Eileen P. Parzek, SOHO It Goes! Contributing Writer, Smallbiztechnology.com
We learn early in life that “a picture is worth a thousand words” and know from experience that this is true. Graphics in general can illustrate information, and infographics take it a step further. By visually depicting the information in a small amount of space, infographics better explain, educate, or inform the reader. In a world where we are constantly bombarded with information, infographics assure that the information we share will be considered.
There are a number of different types of infographics but the most common ones are charts, maps, type-based and illustration-based infographics.
With a chart, crucial pieces of data in a report or other document are depicted visually so that the readercan see at a glance what the point of the data is. The trick is finding the best type of chart, and designing it visually to have the most impact in representing the main points of the information. A chart can show trends over time and the relationship between different pieces of information, at a glance.
Maps are particularly useful because they show information as it relates to geography and space.
A type-based infographic is just that – instead of relying on a lot of visual information, it provides condensed small bites of information in a graphically designed space. By using color and type appropriately, you will highlight information and grab attention.
Illustration based infographics are essentially illustrations that inform. Very often, these are diagrams or cross sections of objects which exist in three dimensions – allowing the reader to really see what something is or how it works.
There are a few basic rules – beyond which the design of effective infographics depends on the information and the graphic designer.
* Simple is always better. Remember, the intent is to explain something quickly
* Do not use too many colors or fonts – a good rule of thumb for any design project.
* Choose the appropriate type of infographic for the information.
* Always use headings, labels and legends – do not assume people will always know what they are looking at.
Test your infographics – have 3-5 people read the content around the infographic and view the infographic and ask them “What does it tell you?” You will find out very quickly if the message you intended to send is actually there.
Infographics can help you communicate in ways you might not have thought of:
* Business plans
* Trial presentations
* Product Manuals
* and so much more!
The next time you are preparing information of any kind, stop for a moment and think about how you might be able to convey that information more effectively with an infographic or two. In a business plan, rather than just having dry, boring words and numbers, add some charts to show your projections or demonstrate how your market research indicates your product is needed. If you have done a survey for your market research, illuminate some of the key points with infographics. Create an interesting illustration for an article that shows how what you are writing about actually happens or looks. And don’t even stop your imagination at two dimensions or static information. With the ability to create GIF animated and Flash infographics, the possibilities are even more extensive. Imagine a cross section of a product which actually pops up more information as you roll the mouse over it. A machinery diagram where the parts move in animation, instead of just being inferred. Or, charts which can show different perspectives depending on the priorities of the viewer.
Every one of us who lives and works in this information-rich society should contribute to any efforts to optimize information, since we all benefit from it. So, next time you are preparing information in words, think about how you might be able to say so much more with pictures!