Not all infographics are built alike, but John T. Meyer at Steamfeed.com points to the obvious benefits of infographics in telling stories in a simple fashion:
Icons, illustrations, and graphics can all tell a story by synthesizing data, creating perspective, and communicating meaning at a glance. Infographics tell a compelling story that’s interesting, easy to understand, and universal.
Problems arise at various levels with many infographics, when illustrators believe that just the act of using pictures adds power to writing. Illustrations can add to or detract from what is being said. Potential problems with infographics include:
- Lack of balance: the illustrator must strike the correct balance between written and graphic information. Too much of either can lead to problems, but many infographics have text graphics thatseem randomly plastered across the page.
- Aesthetic chaos: when this happens, the text overwhelms the graphics or vice versa, and it creates aesthetic chaos for the reader, who is likely to skip past the infographic altogether. It must have an immediate appeal to balance and aesthetics in order to convey meaning powerfully. The chaos of the presentation can overwhelm the reader if the illustrator has not closely thought out how the reader will move through the information smoothly.
- Poverty of context: in order for an infographic to be meaningful, in most cases, the reader needs to be prepared for it. Many times infographics are just thrown on a page, with no introduction or context to guide the reader. They are not made to stand alone in most cases, and the reader will greatly benefit from the context you provide. Giving the reader an entry point to the infographic is one of the bigggest helps. Also, a conclusion which wraps up the whole display for the readers helps, as they might not see all the valuable information or process it correctly.
- Poorly researched and inaccurate information: all the visual work that goes into an infographic is in vain if quality research does not make its backbone. I have found that most infographics do not even consider listing the sources of their information, and the pieces lack credibility as a result.
The infographic below from Wired.com does an effective job in these areas while conveying information on how to use them effectively. It clearly highlights the division between design and content, and follows the guidelines above, striking a balance between the graphics and the information.
Notice the minimalist design: the illustrator has worked hard to make this easy to read and process through organization, balanced content, and even a bit of context at the head of the document.
At their best, Meyers points to some additional details to consider:
- They’re visually interesting. Infographics are a combination of many forms of visual communication: illustrations, photos, charts, graphs, and videos.
- They’re clear. A good infographic will tell the most important parts of a story in a way that’s colorful and succinct.
- They’re easily shared. Infographics are an interesting, compact way to deliver and digest information — perfect for a social media-minded community.
When creating and using infographics always make sure to see them from the reader's point of view rather than your own. This will help you to detect flaws before you send your impresssive design out to the public.
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Before you go, give us your take on infographics. Is there something we have missed that might be added?