Infographics – don’t we just love ‘em? When faced with acres of copy and lack of imagery, they might seem like a good idea to help perk up an article, whether in print or digital. They’re good for conveying facts and numbers, can look typographically exciting and fun to read. They give a designer the chance to flex some muscle, and when introduced within a run of copy can change the pace and draw the eye.
But as with every other element of communication, an infographic has to earn its keep. If it isn’t sending a clear message, it isn’t doing its job.
The real definition of this much-abused term is the “illustrative interpretation of data that communicates a central message”. An infographic communicates on two levels. It’s a picture that tells a story, made of component parts that convey complementary data.
We’ve all seen examples of good and bad infographics. For us the key is to balance the interest, excitement, colour and variety of fabulous visuals with clarity, precision and a place in the overall narrative. Infographics have got to tell the story, not just shout facts from the rooftops.
And less can often be more. Looking at a double page spread of truly, madly, deeply crazy illustrations, numbers, words and symbols can actually hurt the eyes. Reader switches off, turns the page or clicks onwards – and your chance to convey the message is lost.
The best infographics lead you though the story without making your brain wonder where to start and end. They can become a thing of beauty in the hands of the right designer, created to support the client’s brand and key messages.
London-based data journalist and information designer David McCandless of www.informationisbeautiful.net is passionate about: “… visualizing information – facts, data, ideas, issues, statistics, questions – in graphical ways anyone can understand.
“I’m interested in how designed information can help us understand the world, cut through fake news, and reveal the hidden connections, patterns and stories underneath. Or, failing that, it can just look cool!”
Adam Holloway, Creative Director at MSL Group sums it up well:
“…if you don’t learn something new and interesting from it or feel slightly cleverer or feel compelled to share it or want to put it on your wall – it’s simply not an infographic.”