Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Helping Others See What You Mean Through Infographics

Infographics are neat. They can really take data and condense it so that you can actually see what the data means. Note: The one I'm using here is about internet use and was created by looking at the data from a study commissioned by Google.

Who Uses the Internet Best?
Why Infographics?

Because they're visual. When they're used in conjunction with an article, you capture two audiences - the ones who prefer reading for learning and the ones who prefer visuals for learning. And they complement one another by filling in the blanks, so to speak, for both audiences.

Other reasons for using infographics include:

  • They're eye-catching: if someone is looking at your website, an infographic will quickly capture their attention
  • Infographics are often easy to digest, so people in a hurry don't mind looking them over
  • They're portable - put your logo and address on your infographic and they will go where the graphic goes, which can mean more traffic (this can be especially true if you make the code for embedding the graphic available)
  • If your infographic proves popular, it will improve your search rank in Google searches

How Might You Use Infographics?

Use information you've been collecting to:
  • Compare and contrast (as this infographic does under the 2012 Scores)
  • Show growth or slowdown over time
  • Make impossibly large numbers more accessible (like those in space, for example)
  • If the subject is dry (like economics), graphics can minimize the yawn factor
  • Show what you looked at and how you evaluated it to come to a conclusion or decision
Things To Look Out For

  • Know who your audience is
  • Create a flowchart to visualize how the information will flow through
  • Know whether you're using a theme (like sinking ships) or not. These can be powerful, telling your story at a glance, if used well
  • Decide if you're going to use a reference graphic to condense data, add consistency, or to visually stand in for boilerplate (like a thumbs-up for yes/good and a thumbs-down for no/bad)
  • Keep it as simple as possible; don't clutter things up or get carried away with colors
  • Think about the size of the graphic elements in relation to where you expect the viewer's eye to start, or stick to a design based on a grid
  • Use a typeface that's easy to read and comes in italics, bold, condensed, etc. so you can get the most out of it while keeping the look consistent
Biggest advice: start small. Don't try to take on a complicated infographic when you're just starting out. Data to graphics works best at a one-to-one ratio. You can get fancier as you have more experience and gain more confidence. Study what others are doing and be inspired. Pretty soon, others will be seeing what you mean on a regular basis.

Related Sites: - a data visualization showcase
Daily Infographic - a new infographic every day
Mashable - Infographics on Pinterest (did you know that in the UK, Pinterest is used mostly for data visualization?)

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