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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 design (408)

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.

 

Tuesday
May072013

Visualizing the School of Design

Visualizing the School of Design infographic

Visualizing the School of Design is a very data dense infographic poster that analyzes the School of Design at the Politecnico di Milano.

Politecnico di Milano, in order to present the School of Design in its own stand at Salone del Mobile 2013, asked DensityDesign to realize a 4 mt x 2 mt poster showing the structure and the efficiency of the School of Design system at Politecnico. The visualization is a picture of the 2010 / 2011 academic year.

Definitely take a look at the full-size version to appreciate the thought and effort put into the design.  This project was amazingly developed in one week by the team at DensityDesign.

Visualizing the School of Design close up

Found on Datavisualization.ch

 

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/ 

Tuesday
Apr302013

White House will be Posting More Infographics

White House Infographics

The White House has just started posting on Tumblr, and released the White House on Tumblr infographic you see above to kickoff the blog.  I’m pleased to see infographics as a large section of the content they are planning, but also a little bit worried.

We see some great things here at the White House every day, and sharing that stuff with you is one of the best parts of our jobs. That’s why we’re launching a Tumblr. We’ll post things like the best quotes from President Obama, or video of young scientists visiting the White House for the science fair, or photos of adorable moments with Bo. We’ve got some wonky charts, too. Because to us, those are actually kind of exciting.

They’re not kidding about the “Wonky charts!”  I look at this design and think “Huh?”  The infographic appears to be a stylized form of a coxcomb chart or rose diagram, but not really.  It’s definitely an aesthetic design all about style without substance.  The design is just supposed to imply the different types (and maybe the amounts) of content they intend to publish.  There isn’t any real data or numbers behind the chart, and the hand-drawn aspect reinforces that this is just suggestive of what we should expect to see in the future.  

Visually, I guess it also suggests that the content might cover multiple categories.  So posts about the FLOTUS (First Lady of the United States) might include photos, behind-the-scenes information and posts about Bo, the First Dog.

No real chart would have overlapping pie slices.  Slices of a true Rose Diagram (credited to Florence Nightingale) would have equal angles that add up to 360° or 100%, and with varying radii, the area of each slice would represent the value of each section.

The staff at the White House has posted infographics on the official White House blog before (which I critiqued here and here).  I love that this helps raise the awareness and credibility of infographics aas a whole!

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.

Friday
Apr262013

2,000 Years of Continental Climate Changes

2,000 Years of Continental Climate Changes

Climate change is a complicated, and sometimes controversial, global topic.  I really like this data visualization of 2,000 Years of Continental Climate Changes that was included as part of the report published by the “2K Network” of the International Geosphere Biosphere Program (IGBP) Past Global Changes (PAGES) project.

Thirty-year mean temperatures for the seven PAGES 2k continental-scale regions arranged vertically from north to south. Colors indicate the relative temperature. The most prominent feature of nearly all of the regional temperature reconstructions is the long-term cooling, which ended late in the19th century. North America includes a shorter tree-ring-based and a longer pollen-based reconstruction. Modified from: PAGES 2k Consortium, 2013, Continental-scale temperature variability during the past two millennia, Nature Geoscience, DOI:10.1038/NGEO1797.

Each color band represents a 30-year mean temperature found on each continent.  Their choice of data visualization method is very compelling, and visualizes a huge amount of data in a small space.

I also love that a good data visualization can attract attention and build awareness all by itself.

Found on the post by Andrew Revkin on the NY Times Dot Earth blog.

Tuesday
Apr092013

JAWS

JAWS infographic

I’ve been meaning to post this one for a long time.  JAWS, designed by Robert Machuga, uses the design style of the movie poster to create this cool infographic that visualizes multiple dimensions of data from the movie.

From Robert:

This project was an assignment in my senior year at the Hartford Art School where my class had to dissect a movie and translate it into an infographic Each of the colored lines represents the location of each of the main characters in the film divided into beach, mainland, and ocean. The red icons represent each time a human was eaten while the green buoy icons represent danger in the water. The orange lifesaver icons appear when the shark eludes capture and the timeline across the bottom spikes in green at points of musical intensity while the blue spikes are moments of suspense. 

In approaching this project I really had to sit down with the film and the remote, fast forwarding and rewinding, trying to find the most pivotal events and themes that I could use to depict this movie in a static visual. I was trying to capture the thrill of the movie without loosing the story in the graph so I tried to break it down to it’s simplest forms. After many rounds, encouragement and great advice from professor John Nordyke I was left with the graph I have now. 

Nice job Robert!

Thursday
Apr042013

How Far is it to Mars?

How Far is it to Mars? motion infographic

How Far is it to Mars? by David Paliwoda is a fantastic animated, interactive infographic website that shows the viewer the scale of the distance to the Moon and to Mars as measured in pixels.  David calls this a motion-infographic.

Click the image above to see the animated site.  Very cool! 

Found on Daring Fireball

Tuesday
Mar192013

Ink Costs More Than Human Blood

Ink Costs More Than Human Blood infographic

The Ink Costs More Than Human Blood infographic is a demonstration design by the team at Nuesion.

I think this is a fantastic design, but lacks some crucial elements for a successful infographic.  The overall design is telling one story very clearly, and that’s one of the best practices in infographic design.  Some of the best infographics have one Key Message that the audience can’t miss, and this design nails it!

The problem I see with this design is that it lacks credibility.  There are no sources listed, so the audience doesn’t know where the data came from or how current it is.  Why should they believe the data visualization?  Is it biased or skewed in any way?  Without doing a ton of research on their own, the audience has no way to tell.

Also, the footer of the design is missing both copyright information and a URL to the infographic landing page.  It lists the nuesion.com home page, but it took some digging on my part to find the original high-resolution infographic buried in one of their blog posts.

Monday
Mar182013

See Conference April 20th

see#8 | 20 APRIL 2013 | SCHLACHTHOF WIESBADEN from Scholz & Volkmer GmbH on Vimeo.

 

I really wish I could make it to the See Conference (The Conference on Visualization of Information) in Germany (www.see-conference.org).  This year looks like they have a great conference lined up!

For eighth years now the see conference has been gathering the most creative people and exciting ideas on the topic of information visualization. The interdisciplinary platform brings together fields like design, art, architecture and new technologies. Our international speakers will show the latest ideas and approaches on how to deal with the current flood of information, on how to visualize it and turn it into something that can be experienced. Among our new speakers at see#8: Data journalist Francesco Franchi, Dutch design studio Catalogtree and British-born Antony Turner from Carbon Visuals. More info regarding program and tickets at www.see-conference.org

Event: see conference #8 
Date: 20 April 2013 
Location: Wiesbaden, Germany 
URL: www.see-conference.org

If you have a chance to make it to this conference, I would highly recommend it.  When I looked today, there were only 161 seats left!

Let me know what you think if you make it to the conference!