Infographics have a universal appeal that is not hard to fathom. Over a millennia, the human brain has evolved to quickly make sense of visual information. Writing entered the game fairly late. It is not surprising that more than 45,000 years ago, our hunter-gatherer ancestors communicated through drawings and paintings rather than words!
But an infographic is much more than a picture. An infographic presents a complex set of data through a well-organized, aesthetically-pleasing visualization. Simplifying complex information to create a lasting impact is not a task to be undertaken lightly.
Here are the four steps that I believe are key to creating successful, effective infographics:
Today, let us focus on the first three steps.
An infographic begins its life as an idea. To convert that idea into a great infographic, it’s critical to put the maximum amount of time in planning and devise a practical implementation strategy. To start with, the team creating the infographic should have a thorough understanding of its purpose and message. Brainstorming some key questions can facilitate aligning everybody’s goals and objectives in one direction:
– What is your one main goal in creating the infographic?
– What secondary objectives would you like to achieve?
– Who is the target audience and what is their demographic?
– When and where will the infographic be launched?
– How will it be shared and promoted?
The decisions you need to take subsequently will flow automatically from the answers to these questions. These will determine everything from your choice of visual elements to decisions related to the format in which the infographic will be published.
Here is an example. If the target audience comprises busy sales executives, you may decide to use graphs to convey the primary information. On the other hand, if the target audience is middle school kids, a better option may be to create visuals that would not look out of place in a graphic novel. Similarly, your primary goals will determine which data points you give more space and importance to. The timing and forum for the launch would depend on which media your target audience prefers.
Any set of data can be looked at and presented in many different ways. The key data pieces you decide to share should depend on your goals. There are, however, some standard best practices that have evolved over time:
- Share only authentic, reliable data.
- Do not misrepresent data to fit your message.
- If you do not own what you plan to share, proceed only if you have permission from the source.
- Always cite the source.
- Arrange the data into logical chunks, and decide which ones are important enough to be highlighted. Eliminate anything that is superfluous or irrelevant.
- Storyboard the information to determine the flow.
- Brainstorm to figure out how to represent concepts and numbers through visuals instead of text. Keep the text to a minimum.
Content and presentation are like two sides of a coin. If your team does a good job of analyzing and visualizing the data, then your content can really come to life in the hands of a smart designer.
Here are some tips on how to get the presentation right:
- Start with the title at the top. Getting this right is critical. Your audience shouldn’t have to scratch their heads right in the beginning!
- Include keywords and time range (if applicable) in the title.
- Highlight key data before getting granular. Human attention span, especially online, is extremely limited. To grab a viewer’s attention, first show them that one piece of information that will engage them the most.
- Use colors, shapes, fonts and symbols to make the infographic aesthetically pleasing. All of us, notwithstanding our respective cultural backgrounds, respond favorably to visually-attractive graphics.
- Conversely, mere visual appeal is never enough. The design should focus on conveying the information in a logical manner. Use white spaces and visual cues to guide the user’s eye to match the flow of your story.
- Consider branding with your colors if that supports the overall objective. Definitely include your logo, important links and contact information.
Before signing off, I would like to share three infographics created by teams that got the first three steps right.