice. Users may click on each guideline for a brief summary of the rationale behind it and practical steps to apply it to the own visuals. Additional detail for each guideline can be found in the full report.

Source: Harold, J., Lorenzoni, I., Coventry, K. R., & Minns, A. (2017). Enhancing the accessibility of climate change data visuals: Recommendations to the IPCC and guidance for researchers. Report published by the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, Norwich, UK.