Imposter Infographic Data Visualization

Looking at all the search results for the term “infographic,” you could find yourself believing that anything with color, text, and icons or illustrations is an infographic. You couldn’t be blamed for it, either — just look at how many there are, all claiming the term! We’re here to help break the cycle of labeling graphics as infographics.

Infographics are more than long scrolling images with arrows and text. They are specially crafted tools to help distill information in a manner that is clear and understandable to the viewer. One of the ways successful infographics are able to communicate data effortlessly is through the use of effective visual communication tactics which seamlessly blend text and design to help tell a story.

The following shows two examples of visualizations that, to the untrained eye, could appear to be called “infographics.” However, upon closer inspection, they appear busy, unorganized, and are more of a reading assignment than an effective way to convey information.

Bad-IG-1
Bad-IG-2

Below is a checklist with some helpful tips regarding text and design to make sure your next infographic really is an infographic.

Content

  • Text — when it’s needed. If your design is strictly graphical (without text like an intro, conclusion, or explication of stats and information) and if it’s also difficult to draw meaning from the images on their own, it may be more of a graphic than an infographic. Visual communication doesn’t require copy, but in many cases limited text is helpful to create the full narrative and explain the message.
  • Only brief, helpful text. Conversely, if text dominates your design, you have more of an article or blog post than an infographic. Aside from key text anchors like the title, introduction, and conclusion, visuals should always drive the main message. The text should moreso work in the background.

Design

  • Balance of form and function. Successful infographics place equal value on form and function. These elements should work together to communicate messages in an engaging and attractive way, without the aesthetic being more important than the message and usability or vice versa.  
  • Correct data visualization. Data visualization can be beautiful. However, sometimes the architecture of a visualization can hinder how effectively it communicates. This leaves you at best with a graph or chart that’s difficult to understand … and at worst with one that’s not accurately portraying the data. If you don’t understand the chart or graph at a glance (or if it offers an impression of higher, lower, or different figures from what the data shows) you need a new approach for showing that data.
  • Intentional typography. When designs don’t use typography to their advantage, it’s obvious. Maybe all the text is one weight and size, or random emphasis is placed on unimportant information, or the body copy is in all caps. Make clear decisions for each tier of headers as well as your body copy, and keep it consistent. Use selective emphasis points wisely to guide viewers’ eyes to the key takeaways.
  • Relevant illustrations. Key identifying visuals that speak to your topic should be emphasized rather than subtle. The best test for this: if you can turn all of your text to Lorem Ipsum and still identify what the topic is, your design is successful at visually communicating your information.

With the checklist above you now have the tools to spot the imposters and help your business create effective and quality infographics.

Lucy Todd

Author Lucy Todd

Lucy Todd is the Chief Process Officer at Killer Visual Strategies. She is a Seattle native and Western Washington University graduate. Her degree in Creative Writing and her customer service background both inform her work daily. A Killer employee since 2011 and executive since 2014, Lucy has researched for, written, and/or project-managed over 4,000 projects for the company, affording her key insight into our processes and projects. This experience is invaluable in allowing her to lead and empower Killer’s content and project management teams to success. Lucy enjoys managing the day-to-day at the office, offering a unique perspective when a team or colleague feels stuck, and learning from her peers and clients each day.

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Join the discussion 2 Comments

  • Beautiful job on this, Lucy. Throughout my many years of writing, editing, and partnering with designers, it’s always struck me how often the “seamlessly blend” part gets missed. My intentionally goofy-but-true phrase around the office was always ” the delicate dance between the verbal and the visual,” lol. Such cool work KI is doing!

    • Lucy Todd says:

      Agreed, it’s a delicate dance to balance the elements of great visual communication — one that we’re excited to dance daily. Thanks for reading and following our work, Colin!

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