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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.

Infographic Design

Looking for help creating your own infographics?  Randy’s infographic and data visualziation design company:

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Entries in design (413)

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.

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.