Let’s take a look at why the infographic is a versatile tool for telling a story with numbers—and how you can make the most of it with careful planning.
We all suffer from a constant barrage of facts and figures. Although we know web users do read, most people don’t have the time or patience to read everything. Enter the infographic. It explains complicated concepts + data patterns with impact, and even emotion, through color, shape, and metaphor. With the help of an infographic, people can get the big picture quickly.
So, how do you plan an infographic? I’m going to answer that question with some questions. Eight, to be exact.
When it comes to creating infographics, there are as many ways as there are content strategists and designers. But, I find these eight questions are useful to ask during the process—no matter what your exact process is.
Not all content is compelling. Make sure you have a message to expound or a story to tell. Infographics work well to explain an interesting trend or a meaningful pattern in data. They also can summarize evidence to support an argument.
What effect do you want your message to have? Do you want people to educate, persuade, or a little of both? Define your goal to shape your content, as well as the audience you want to reach, which leads us to number three.
Understanding your audience will help you tailor the infographic. For example, how much background information does your audience need about the topic? What can you assume your audience already knows? The better your audience knows your topic, the deeper you can go with your story. That doesn’t mean you can throw more information at your audience. It simply means you don’t have to waste precious space in your infographic on obvious points.
Trying to say too many things, with equal emphasis, can muddle your point. What’s the best, most astounding or impactful point for your audience? Define that point as your “hero” and then surround it with the supporting characters. Consider using a simple outline or sketch to define your hierarchy.
Choose the best approach for your goal. If you are clarifying a data trend, making the content appealing and easy to read may be all you need. If you are striving to spur a reaction, try a technique such as a metaphor for more emotional impact.
Do you have numbers that you need to make compelling? Is there a geographic component? Do you need to depict interactions in a system? Consider the content you have and the story you need to tell, and then decide on the best visual tools – charts, graphs, maps, illustrations, timelines, icons, thought maps, and more.
An infographic simply has to be a visual pleasure. Get the most out of icons, color, shape, and illustration to get (and keep) people’s attention. If you find yourself using mostly text to get your point across, consider leaving the infographic for another time.
Always get a second opinion. What makes sense to you may not be as easy for others to understand, so get feedback and tweak accordingly.
There’s no shortage of examples. Some sources that I find useful…
Originally published on the now-archived Content Science blog in August 2012.
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