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Randy Krum infographic designerRandy Krum

President of InfoNewt.
Data Visualization, Infographic Design, Visual Thinking, Product Development and Marketing professional fascinated by good infographics.  Always looking for better ways to get the point across.

 

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Entries in cool (20)

Wednesday
Jun262013

Peter Sena - What Makes an Infographic Cool?

Guest Post by Peter Sena

Infographics, another problem solved through design 

As a designer, everything I see is a form of an infographic. Whether the packaging on the shelves of a grocery store, to the interface in my car, down to the websites I visit each day, being able to visualize and experience information easily is a critical part of design. Infographics were born for that very same purpose, to take the complex and simplify it or capture it in a way where the viewer can easily draw conclusions from the information. If you’ve been anywhere on the web you’ve likely seen a slew of infographics plastered all over Pinterest or your favorite websites and blogs.

Cool Infographics does a fantastic job at capturing some of the best and most interesting infographics so rather than talk about a problem that is already solved, I figure I’ll walk you through a few of my recent favorite examples of data visualizations that help tell a story, evoke an emotion or speed up ones access to research.

 

Infographics that make us remember

Storytelling is one of the oldest forms of sharing information and the thing that legends are made of. Making one remember their past is a sure-fire way to truly capture the attention of your viewer. Foursquare’s recent partnership with Samsung to launch their Time Machine is a great example of how data can be visualized in a way to make us remember not just where we are, but we’re we’ve been. Tapping into viewers’ memories is a key way to trigger emotion to your viewer. Their time machine let’s you login with your foursquare account and you can take a trip down memory lane to see all the places you’ve checked into and explore that data in a very intuitive, interactive fashion.  (https://foursquare.com/timemachine)

Foursquare Time Machine

 

Infographics as a research tool

With so much data at our fingertips one Google search away, being able to drill down to find the information we’re are after is a critical need. Google’s Consumer Barometer and Real-Time Insight Finder let you browse their databases in a very visual way and look into how consumers are using the Internet, searching for and buying products, and what ways they are connecting to the internet.

Google’s Real-Time Insight Finder: www.google.com/think/tools/real-time-insights.html

Google Real-Time Insight Finder

Google’s Consumer Barometer: www.consumerbarometer.com

Google Consumer Barometer

 

Our Facebook vs Twitter infographic, received almost 13 million page views since we posted it, with reshares, likes, tweets and pins all over the internet but aside from asking us to update it with new data, the biggest request from users was the ability to see it interactive and give the ability to segment and view the data in different ways. I feel Google is doing a fantastic job at making information fun and intuitive to access and doing it with the perfect blend of form and function.

Facebook vs Twitter infographic

 

Infographics that show you how it works.

I absolutely love these infographics because they take complex devices and break them down in a beautiful designed, easy to understand way in the form of a cross-section view while incorporating aspects of the popular flat-design visual style.

Imaginary Factory

 

Why they work so well?

We’re visual beings with almost 50% of our brains being used for processing visuals. People’s attention spans are decreasing by the day due to the sheer amount of information that they are presented with. Give someone the ability to quickly scan something and you are much more likely not to lose their attention.  The good folks at NEOMAM.com put together this great infographic on thirteen reasons why our brains crave infographics, which takes a much deeper dive into the science behind them.

What infographics and data visualizations are inspiring to you these days? Shoot me a tweet and lemme know.

 

 

Peter SenaPete Sena is the founder of Digital Surgeons, a digital-first creative agency that specializes in combining design and technology to connect brands and consumers.

 

LINKS:

www.digitalsurgeons.com

Twitter: @petesena

LinkedIn: petersena

 

 

Wednesday
Jun192013

Ben Harrow - What Makes an Infographic Cool?

Guest Post by Ben Harrow

Infographics are a visual representation of engaging and enlightening statistics or facts - as Randy puts it, “infographics turn data into information”.  Now, a lot of interesting people have said a lot of interesting things about what makes an infographic ‘cool’ - but sometimes, you just have to trust the numbers.  

Infographics aim to go ‘viral’ - to spread to and engage with as many people as possible. However, with the sheer amount being produced now, it’s incredibly difficult to stand out and it takes something special to really make a mark in the popularity stakes.

So, what’s wrong with going simple? Let’s look at the coolest infographics - by the views.

The Top 3 - News by Design

News by Design is (obviously) our project - and we basically want to show off the infographics that tell a newsworthy story in a beautiful way.

The most viewed pieces since our inception?

  1. How we hit 7 billion
  2. Beep - a f**king infographic (beware - it features lots of swearing)
  3. The ‘big infographic’ trend

The top 3 certainly cover the bases - with a video infographic with some real-world interaction and some huge, huge infographics featured - as well as a whole heap of swearing.  But, that number 1 definitely shouts out about one thing that can make an infographic cool - a totally unique approach.

I’m very happy that a video infographic (of sorts) topped the table - it immediately brings to light the benefits of doing something hugely creative and putting some thought (and love) into a project.

And yes, for an infographic to be cool, it doesn’t have to be a straight forward up and down affair - visualising the influence of birth and death rates simultaneously using drips and drops makes the constant ebb and flow of population a beautiful and instantly understandable thing.

The subject matter also brings to light another point - the rapid global population increase is a very serious topic, and covering important issues is a great way to immediately engage viewers and appeal to a specific audience, especially if you break it down in an attractive and digestible way.

In short, this infographic tells you that the very coolest examples are original, innovative, and can, of course, feature some serious or controversial subject matter. That, and creating something utterly beautiful always helps.

The Top 3 - Visual.ly

Visual.ly is one of my personal favourite resources for finding quality infographics - most designers worth their salt know that adding their designs to the giant Visual.ly database will help gather views and begin the sharing process.

The three most viewed pieces in the history of Visual.ly?

  1. What are the odds?
  2. Should I text him?
  3. 30 shots

Now, this makes for an interesting Top 3 - a somewhat standard-form infographic, a flow-chart and a poster all make the grade here.  Although not all ‘infographics’ per-say, the visual representation of jokes, stories and, well, alcohol, are massively engaging for an audience when done correctly.

But, Visual.ly’s own infographic nabbed the top spot - a sleek and slick design that mirrors the Visual.ly house style and colour scheme is a plus, and the vertical flow of the information, guided by the neon pink line, is nothing out of the ordinary but definitely effective.

What matters here are the numbers - carefully explained and intricately entwined statistics that map out the likelihood that you exist as you are today. Now, ignoring the controversy in the math itself, (check the comments for some elaboration) it is a very cool concept, and philosophical content is always particularly engaging as it encourages the viewer to think rather than just read.

This infographic shows off the appeal of blowing the reader’s mind - introducing ideas and concepts that reflect on everyday life but will create endless amounts of talk value (as soon as 1 in 10^2,685,000 appears on page, you know you’re talking about something pretty intense).

However, a cool infographic definitely needs a helping hand - and Visual.ly owning the most viewed infographic on their entire site speaks volumes about distribution.  A great infographic won’t always sell itself, and it takes hard work to get the word out there.

The Top 3 - Cool Infographics

What kind of guest-blogger would I be if I didn’t hat tip to our gracious host?  You already know what Randy does, it’s why you’re here - Cool Infographics collects and reviews infographics to see if they cut the mustard.

And the three that really made the grade?

  1. The Caffeine Poster
  2. Guinness vs. Beer
  3. Comparing Hurricane Disasters: Sandy vs. Katrina

Now, despite more fun with alcohol, this Top 3 has something else of interest - the interpretation of official statistics and data. The comparing hurricanes graphic, although somewhat basic in design, looks at data that effects people and is newsworthy in itself - and presents it in a quick to digest format. Always appealing.

But one of Randy’s own doodles made the grade here - the already three-and-a-half years old Caffeine Poster.

Randy admits in the ‘making of’ posts that he isn’t a graphic designer - but that isn’t what’s important in this graphic.

When it was produced, the art of the infographic was still a relatively new thing, and there weren’t many truly innovative pieces floating around. Randy took something that is a widely discussed media topic, is important in our everyday lives (or at least, influential and awakening - caffeine)  and is directly comparable from one product to another, and combined it to make something instantly shareable.

‘Caffeine intoxication’ is a terrifying prospect - otherwise known as the ‘jitters’ you get after ingesting 300mg of caffeine (or one can of Jolt energy!). That, and I had never thought of caffeine in terms of chemistry and biology - but its ‘half-life’ is an interesting topic (4.9 hours is the time it takes for your body to flush out half the caffeine ingested).

What makes this infographic cool is the talk value - looking at your friend who’s drinking a tall Starbucks coffee and going ‘you’re drinking 5 cans of coke in caffeine right there’, or looking at your second can of Monster and preparing for the jitters. That, and the real-world application - discussing something that is relevant to everyone in a way they have not seen or heard before.

Drawing comparisons helps too - allowing the reader to immediately compare and rank recognisable objects or themes is a tool that can never be under-estimated. Because it works so fiercely well.

So, what makes an infographic cool?

Let’s go back through the list.

Cool infographics are original, innovative and cover important subjects.

They provide talk-value, draw comparisons, focus on real-world topics and more often than not blow the reader’s mind.

Throw in some quality design, functional layout, and some healthy distribution, and you’re probably well on the way.

And of course, make it beautiful.

___

I have to admit, I’m surprised that innovative visual elements and really intuitive/interactive design didn’t feature particularly strongly in these lists - is the idea and the concept more important than the visual product? Is the story more important than the vehicle when it comes to making a really cool infographic?

I’d love to know your thoughts on those most viewed lists - do you think they reflect the world of infographics well, or is there something major missing?

 

 

Ben Harrow is the Digital Editor at UK-based national news agency 72point, selling in stories to the national newspapers and creating infographics alongside. He is also the co-founder of News by Design, which praises the infographics that tell brilliant stories in  an engaging visual way.

 

LINKS:

news-by-design.com

Twitter: @newsbydesignuk

 

Wednesday
Jun122013

Matt Siltala - What Makes an Infographic Cool?

Guest Post by Matt Siltala

“Cool” infographics effectively build links, drive social shares, and create buzz in a unique way.  There are many that would call infographics a “fad” or “tactic”, but I don’t think of infographic marketing so much as a tactic, but more of one important piece to an overall marketing puzzle.

I analyze a lot of infographics and find that those that catch my attention have also caught the attention of many others, and that ‘s reflected in the social mentions (specifically retweets).  You’ll typically see a correlation in the number of shares on Facebook, the links built, and especially the comments.  The comments are very telling!

I guess that answer was more about the results of the infographic, rather than the makeup of the infographic, so let’s talk about the makeup:

  1. Design - Is the design distracting or does it build the story?  Is the design unique, new and refreshing?  How clean and easy to read and follow graphic?  With so many graphics out there, you have to find a way to visually set yours apart without detracting from the story you’re selling.  The graphic does not always have to be a LONG vertical piece that we are used to seeing in this industry.  You can see from our “Social MeOWdia Explained by Cats” piece, the design was critical to show everything right there without scrolling, so it does a better job of telling the story.
  2. Story - Does the graphic tell a story?  In my opinion this is probably the most important thing to get right with an infographic.  You must set reader hooks that are easy to understand and that set firmly and early on.   Having a good opener and intro makes all the difference in the world.  This is where you capture your reader.  You can now move into all of those juicy stats and data that really build the story out.
  3. Flow - How does the graphic flow?  This is an area where a lot of infographic designs fall short.  They have a hard time visualizing flow without becoming overly wordy.  Your visuals should transcend words whenever possible.
  4. Data - How striking is the data?   The key here is to have information that is both fresh and relevant.  Always use up to date survey results or make your own (often times we conduct primary research through SurveyMonkey).  If your graphic displays a unique set of data that can’t be found anywhere else, THIS MAKES the graphic.
  5. Shareability - Does it pass the “share test”?  Does your graphic add meaning and perspective to a conversation people want to have?  If so, it passes the share test.

BONUS - Think about what is next in this industry. If you have the budget to make even a simple infographic interactive, you should do so.  We created the “History of Social Media” piece first as a static graphic, but felt it would go over much better if it were interactive, and it did.  We got many compliments on the UI, and being a friendly, easy way to learn a little history lesson.  It is a great research piece for those looking up the history of social media too!

This goes back to what I said earlier about comments.  If you can start or effectively add to a conversation, then you have done your job! We blogged about top notch infographics earlier this year and really hit this point in more depth if you want to read more.  

I will be the first to admit I have put out some bad infographics, but the more I try to live within the walls of the 5 points above, the better my graphics get.  For those of you listening to the “infographics are dead” hype, let me assure you that visualization is not going away.  I have been working with infographics for the better part of a decade, long before most marketers had ever heard of them, and the majority of my new clients still don’t know what they are.  My point is this, marketers see a lot of infographics just like we do linkbait and all of the other marketing puzzle pieces, but the rest of the world still finds data visualization a refreshing way to tell a story, share good content, and build brand authority.

So, if you put out conversation-starting, story-telling, “cool” infographics, the social mentions will come, the links will build, and the brand recognition will grow.  That is never going to change or go away.  

This post would be never-ending if I shared all of the infographics I loved out there, so for the sake of time I will just share this link to my company’s porfolio of Infographics.  

 

 

Matt SiltalaMatt Siltala is the President of @AvalaunchMedia.  The company does Content Marketing, Data Visualization, Social Promotion, Web Design, SEO & PPC.  Matt is also a regular Search Industry Speaker.

Twitter:  @Matt_Siltala 

 

Wednesday
Jun052013

Dean Meyers - What Makes an Infographic Cool?

Guest post by Dean Meyers

Gun Deaths, Infographics, and Emotional Storytelling

How do we get emotionally connected to a story? By finding where we can relate or empathize at the personal level. The best infographics tell their stories with emotional impact, helping us relate to the facts or the results of actions rather than just displaying them. Otherwise, they become yet another collection of data, perhaps with some striking visuals to make them appealing, but not much better than the spreadsheets they come from. The most memorable infographics will have a strong storytelling component that resonates with us emotionally.

As an example, during the rush to expose data due to the heated battles over gun control after the Newtown shootings, I saw a lot of infographics where data is displayed on a map. This is typical of what I found:  (see http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2012/07/mass-shootings-map). 

Even though there is some slight interaction with the map on this page, it’s still a pretty cold reading of data. Interactivity and facts, yes, but how can I connect with this information?

Here is an interactive infographic that tells us the effect of people killed by guns in a much more personal way: 

Stolen years from a life… Who wouldn’t be drawn into discover more about the facts shown here? We all think about our lifespan, and this infographic takes thousands of potentially anonymous datapoints and allows us to both see the mass effect or lets us drill down in a variety of ways to these very personal, relatable stories. 

Another feature that heightens the emotional effectiveness of this infographic is the way it creates the display. The screen shot below shows how the image starts building, from a single arc representing one lifetime, which changes color at the point the victim loses his life. It’s like watching a shooting star, launching into its glowing path but losing its color the moment life ends before finishing the grand arc. Powerful and personal. The chart builds quite dramatically, showing the first three shootings one by one as arcs slowly shoot across the dark background. It then rapidly fills in the rest of the display in less than a minute, both to show us a flood of incidents and also keeping us from getting bored as thousands of curves are drawn and the numbers pile up.

In another view, more information is revealed which, true to the storyteller’s intent, gives us yet more information that carries the emotional weight of “that could be me, or someone I know and love”. Here I have selected the data for fatal shootings of 21 year olds, to highlight how many deaths from guns have occurred so far this year to these young people. Without resorting to pictures, icons or symbols, the graph combined with the text highlights the sad fact that so many young people died that, otherwise would not have been at risk. Again, a powerful message, and one that is intended to reach us emotionally.

I recommend bookmarking the site (http://guns.periscopic.com/?year=2013) and revisiting every few weeks, as the data for 2013 is being updated regularly. The creators of the infographic, periscopic.com, have the motto, “do good with data—socially conscious information visualization”, and take storytelling to heart. They have avoided the cliches of trying to impress strictly with big numbers, or, from the other side, telling the stories of the killers. Instead, they focus on the story of the victims, people like us, and make the data that much more meaningful and memorable.

Whether static or interactive, an infographic will have the greatest resonance and be most memorable when it tells a story that touches our emotions. When we find ourselves within that story, either as the subject or when we can comprehend the information as it might relate to us, we are compelled to pay attention and remember. To create a powerful infographic, save the big graphics and clever images. Dig into the information and find the story that means something to us all.

 


Visual Problem-Solver Dean Meyers combines creativity, design, marketing and training experience to facilitate visual thinking in a wide variety of business, educational and strategic settings.  Dean has worked in the dual fields of graphic design and technology since the mid-80’s, when he worked for Apple Computer at the launch of the Macintosh in international markets. His career has taken him from leading ad agency graphic departments into web design and development in the mid-90’s to his current practice of improving communications in user experience, general business strategy and education through his work as a visual facilitator. His interest in infographics focuses on interactivity and better storytelling across multiple media. He has been seen giving workshops and graphically recording for events including South by Southwest, the World Innovation Forum, Picnic (Amsterdam), Business Innovation Factory, Pop!Tech, LeanUX NYC and TEDMED. 

LINKS:

www.vizbiztools.com

Twitter: @deanmeistr

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/vizbiztools

Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/deanmeyers/collections/72157622622863701/

Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/deanmeyers/

Curated content about Visual Innovation:  http://www.scoop.it/t/visual-innovation

 

Wednesday
May292013

Robin Richards - What Makes an Infographic Cool?

Guest Post by Robin Richards

Created a visual to show you instead of telling you.  Some thoughts on what makes an infographic cool along with some examples.

Robin Richards - What Makes an Infographic Cool?

Robin Richards

Robin Richards is a designer with a focus on visual storytelling and interaction design. He runs RIPETUNGI, a design studio based in Bristol, UK creating digital experiences for web, mobile and tablet and telling stories with data visualisation and infographics. 

LINKS:

ripetungi.com

Twitter: @ripetungi

LinkedIN: http://uk.linkedin.com/pub/robin-richards/2a/262/147

Wednesday
May222013

Karl Gude - What Makes an Infographic Cool?

Guest Post by Karl Gude


Infographics: Inform, Illuminate

What makes infographics cool is that they can be extremely effective at explaining every conceivable topic in any industry for any reason. What’s being defined as an infographic nowadays ranges from decorating simple text blocks to make the content more appealing to incredibly complex data visualizations that reveal content because there’s no other way to understand it. 

I started out doing infographics in journalism (we called them “news graphics”), and the beauty of having creating them in this field is that news knows no topical boundaries; it can be about anything. Besides making infographics on the obvious breaking news stories (like bombings and plane crashes), every conceivable topic was fodder for making an infographic to help readers understand what was going on. We made news graphics on political, business, entertainment and sports stories as well as on all sorts of technical, medical, and scientific advances. 

This experience led me to realize the value of employing these sorts of visual explainers in other industries outside of journalism, and this has helped me be a better teacher and adviser now that I’m in academia. For example, PR firms, businesses and other organizations need to better engage their audiences, scientists need to explain their research to each other as well as to the lay person (like funders) and federal agencies need to make sense of huge data sets. The list goes on. 

The good news is that resources for creating infographics are exploding! There are a multitude of new free online tools for designing, creating and packaging charts, maps and diagrams (I’ve stored a great many on my wiki freevisualtools.wikispaces.com, so help yourself!) and more are coming along every day. Also, many more freelance designers and firms are learning how to make them. It ain’t as easy to make them from scratch as you might think, so don’t entrust your administrative assistant to make one just because he knows Photoshop! Your brand identity and credibility are at stake here!

But designing an infographic only comes after you’ve decided who your audience is, what message you want to convey to them and what information is needed to tell that story. This is where most infographics get tripped up, by conveying the wrong story. Always keep the dictum, “Form follows function” in mind every time you begin an infographic. Otherwise, your beautifully designed graphic will be all hat and no head.

In a nutshell, infographics can often convey a message to a target audience more effectively than text alone can. Or not. Done poorly, infographics can confound more than illuminate, and to me the key task of an infographic is to make people feel smarter, not dumber. This is when infographics are definitely NOT cool. 

 

Karl Gude - What Makes an Infographic Cool?

Karl Gude is the former Director of Information Graphics at Newsweek magazine and The Associated Press. Karl left Newsweek after a decade to spearhead the first information graphics program at Michigan State University’s School of Journalism. Karl also teaches a class on the creative process and on social media marketing.  

Karl is a visual storyteller, artist and writer who consults with corporations, scientific institutions and government agencies, including the NSF and the CIA, to help them create effective infographics. He also writes a regular column for the Huffington Post.

 

LINKS: 

Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/karl-gude/

Blog: karlgude.com

Twitter: @karlgude

New Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/gudeye?ref=hl

Pinterest: https://pinterest.com/karlgude/

Youtube channel with tutorials: http://www.youtube.com/user/kgude/featured

Wednesday
May152013

John Pring - What Makes an Infographic Cool?

Guest Post by John Pring

For many, infographics are a relatively new phenomenon; we still get calls and enquiries from businesses and individuals who have ‘just discovered infographics’ and are looking to take advantage of the format. Similarly, many people who have seen the surge in popularity of a certain kind of data visualization consider infographics to be something of a ‘fad’ – an opinion usually formed by the combination of online proliferation of the term and the overuse of the format by SEO agencies as a link-building technique (just go to any SEO conference and you’ll be almost guaranteed to hear someone refer to infographics as a short-term trend that has already reached saturation point).

However, the truth is that infographics are by no means a new concept and they’re certainly not a fad that will disappear anytime soon (although I will concede that the general public will begin seeing a lot less of them once the SEO industry moves onto a new tactic for gaining inbound links to client sites).

Infographics and data visualizations have been around for thousands of years, even pre-dating the written language in the form of cave paintings from 30,000 BC, used to depict local resources and allow for visual records to be kept. Similarly, the Egyptians used hieroglyphs to tell stories about their culture, allowing future generations to learn a considerable amount about the Egyptian social structure and belief system. 

Example of a 30,000BC cave painting used as an inventory for crops

(By the way, just to address a common question there is a difference between data visualization and infographics, but clarifying the distinction here isn’t a major concern). 

Infographics have been around as long as we’ve been communicating with other human beings, and will continue to play an important role in our social and economic interactions for generations to come – which covers my first point in the consideration of infographics as a ‘cool’ format; they’ve been with us for as long as we’ve existed, facilitating communication and storytelling in a way that other formats (even written language) can often struggle to match.

But there are a couple of other reasons I love the infographic format, reasons that I think elevate them not just into the realm of being cool, but being one of the single most important communication tools at the disposal of the human race. 

 

SOCIAL IMPORTANCE & TRANSLATION OF COMPLEX DATA

Infographics boast a level of social importance that rivals any other form of visual media; in fact, it’s fair to say (without any hint of hyperbole) that infographics have saved lives.

In 1857 Florence Nightingale produced a series of infographics called ‘Coxcomb Charts’, charting the different causes of soldier deaths during the Crimean War. 

Nightingale was concerned around the number of deaths caused by poor hospital conditions, and decided to visualize the data in order to present a more compelling case to Queen Victoria. The Queen was shocked to see the data presented in such a clear an impactful way and these visualizations directly contributed to the improvement of hospital conditions, saving countless lives.

It’s worth noting here that Queen Victoria already had the statistics regarding solider deaths due to unsanitary conditions at her disposal, but it wasn’t until she saw the data visualized in such a dramatic fashion that she realized the true impact of hospital conditions compared to all other causes of solider mortality.

An excellent example of how infographics play a significant role in our everyday lives would contemporary road signs, particularly those in the United Kingdom. 

These signs were developed in 1957 by Margaret Calvert and Jock Kinneir, combining information design and semiotics to produce simple, clear pictograms that can be easily understood (even while driving at speed). These signs were produced well over 50 years ago and are still in use today, demonstrating their effectiveness at portraying information through visual stimuli. 

In 2013, infographics are still playing an integral role in the social and political landscape – being used to both inform the general public of important information (for example the National Health Service in the UK used infographics to inform the general population of important changes to the way the health system worked) and to help inform decision makers at the top of the political spectrum. Data visualizations are regularly used to communicate complex statistical relationships to the government, helping them inform their decision-making and see patterns that would otherwise be extremely difficult to realize. 

One of the main ways infographics can achieve this is through the compression and translation of large amounts of complex data; an achievement that is only possible through visual representation. 

A fantastic example of this kind of data compression is the ‘Snake Oil’ interactive infographic produced by David McCandless and Andy Perkins in 2011: 

Snake Oil

The infographic presents data from over 1500 placebo-controlled human trials to visualize the effectiveness of specific supplements on certain conditions. According to McCandless the data took 3 researchers months to gather and validate, yet this visualization takes all this data and compresses it into one easy to understand graphic. The ‘balloon race’ concept (i.e. the higher the bubble the greater the evidence for its effectiveness in treatments of specific conditions) allows the reader to bypass the months of data gathering and reading, yet gain the same level of understanding (in terms of the most important information) as someone who had undergone the research process.

 

EDUCATION

So we’ve looked at how infographics have pre-dated the written language, can save lives, portray important information in minimal time-frames, inform decision-makers, communicate important ideas to the general public and compress and translate huge, complex data sets. That should be more than enough to place infographics well and truly in the ‘cool’ column, but it doesn’t stop there; infographics are also one of the most effective educational tools we have at our disposal.

It’s now universally understood that the vast majority of us are visual learners, and there are numerous pieces of research that confirm the notion that information is easier to understand when displayed visually. This has obvious applications for education (whether it be primary school students or adult learners), but it’s not just comprehension that is improved by presenting information visually, as retention can also be improved dramatically.

Bandwidth of the Brain, courtesy of David McCandless and his TED talk 

 

The above visualization from David McCandless shows how we take in information in any given second – as you can see the vast majority of the information we take in from the outside world is absorbed via sight, making it our primary learning channel. This visual absorption means information displayed visually is far more likely to stick in our brains, making data retention and recall far more successful. 

So that’s it for my post on what makes infographics cool – and we didn’t even look at data organization (studies have shown that it’s easier to see patterns when data is displayed visually), the versatility of the infographic format (entertainment, link-building, education, business, sales tools, how-to guides, etc. etc.) abstract and schematic infographics (like Harry Beck’s London tube maps developed in 1933) or the fact that they’re hugely entertaining and far more engaging than traditional forms of communication and portraying data.

However, I will leave you with this. If none of the above convinces you that infographics are incredibly cool, then consider the plaque designed for the Pioneer space probe by Carl Sagan and Frank Drake: 

Even when it comes to trying to communicate with extra-terrestrials, one of the most potentially significant designs in human history, it’s an infographic we turn to. 

 

 

John PringJohn Pring is the director of inbound marketing and content creation at Designbysoap Ltd; a UK-based design and marketing agency specializing in content development and distribution.

Over the last few years John has overseen the production of thousands of bespoke infographics, data visualizations and interactive graphics for clients all over the world, including the European Commission, the BBC, AOL, Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, Ford and numerous others.

 

 

LINKS

Designbysoap Ltd:  www.designbysoap.co.uk

Designbysoap Facebook Page

Twitter: @Designbysoap

 

Wednesday
May082013

Tiago Veloso - What Makes an Infographic Cool?

Guest post by Tiago Veloso

The ‘infographic explosion’ in the Internet began, as many of Cool Infographics readers probably know, around 2009. Since then, a whole new industry emerged, one that is dedicated to develop visual representations of information for organizations across pretty much all sectors.

It’s obvious that, as the number of marketing infographics grew, it became more difficult to achieve the link-bait impact we see so many agencies and SEO experts advertise, when defending the reasons why potential clients should include infographics in their marketing efforts.

Of course, a ‘viral infographic’ can have that impact, but the Internet user is getting more mature, I believe, in terms of what’s worth spending time reading. That means your infographic will have a couple of seconds to create an impression and captivate the reader – much like the ‘old’ newspapers headlines.

In fact, you can’t ask for a better reference of ‘what makes an infographic cool’ than the works published by many newspapers and magazines. And, from everything one can learn about infographics just by admiring some of best works in the world - like the ones awarded at Malofiej21, recently -, here are some of my favorite lessons:

Make it relevant to your audience, not to you

To be relevant, no matter in what context, implies to be correct. Nothing can be more destructive to an infographic than lack of accuracy. Dedicate enough time to research and instead of trying to mold the facts to an initial question or point of view, let the stories emerge from the data exploration process. Aim for that unique story everyone else missed. Concentrate on having a strong data-based story, in opposition of creating ‘lists of facts’.

Now, the problem with corporate clients is that usually you don’t have much data to work with in the first place. They just want an infographic, and if you’re an agency trying to make it in this market, you can’t afford to let any client escape, right?

However, poorly sourced and meaningless infographics tend to be less ‘viral’ – if they do go viral, it’s not usually good for the brand behind it. That just means it’s up to you to go after the sources – and I don’t mean just Wikipedia -, verify them, collect and explore the data, find the story before you even start drawing a chart or graphic.

The ‘8 hats of data visualization design’, by Andy Kirk, showing the multiple dimensions of developing a data visualization. 

Make it easy to the brain, not the eye

The ‘visual impact’ of an infographic it’s key in the Internet marketing business, a concept that has led to the premise that aesthetics means more to the general audience than the content itself. So, to create ‘awesome infographics’, graphic designers (most of them without any experience in visual journalism) run to vector illustrations, start playing with typography and colors, textures and even photos, adding elements that can fill up  the space of those widely adopted ‘tower’ formats that the client demanded.

This strategy helped the “Infographic Industry” to grow quickly, but like I said before, I think the information consumer is adapting, evolving, learning to process visual information more intuitively, and therefore, paying more attention to the content.

And what your brand really wants, ultimately, is a message that sticks to the brain, not only to the eye. Too many colors, fonts and vectors will only take away the reader’s attention from what really matters in an infographic: the layers of information, the multiple insights you’re not only saying (in text and numbers) but showing (with comparative graphics).

There are scientific principles applied to all dimensions of information design, and I must recommend Alberto Cairo’s book The Functional Art as the perfect starting point in that journey towards a deeper understanding of this topic. The important thing to have in mind is that if you focus on providing the best information display possible, and not the easiest or the most ‘eye-grabbing’ one, you’ll be heading in the right direction to get an infographic that will please both the eye and the brain.

‘Tower infographics’ can be useful, and even newspapers use them. See this recent example from Canada’s National Post, designed by Richard Johnson.

Make it as an investment in branding, not sales

This third point is sort of a consequence of the previous ones. To create a ‘Cool Infographic’ you’ll have to make an investment in research, find the right balance between form and function and still have the proper connections to see it featured in major websites. Most of times, you’ll need to outsource these tasks.

Worst of all, infographics don’t sell. They’re not supposed to. They can generate lots of website traffic, perhaps even some leads, but if you’re thinking about investing in Infographics to rise sales or something like that, than my advice is that you channel those resources on to something else (please remember that we’re talking about a specific type of ‘infographic’, not all the uses for information design inside a company).

If you add to that the general lack of tolerance the internet user has to ads disguised of something else, the only truly good reason for a company to create an infographic is that it has something meaningful to communicate, that is better (not ‘easily’) understood through this specific form of visual representation.

Or, simply putted, instead of looking at infographics as ‘illustrated ads/press-releases”, think of them more as “summarized insightful white papers”.

Simple graphics can be picked up by major websites, if the content is relevant. Here’s one of many examples of charts provided by Statista that ended up in Mashable. 

  

Tiago Veloso is the founder of Visual Loop, a collaborative digital environment for everything related to information design and data visualization. He lives in Brazil, and you can connect with him online on Twitter and LinkedIn.

 

Wednesday
May012013

Alberto Cairo - What Makes an Infographic Cool?

GUEST POST by Alberto Cairo

A ‘cool’ infographic is one that not only forces you to stop and stare at it with awe, but also —and above all— one that gives you insights that you would not get otherwise. ‘Cool’ infographics reveal patterns and trends that lie buried below mountains of data and facts. They make complexity clear without compromising its integrity.

To be truly ‘cool’, an infographic needs to be honest, truthful, deep, and elegant. It can be fun, too, but it needs first to respect the intelligence of its potential readers, and be designed not just to entertain them, but to enlighten them. A bunch of out of context numbers or grossly simplistic charts surrounded by pictograms or illustrations is never a ‘cool’ infographic. Quite the opposite is true. The primary goal of ‘cool’ infographics is not to ‘bring eyeballs’ or ‘go viral’. Those are by-products. If you design with just those objectives in mind, you will end up having not an infographic, but perhaps a colorful but ultimately worthless poster. Any truly ‘cool’ infographic is a tool for rational understanding, an instrument to discuss relevant ideas and phenomena.

Washington Post Homicides in the District cool interactive infographic

As an example, I would like you to visit this very simple but very smart interactive graphic by The Washington Post. See how carefully the information is layered and dosed in it. Notice how it first highlights some important facts (“Drug killings down”, “Most dangerous age…”) and then it lets you explore the data at will. It is beautiful, it is informative, it is useful. And it is extremely cool.

 

Alberto Cairo

Alberto Cairo teaches infographics and visualization at the School of Communication of the University of Miami. He is the author of the book The Functional Art: An Introduction to Information Graphics and Visualization (PeachPit Press, 2012). He has been a consultant and instructor with media organizations and educational institutions in more than twenty countries.

LINKS

www.thefunctionalart.com

Twitter: @albertocairo

School of Communication: http://com.miami.edu/ 

Monday
Apr292013

New Guest Post Series: What Makes an Infographic Cool?

What Makes an Infographic Cool?

 

I’m very excited about this project!  This week I’m going to start sharing a weekly guest post series from prominent infographics designers about “What makes an infographic design cool?”  Each Wednesday, I’ll feature a different expert opinion (until I run out of experts).  I’ve invited these experts to draft their own posts, and share whatever examples they want to highlight.

I’ve been running the Cool Infographics site since 2007, and we have watched an amazing category of design being developed.  They didn’t exist when I started, but now we have an infographics design industry, and a number of well known infographics design experts.  The practice of visual storytelling has become a recognized design profession.

I receive around 30-50 infographic submissions to the site every day, and most of them don’t make the cut to be considered a “cool infographic” to be posted.  The process of filtering these designs is very time consuming, and my current backlog is up to at least 400 unread submissions.  Over the years, we have developed our own formula for filtering the infographic designs you see posted on the site, but I really wanted to hear and learn from other experts about what they consider to be “cool.”

Stay tuned, and let me know what you think of the series in the comments.

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