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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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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 

 

Monday
Jun102013

How to Woo a Designer

How to Woo a Designer infographic

Want to learn how to woo a designer instead of offending them? The How to Woo a Designer infographic from 99designs.com gives us a look into the designers’ world.  Both the best sides and the worst sides. 

The 99designs designer survey was conducted in September and October 2012 and received 2,379 responses. Survey sources include graphic designers active in 99designs’ community and graphic designers not affiliated  with 99designs. 

We asked our survey respondents to list some of the best and worst things a client has ever said to them

Good information whether you’re an inside designer or a design freelancer working for clients!  Some of the data could have been visualized better.  The ranking of misconceptions looks like a bar chart with the colored rectangles behind the text, but they fit the text size and don’t represent the data.

The design should include a clear title in the infographic (not just on the web page), the URL link back to the original infographic, some type of copyright or Creative Commons license statement and credit to the designer.  Come on, it’s an infographic about designers on an online marketplace for graphic designers!  Give the designer some credit!

Thanks to Lauren for sending in the link!

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

 

Thursday
May302013

Water in the Anthropocene

Water in the Anthropocene is a very cool infographic video looking at the different ways we humans are changing the global water cycle.

Water in the Anthropocene is a 3-minute film charting the global impact of humans on the water cycle.

Evidence is growing that our global footprint is now so significant we have driven Earth into a new geological epoch — the Anthropocene.

Human activities such as damming and agriculture are changing the global water cycle in significant ways.

The data visualisation was commissioned by the Global Water Systems Project for a major international conference (Water in the Anthropocene, Bonn, Germany, 21-24 May, 2013). 
conference2013.gwsp.org

The film is part of the first website on the concept of humans as a geological force, anthropocene.info

Thanks to Owen for sending in the link!

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

Tuesday
May282013

Wireframe, Prototype and Simulator Tools

Wireframe, Prototype and Simulator Tools infographic

So what is the difference between Wireframe, Prototype, and Simulator Tools? This infographic compares how the products preform in terms of design capabilities, mobile integration, collaboration features, and interactivity. From User Testing, this infographic  helps guide you through the design making process of what program is right for you.

If you’re into building websites, mobile sites, or apps, you probably use some type of mockup tool—prior to coding—to help you envision how a site will work and look. But do you get customer feedback on them? In this ultimate guide, we’ll explore leading mockup tools — wireframing, prototyping, and simulating –and show you how to run user tests with them.

Good design that puts the icons and information directly into the visuals.

Also available as a PDF download.

Thanks to Liz for sending in the link

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

Monday
May202013

The Obama Energy Agenda: Gas Prices 2013

The Obama Energy Agenda: Gas Prices 2013 infographic

The White House has released a new infographic in April 2013, The Obama Energy Agenda, Gas Prices.  We have seen the White release a number of infographics as a communication tool, and they have consistently been getting better.

Gas Prices

Explore the infographic to learn about President Obama’s all-of-the-above energy strategy.

The prior Energy Agenda infographic I reviewed was in April of 2011, and it was a rough, early attempt at an infographic design for online publication.  This design is significantly better, and has a number of good points to highlight that all designers can learn from.

First, the data visualizations are well done with the chart axes clearly labeld and units of measure clearly shown.  The color scheme is simple and easy to understand, but some of the small, gray text is hard to read on the white background.

Second, the big issue with the prior designs was the lack of sources for the data.  This design does a good job of citing the source of data for each visualization (chart).  For an administration that is attempting to increase transparency, the sources are still very vague.  I would like to see URL links to the actual reports or data sets referenced to make it easy for readers to check out the data on their own.  Instead, most of the sources are listed as just “EIA” which is the U.S. Energy Information Administration.  Certainly a step in the right direction, but could have much done better.

Third, there isn’t an obvious, clear Key Message.  Most readers only look at an infographic for less than 5 seconds, and it’s the designer’s responsibility to communicate the key message in that short time.  The rest of the information should tell a good story, and support the Key Message, but isn’t required reading.  There’s a lot of data shown in this design.  Probably too much data.  It’s hard for readers to understand the flow of information because there is both top-to-bottom sequence of sections and side-by-side charts.

The area chart in the center of the design draws the reader’s attention because it is so large in relation to the rest of the charts.  This visually implies that it is the most important data in the whole design, but I’m not sure that was the intent.

After reading through the whole design, I believe that the Key Message is “The Obama Administration has supported increased domestic drilling for oil, but that hasn’t lowered gas prices at the pump.  We need to do more.”  An infographic design should make this message very clear and easy to understand without having to read through the entire design.

What do you think?

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

 

Friday
May102013

Shark Attack!

Shark Attack! infographic

Shark Attack! is a great infographic design collaboration between Ripetungi and Joe Chernov.  Based on data from a Huffington Post article, 100 Million Sharks are Killed Annually.

Recently received a Facebook message from content marketing wizard Joe Chernov linking to the Huffington Post article 100 million sharks are killed annually.  This was an astonishing fact and the enormity of the number made it difficult to wrap your head around.  Joe also shared an idea for a graphic to add context to this fact making it easier to comprehend, while exposing the outrageous ratio of the number of people sharks kill to the number of sharks people kill.

Great data visualization that shows readers the magnitude and scale of how many sharks are killed by humans every hour.  It also puts the 11,417 sharks killed value into context by comparing it against the 12 humans killed by sharks every year.  [EDITED]

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m convinced that death by shark attack would be a horrible way to go, but some days it’s good to be at the top of the food chain on Earth.