More often than not, great visual content starts with great research. Of course, “greatness” is easy to strive for, harder to achieve. Luckily, we’re here to help you get the most out of your Googling. In this post, we’ll highlight some best practices for sourcing information for your infographic.
The #1 Rule: Familiarize Yourself with Reliable Sources
The Internet is nearly as vast as the universe, and — depending on who you ask — contains nearly as many wonders. At the same time, it’s full of total junk. That means you should approach the research process with skepticism. If a stat sounds made up, it probably is. In general, you can trust government data, studies published in peer-reviewed journals, and original surveys conducted by reputable organizations. Coolfacts.com? Not so much.
This can be frustrating, especially if you’ve discovered an unsubstantiated stat that would fit perfectly in your infographic. But remember the true aim of visual communication: using visuals and images to create meaning. If you start with potentially false information, your infographic will mean nothing.
Get to the Heart of the Issue (or, Stay Interesting!)
Depending on the topic you’re researching, there may be an abundance of good data and information available to you. You might think, “What a wonderful bounty!” And it is — it’s wonderful. It’s also often overwhelming. So many pages, so little time.
It’s important to make the time, though. Read through everything you can; find the juiciest, most interesting stats. If you simply select the first relevant information you find, you’ll likely be settling for “good” when a little more persistence could have yielded “great.” For instance, if you’re creating an infographic about the cost of college tuition, don’t call it a day after you’ve uncovered numbers from the past and present. Somewhere out there — say, page 2 of your Google results — may be a reliable projection of future costs.
Don’t Waste Time Hunting for Unicorns
Occasionally, you might be asked to research a very peculiar topic — maybe the number of times Abraham Lincoln blinked during his inauguration speech. Obviously, this information is unavailable. Don’t waste your time searching for it (unless you want to go crazy).
Instead, get creative. Find out how many times the average person blinks per minute. Find out how long Abe’s speech was. Do a little math, and you’ve got a reasonable estimate — just make it clear to the viewer that it is, in fact, an estimate.
A Final Caveat: Tell the Truth
In the end, there are no hard and fast rules about how to do research for an infographic, save one: do your best to tell the truth. Unless you’re very clearly and specifically telling a fictional story through visuals, your audience will assume the information you present is trustworthy. Don’t let them down!