About

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:

InfoNewt Infographic Design

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Friday
Aug292014

False Visualizations: Sizing Circles in Infographics

Accuracy is the most important aspect of an infographic design!

Last week, the article The Truth about the Ice Bucket Challenge by Julia Belluz on Vox Media included the infographic, Where We Donate vs. Diseases That Kill Us, that used proportionally sized circles as its data visualization. The problem with this design is that the circle sizes don’t match the values shown. This is a false visualization and significantly over exaggerates the smaller amounts of money contributed to each charity and the deaths attributed to each cause.

This causes problems because readers often just look at the visuals without reading the actual numbers. They start with the assumption that a visualization accurately represents the data. The Vox Media story and infographic already have over 12,000 shares on Facebook, and this is a great case study for designers to understand how important it is to visualize data accurately.

As readers, we see the area of two-dimensional shapes on the page to represent the different values, but design software only allows width and height adjustments to size shapes. Designers make the mistake of adjusting the diameter of circles to match the data instead of the area, which incorrectly sizes the circles dramatically. It takes some geometry calculations in a spreadsheet to find the areas and then calculate the appropriate diameters for each circle. To demonstrate, I created this corrected version of the infographic.

False Visualizations: Sizing Circles in Infographics Revised

My Google Docs spreadsheet of the correct circle area and diameter calculations is available here.

Assuming this was a design mistake, and there was no intent to deceive the audience, this is a common mistake that many designers make.  So many designers, that I included an entire section on this topic in the Cool Infographics book to help designers understand how to size the area of circles.

I made one other improvement to the corrected design above by removing the color legend and listing the charities and causes of death right next to the appropriate circles. This makes the whole visualization easier for the audience to read by eliminating the need to look back-and-forth from the circles to the color legend to figure out what each circle represents.  Placing the text next to each circle keeps the information in the reader’s field of view which minimizes eye movement.

Sticking with the circles data visualization style, I wanted to take the design a little bit further. I would recommend one of two alternate improvements.  First, adding colored connecting lines is one way to make it easier for the audience to find the related circles in the columns sorted in descending order.

False Visualizations: Sizing Circles in Infographics Revised Lines

A second alternative would be to sort the lists to line up the related circles.  This makes it much easier for the audience to see the direct comparisons between charitable contributions and death rates related to the same cause.

False Visualizations: Sizing Circles in Infographics Revised Descending Sort

I’m passing over any discussion about whether using proportionally sized circles (a bubble chart) is the best visualization method for this data. If a designer makes the choice to use sized shapes, my point is that the data visualizations in the infographic must match the numbers using area.  David Mendoza published a good analysis worth reading and designed an alternative way to visualize the data in his article, This Bubble Chart Is Killing Me.

How else would you improve this design?

NOTE: I was able to contact the designer who created the infographic at Vox Media, and he had already realized his error after the infographic had been published. As I had guessed, he had mistakenly adjusted the diameter of the circles instead of the area. He told me that he’s working on updating the official infographic design in the article, but it hasn’t been published on the Vox Media site yet.


 

Tuesday
May132014

Marketing FAIL: Infographics Hidden Behind Registration Walls

There’s a growing marketing practice that I think is a huge marketing mistake. I’ve seen a number of infographics being published by companies that require the reader to enter their name, email address and other contact information before they can even view the design. This “registration wall” is a way for marketers to gather the contact information from the readers so they can send out additional marketing emails later. In my opinion, publishing an infographic behind a registration wall just doesn’t make any sense.

Here’s an example of what you might see on one of these registration wall pages:

Infographics Registration Wall Fail Example

I completely understand putting valuable content behind a registration wall as a method to capture the contact information from potential leads. I get it.  Assuming the hidden content is closely related to the company’s business, the audience interested in that content is likely to represent a pool of potential customers. If they’re willing to give up their valuable email address to gain access to that content, they are probably a fairly strong potential customer (or a competitor checking out your valuable content!).

However, infographics are the wrong type of content to use for this purpose. The companies I see that are hiding infographics behind registration walls are missing the benefit of infographics, which is to deliver easy to understand information to the audience in a format that’s also easy to share because it’s completely contained within the image file.

First, online infographics are meant to be shared. Infographics are popular online for two reasons, easy to understand information and easy to share. Much easier than text articles or blog posts. As soon as one reader shares the hidden infographic image file on their blog or posts it in social media, the infographic is released to the public and available to everyone without registering. Even if you ask people not to share it publicly, the accepted practice online is to freely share infographics.

Second, the research commissioned by Janrain from 2012 indicates that 86% of people may leave a website when asked to create an account. Most of the audience will just leave instead of going through with the registration process to gain access to the infographic. They never see the infographic, never read the data and never hear the message. 

Lost Infographic Audience

Third, the search engines can’t see past the registration wall. No keywords, no meta-data, no text. The search engines can’t index the content behind the registration wall, so your infographic won’t show up in search results. Only the short, publicly accessible teaser information on the registration page has any chance of being indexed to appear in results.

Here’s what I recommend. Use a compelling infographic as a top level summary of the more detailed content you put behind the registration wall. All of the people that share your infographic, are effectively advertising your more detailed information. You could even make the infographic landing page on your website also the registration page to get more information.  

This way the infographics are available publicly to view and share, and the free content draws in readers to the registration page. The truly interested readers will also give you their contact information to gain access to the more-detailed report or white paper that you have available behind the registration wall.  Now you have built your brand credibility with a widely shared infographic, and you have gathered a pool of potentially valuable leads.

For more statistics and information about registration walls, check out The Registration Challenge infographic from Janrain:

The Registration Challenge infographic

How to Solve the Online Registration Challenge infographic published by Janrain in 2012.

How often have you become frustrated filling out online registration forms? There is a better way. Janrain has compiled data on some of the most challenging aspects of online registration forms and simple solutions to improve the user experience…and conversion rates.

Monday
Mar172014

The State of Infographics at SxSW 2014

The State of Infographics at SxSW 2014

I post all types of infographics and data visualizations from designers all over the world here on Cool Infographics, and as a recap, I wanted to take stock of the state of infographics and data visualization at this year’s SxSW Interactive conference in Austin, TX.

I’ve been going to SxSW for a few years now, and infographics have been a growing presence in the Interactive portion of the conference every year.  You can find hidden sessions about data visualization, visual communication and infographics in different portions of the conference like the new SXsports, Health and Business sessions.

Check the links and search the presentation hashtags on Twitter to find more information and audience comments from each event.  I know I didn’t catch everything, so send me links to anything (Events, notes, slides, etc) I missed through the Contact page or the comments and I’ll add appropriate ones into the post!

*Sessions I was able to attend

Official Events:

 

Unofficial Sessions:

 

  • The Attention Economy with Walter, book signing by Ekaterina Walter @Ekaterina, co-author of The Power of Visual Storytelling
    • “Attention is the new commodity. Visual storytelling is the new currency,” say co-authors Ekaterina Walter and Jessica Gioglio in their new book The Power of Visual Storytelling.  The first 100 attendees for Ekaterina’s signing will get a copy of her book. Come chat with Ekaterina about the visualization revolution and her thoughts about SxSW Interactive 2014.
    • Hosted by Vocus @Vocus
    • http://www.eventbrite.com/e/wtf-sxsw-visualize-a-powerful-future-tickets-10822280733
  • FH Black Box lounge at the Four Seasons (#FHBlackBox)
  • Column Five announced the release of Visage
  • Cool Infographics Meetup
    • Special thanks to the team at the Fleishman Hillard Black Box Lounge!  They allowed me to host the Cool Infographics @Coolinfographic meetup event after my book signing on Monday for anyone that wanted to hang out.  It was also an opportunity to meet fans and sign books for people that didn’t have official SxSW badges.

 

Please help add anything I missed by posting in the comments below or sending me a note through the Contact page.  I’ll add new content into the post above.