With the proliferation of content in daily lives, audiences are relying more and more on visual cues to interpret information quickly. Best practices for web content call for increasingly shorter sections of text and more explanatory graphics.
This trend toward visual communication will only continue as mobile devices allow greater integration of online and offline experiences. Now is the time to begin mastering the art of infographic design for effective visual communications. What we label and share as infographics today will be the norm for online communications in the near future.
Infographic Design is Nothing New
Humans are visual animals, evolved to use pattern recognition to understand and survive our surroundings. We’ve long used information graphics in signs, textbooks and magazines to tap into people’s visual bias and enhance the reading or learning experience.
Currently infographics are valuable enhancements for external and internal communications:
- Internet marketing
- Issue advocacy
- Web copy
- Corporate reporting
- Training materials
Easy on the Eyes
Successful infographic design allows viewers to quickly digest and comprehend information. Certain thematic concepts—or frameworks—are reused time and time again, because they have a natural logic that is easily recognized. Here are some tried-and-true approaches for organizing information into infographics.
- How-To – Most readers love to learn. And while how-to infographics are not usually meant to be step-by-step instructions, they satisfy an information-lover’s curiosity about an unknown topic. This one about how to make beer is a good example. Or how to dance gangnman style.
- Compare and Contrast – Side-by-side comparison is particularly popular for examining products and services, ideas, philosophies, and the past vs. the present. Human figures are often used to great effect, as with these popular then-and-now comparisons of comic book heroes.
- Factoids – In this subgenre, the information design is rarely compelling, but the curation of interesting tid-bits, combined with attractive iconography can be effective. For instance, here’s some crazy stuff you didn’t know about the London Olympic Games.
- Landscapes or Scenes – Contextualizing information in a setting is a good way to create a memorable infographic design, and it can be done in complex or simple ways: aliens among us and a farm pie graph (so cool it even works in Russian).
- Timelines and Journeys – If your information has a chronological order, a timeline or path is the natural infographic design choice. Some examples include U.S. space travel, the inbound marketing process and an actual timeline of the future.
- Labeled Image or Photograph – I like to think of this as the Sherlock Holmes approach, although it also brings to mind the Ikea sequence from Fight Club. Regardless, it’s become a well-used standard. Lattes as currency and Yelp users are a couple of examples.
- Maps – Geographic data naturally lends itself to the use of maps, as with this accounting of U.S. oil imports around the globe. But maps also can be repurposed in clever ways, such as the “Best Movies of All Time” as a subway map.
- Numbered Lists – They aren’t too interesting as an infographic design concept, but lists are an undeniably popular approach to presenting information online, and adding graphics gives them some extra pop: 7 Tips…
- Awesome Data Visualization – More data and research is available than ever before. Making visual sense of it can result in some truly astounding infographics. This is how rockstar information designers shine. Check out: U.S. fuel consumption and waste, one Etsy user’s sales, or the occurrence of colors in culture.
- Riff on a Theme – From Star Wars to lava lamps to emoticons, some of the most clever infographics repurpose cultural icons in memorable ways. Do a Google image search on “infographics” to see what I mean and browse hundreds of other ideas in the process.
If you need assistance conceptualizing or implementing your infographic or other graphic designs, contact us.