What does it take to create an infographic that’s aesthetically pleasing, factually sound, and engaging enough for viewers to walk away having learned something? The answer is complex. Developing the “perfect” infographic for your brand’s unique needs generally requires the help of a specialized design agency — and from marketing to content, project management to design, Killer has collaborated with both local Seattle clients and brands around the world.
To find the path to the ideal infographic for any brand’s marketing or internal comms needs, we chatted with Lead Visual Designer Blake Quackenbush.
1. What would you say is the primary difference between a graphic designer and a visual communication designer (someone who is versed in the development of motion graphics, infographic content, and more)?
I’d say it’s a matter of specificity. “Graphic designer” is such a broad term these days; it can mean a million different things. At a design agency like Killer, whether we’re designing an infographic or motion graphic, we always start with the core intention of efficient visual communication.
In most cases, we are leveraging data to tell that story with as much accuracy and validity as possible. And of course, we always visualize a narrative in an aesthetically compelling manner.
2. What’s the first thing a visual communication designer does when planning a layout for an infographic?
The very first thing is to read through the content to get a grasp on the story we are telling. Our copywriting team are experts at crafting a narrative structure that will translate well to an infographic, so as a designer I read through to get a sense of how that flow will translate to a visually rich format.
I then either physically or mentally sketch the general structure, deciding where each piece will fit. Only then do I move to the screen to refine and add detail as I form the layout.
3. A Colorado native, you moved to the Pacific Northwest to study design. What attracted you to Seattle for your education — and to ultimately working for a Seattle design agency?
Heading into college, I knew I wanted to study something that would allow me to “make” for a living. Seattle seemed like an ideal city for that, ripe with creative energy and culture, while not being a behemoth of urban sprawl (a perfect size: not too big, not too small).
The stereotypes of how rainy the PNW was also drew me in. I’ve always loved water. Between growing up in what seemed like a perpetual drought in Colorado, and feeling most alive on the occasional vacation to the ocean, living in Seattle seemed like it would quench my soul!
The school where I studied — Seattle Pacific University — also fit that “just-right” size. I wouldn’t get lost in 200-student lecture halls of a state school. I’d instead get more hands-on teaching with a tighter-knit class. My degree in visual communication design was also very multidisciplinary. Because of that, I was able to explore the many facets of design and learn what avenues I most enjoyed and had a knack for.
4. During your design studies in Seattle, you discovered our agency (then Killer Infographics). Later on, we were lucky enough to hire you! What’s your favorite part of being a designer at Killer Visual Strategies?
Aside from how well Killer treats its employees, I love the variety of work I get to do. I get easily bored doing the same thing day in and day out, and each day is something fresh at Killer. One day I could be designing an infographic about space travel. The next I might be illustrating and animating motion graphics for budding new industries.
I also love the collaborative nature of the work. Everyone on the team is extra-talented, and being able to brainstorm and bounce ideas off each other, or work in tandem through a project, is pretty great. Nothing in our process is siloed, so super-inspired people are only a desk away at any given moment.
Below, illustrations by Blake Quackenbush
5. What are some telltale signs of a low-quality infographic? How about a high-quality one?
Well, if it’s low resolution, that’s a dead giveaway! If it’s hard to ascertain the general premise of the piece at a glance, that’s also an issue. You’ve gotta keep that sense of hierarchy!
We also have a number of best practices in data visualization at Killer. If those aren’t being followed, that’s a giveaway that it wasn’t built with expertise and honesty to the data.
6. What do you wish everyone knew about being a visual communication designer and the art of infographic design?
Infographic design is multifaceted, and utilizes a wide gamut of visual principles. It’s fairly nontraditional as far as graphic design goes. There are a lot of balls in the air mid-process. I tap into my long-form layout brain, storytelling brain, and illustration brain. It keeps things interesting, but it’s a delicate dance as to how to tell the story well with so many moving parts.
You can read more about Blake and all of our designers, animators, developers, writers, project managers, marketers, and leadership by visiting our team page.