What if we told you that in 2009, the US national defense budget was $726 billion, Wall Street saw $371 billion in revenue and the global pharmaceutical market made $425 billion? And what if on top of that, we added a dozen or more mind-numbing numerical statistics that were impossible to get your head around? Your eyes might glaze over, or you might ask why we were trying your patience.
But instead of telling you any of those things, what if we simply showed you this?
You might actually say, “Wow. Now I get it.”
In today’s digital age, every day we encounter vast stores of information and are tasked to consume it, so it is important to capture the attention (and comprehension) of an audience quickly and powerfully.
Infographics do just that. In February 2010, The Economist published a special report on managing information, in which they highlighted new ways of visualizing data. The main takeaway was that a movement was on the rise: we have access to more information from more sources than ever before, and an increasing need to account for, analyze and access it. According to the study, “In recent years there have been big advances in displaying massive amounts of data to make them easily accessible. This is emerging as a vibrant and creative field melding the skills of computer science, statistics, artistic design and storytelling.”
To put it simply, it is becoming essential for companies, organizations and even individuals to represent complex information in simple, digestible forms.
Infographics are visual representations of information, data or knowledge. They can take a variety of artistic forms, from timelines to heat maps. The following are some well-known infographics that highlight the vast range of creative design possibilities.
- A timeline that synthesizes industry growth trends
- An interactive flow chart that clarifies national usage of energy resources
- A multi-prong visual narrative about a complex aviation technology*
- An interactive visualization of appliances according to energy usage*
- A heat map that media and consumers can use to view mobile shopping activity*
- A visualization of social media milestones
- A self-updating, crowd-sourced graphic that chronicles public perceptions of war
- A photo-based data visualization that uses traditional symbols to explain statistics
- An infographic wheel that depicts the associations of colors with cultures around the world
Every example uses a wealth of data to tell a complex story succinctly and beautifully.
So, how can we do this ourselves? Well, the good news is that many of us are already producing infographics and data visualizations for our clients; and even more of us are interested in getting started. Generating an infographic is a process that can last anywhere between a few days and a few weeks. To begin, you will need:
- A hook! Creating an infographic is a storytelling opportunity, so a news hook is needed. Data alone will not garner a high level of interest.
- Data! Properly sourced or accurate proprietary data is crucial to supporting your narrative. No infographic should include elements that are not based on known facts and available evidence, nor should they be presented as being factual when they are fictional or based on unverified assumptions.
- An infographic designer! Once you have the story and the supporting data, third-party vendors (or in-house staff) specializing in graphic or information design can focus on turning the information into a static or interactive graphic. Infographic designers typically charge by the hour.
- Journalistic integrity! Infographics are visual journalism and must be governed by the same ethical standards that apply to other areas of the profession.
* – infographic produced by an Edelman client