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Creating Infographics and Visualizing Information: 4 Tips to Get Started

*Note: Featured image created using Wordclouds.com

“There is a magic in graphs. The profile of a curve reveals in a flash a whole situation — the life history of an epidemic, a panic, or an era of prosperity. The curve informs the mind, awakens the imagination, convinces” – Henry D. Hubbard, 1939

Why are we satisfied with bar-charts, pie-charts, or scatter graphs? We have an array of digital media tools available to us, so we can be more creative with how we present information. There is purpose behind more creative representations of course. Just as a curve in a graph can reveal in a flash a whole situation” we can take information and turn it into a landscape that you can explore with your eyes”. 

Here then, I present a beginners guide to creatively representing information – including links to free and easy to use software!

1. Creative Representations

attendance

Note: Icon Chart image created using Piktochart

Rather than a simple bar-chart here we have represented the poor attendance of, say, a typical 2nd year undergraduate cohort studying Communications and Media. Using a very simple ‘Icon Matrix’ we can present this information in a much more personified way. Each student is represented by a student-icon and we are able to create an almost emotional narrative by simply using two colours to denote attendance (green for good) and non-attendance (red for bad).

refugees
Original image by visual communications consultant Peter Orntoft

Sometimes the story behind information can be lost. By using real-world, physical representations we can encourage a more meaningful, situated, and provocative engagement with the information.

2. Sourcing Credible Data

data

80% of professional data visualization and infographic production is the sourcing and sifting of relevant, credible data. The less credible your original source, and yes you have to reference your original source, the less credible your infographic. Fortunately, there are many credible sources that share there data including the Office for National Statistics, for digital communications there is Ofcom.

3. Clarity of Design

bolt
Original image from New York Times

Effective infographics or data visualizations should have an immediately obvious purpose and be able to convey their message at a glance. Try to limit your colour palette and only use symbols or images that relate to the topic of your infographic. As a rule of thumb infogdaphics should be 735 pixels wide, and no taller than 5000 pixels.

4. Narrative Flow

scott-harding
Original image by Bournemouth University student Scott Harding

 

Much like an essay, infographic should have a flow to them and guide the reader through different elements. Fortunately, by using both text and visual elements we have greater affordances in guiding the reader and prioritizing information. Bold, bigger text is more important than smaller text. Information that is presented first is typically seen as more important. We can also use colour and white space to accentuate important parts.

In conclusion…

… these 4 tips are enough for anyone to start thinking about their own information visualisations. They can be as simple as a single image using real-world objects, or as complex as a 5000 pixel tall infographic. Data sources need not be complex, and effectively infographics can often use no quantitative data whatsoever. To get started, there is free software worth exploring including Canva, Piktochart, and Wordclouds. Both Canva and Piktochart come complete with their own embedded tutorials!

 

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