Infographs Must Be Brought to Life

Ultimately, the idea behind the infograph is an excellent one: to bring information into a graphic format, so that it is easier to read and take in. The use of infographs has skyrocketed in the past few years, and I think that, too often, they don’t live up to the original idea almost at all. Some have even predicted the death of infographs in the near future.

Oftentimes infographs look great – from a distance. Lots of pictures, colors, icons, charts and typography arranged almost like a fabric or wallpaper pattern. The end result works, especially when zoomed out significantly, when everything is equally spaced, the colors match and the drawings suit the style, too. But, from the reader’s perspective, is a 12,000 pixel-high picture a good way to present an idea?

Some might consider infographs fun “Where’s Waldo?”-esque pictures, where the reader must look for and find the main point, but in my opinion most infographs simply contain too many random things to take in at the same time.

Too often, infographs are just gigantic, messy pictures that force you to scroll right, left, up and down, regardless of what kind of screen you are using, in order to make anything out of the whole. If I’m lucky, while searching for Waldo I’ll completely forget what the infograph was about in the first place and why I’m even looking at it. Maybe for the beautiful icons?

I would argue that, in addition to myself, there are many others online whose attention span is closer to three than ten seconds. If I’ve managed to scroll the infograph down and back up in three seconds without stopping to study anything in more detail, the infograph isn’t built in an interesting enough way.

So how can you build an interesting infograph?

In my opinion a good infograph is like the simplest children’s book. Already before the drawing process begins, the content must be well thought out and simplified into short sentences or bullet points that come together in a certain order to tell a story. A story that you can grasp, even with the attention span of an overactive child.

Here are some concrete ideas on how to bring infographs to life:

1. Present the topic or problem right at the beginning. You should be able to see why the infograph has been made and why the reader should acquaint themselves with it right away. This can be done even by using an interesting title, claim or picture.

2. Add a focal point. Design something that guides the reader through the infograph. The focal point can be a color, a character, a narrator, an icon, numbering, or almost anything.

3. Put the most important things in order, one by one. Don’t give the reader too much information at once. Go through your story one point at a time, in a carefully considered order. Don’t hide Waldo in a crowd. Cut the elements that do not add to the bigger picture. And if you find yourself not having many things left, think whether an infograph really is the best way to present the topic.

4. Stick to a style. Good online services have sites that carefully stick to a certain style. A cohesive style works for infographs, too. Even the smallest differences in colors, fonts or line thickness of the icons have a surprisingly big impact on the infograph as a whole.

5. Make animated and interactive content. An infograph doesn’t have to be a huge, static picture. You can give it the final boost by bringing in all the content in a beautiful and thought-out way using animations and engaging the reader with the content in some way. Engagement can simply mean a small rollover, a button, a slider, a more-information element or even a comment field in the midst of the content.

What’s the best infograph you have seen?