These 4 subtleties of visual communication are easy for infographic companies to overlook, but they’re essential for infographic designers who want their work to stand out creatively and stand up to the scrutiny of a statistician.
1. Match Data with the Right Visualization
This may seem like a self-evident concept, but data visualization techniques must follow a set of special conventions and logical rules that aren’t as simple as they might seem. For example,
- To visualize a percentage of a whole, always show a clear maximum of 100% (a pie or donut chart)
- To visualize a percentage increase, show an extension past 100% (a comparative bar chart)
If applied incorrectly, a data visualization technique can work against your message. To prevent common data visualization mistakes in your next infographic, make sure to:
- Avoid using automatically generated data visualizations
- Take time to scan your infographic data and pair it with the right visual
2. Don’t Cut Corners on Context
If your data visualizations are missing important information, your intended message may become distorted, preventing viewers from drawing an accurate conclusion. When infographic companies misrepresent data, even unintentionally, they run the risk of appearing to mislead their audience.
If data and visuals aren’t matching up, readers will be either confused or begin to doubt your information.
- Always present comparative scale and graph starting points accurately
- Clearly label X-axis and Y-axis
- Make sure contextual information is easy to scan
Even if a data visualization appears accurate at first, keep an eye out for missing information. If a bar graph accurately shows a series of increases over time, but the X-axis isn’t clearly labeled with a time scale, the data visualization doesn’t tell the reader much.
3. Spotlight the Right Information
Choosing a focal point is one of the building blocks of any visual design. Infographic designers often need to choose which pieces of information to visualize. Sometimes a statistic contains more than 1 number that could be visualized. As an example, consider the following data point:
- 50% of buyers will spend up to $75 if the product is 1/2 off.
If the content of your infographic was written with data visualization in mind, then the most important number will likely be at the beginning of the sentence. But that won’t always be the case. When infographic companies are dealing with complex statistics, it’s a good idea to take a second look at the rest of the content. Then, let the theme of the infographic be your guide in choosing what to showcase.
4. Know When Not to Visualize
It can be tempting to visualize every text element of an infographic. But sometimes the best way to maintain accuracy is by practicing restraint. When you’re dealing with large, unruly numbers that aren’t comparative or otherwise easily visualized,
- Don’t resort to an illustration or a quantagram that may just confuse the viewer
- Stick to typography, emphasizing the data by shifting the scale/weight of the typeface
Never try to force a visualization where it doesn’t fit. Your goal is to maintain a balance that engages viewers and serves the data well, creating visual content that works for every audience.
How Infographic Designers Can Hone Their Skills
As you prepare to create an infographic of your own, here are some ways to teach yourself the basics of infographic design:
- Stay engaged with the work of experienced designers
- Peruse infographics online to spot inaccurate visualizations
- Follow respected infographic companies for practical tips
- Read your own infographic content carefully
Above all, identify your data’s essential context and apply visuals that will support your message. With correctly applied data visualization techniques, your infographic will do justice to your data and your viewers.