Infographics: Make Your Data Entertaining

The old adage “a picture is worth a thousand words” is the sentiment that a visual image is able to convey what would otherwise take a significant amount of written content to express. Quite simply, images are effective at telling stories.

Infographics take this fundamental concept and apply it to the expression of data. In a nutshell, an infographic is a visual image that has a goal of expressing some type of information. Infographics are not new. USA Today has run its Snapshots infographics for decades. However, driven by the heavily visual nature of the Internet, more and more savvy organizations are looking to create their own infographics as an additional, visually compelling way to tell their stories.

One of the potential payoffs of a successful infographic is viral distribution, the holy grail of Internet marketing. Viral infographics make the data come alive, are beautiful or funny, and express ideas in in a way that the numbers alone or a simple graph cannot. Much like a photo can add emotion to a written piece, infographics can add emotion to data.

Tommy Lincoln, an interactive art director at EMA, regularly creates infographics for clients. He recently created an infographic about EMA by taking data about the agency and melding it into a visually compelling design. Tommy believes that some of the keys to successful infographics are:

  • Information. “As much as you can supply to the designer,” Tommy says. “Even if you think it is meaningless monkey trivia. The more information, the better. Sure, some of the information might not make it into the final design, or even really relate, but a designer feeds off of the information to start crafting a design or concept. So the more information you can give to your designer, the better.”
  • Connections. “After I review all of the information I start to look for connections. Data that feeds off other data. This relationship can help mold the graphic. It can also add to the ‘playfulness’ of the data.”
  • What is the story you are trying to tell? “Every infographic is telling a story. How can that story lend itself to shaping your graphics?”
  • Impact. “How can you engage your viewer/reader so they keep wanting to look at the graphic? How can you attract them, inform them, and leave them with some kind of new thought/emotion/feeling? What’s the point of doing a graphic if you don’t make it impactful?”
  • Great design. “An infographic that is supposed to be delivering a lot of data in an easy-to-understand way needs to be designed well. No slacking. A reader/viewer won’t hang around long to look at a bunch of data if it is uglier than the actual data. You should pay attention to design cues, current trends and what makes the design of an infographic clean and well done. After you’re done and look at the design for the first time and say, ‘Perfect!,’ you are wrong and should look at it again. Make sure it is not more complicated than when you first received all of your data. Are there spots you can strip out to make the point even clearer?”

The Internet abounds with examples of both great and terrible executions, and a good first step is taking a look at some examples. Two great resources to start with are Mashable Infographics and Cool Infographics. For some true inspiration check out the music video by Röyksopp for their song, “Remind Me,” done completely in infographic style.