Data visualisation

The dark art of infographics

As our GM Gethin Fisher points out in AUTOINFOGRAPH, there are plenty of tools out there to help non-designers create simple and fairly professional-looking infographics. But we often hear from clients that, despite the tech available, they feel that their finished pieces lack the polish and pizazz that the same infographic would have had if it was produced by a professional designer.

What are these mysterious ingredients that designers add? What secrets are they keeping up their black-shirted sleeves that they’re not telling us about?

Well, it’s often all about seemingly irrelevant details, things that non-designers wouldn’t be aware of. So we thought we’d rummage around in those deep, dark sleeves of ours and pull out some of those secrets, just for you.

 

1 AEMC island

 

1. Have a big idea.

Don’t just roll out reams of dry information. Create a theme or idea around it. This infographic has a lot of detailed, technical information but it’s accessible and easy-to-read because it’s all cleverly grouped into suburbs on a friendly-looking island, each with visual cues relating to the subject matter of the grouping.

 

2 Lion business

 

2. Guide your reader’s eye.

Don’t try to make every piece of information shout out for attention. Make it clear to your reader that they can read the top level first, then a secondary level and so on. In this example, the dark circles give a clear starting point for the reader. This is followed by a set of three lighter but still colourful circles and two photo montages before the reader gets into the nitty-gritty of the rest of the infographic.

 

3 suncorp

 

3. Make graphs more seductive.

Why make your charts and graphs look like a lesson in Powerpoint? In this example, the main bar chart has been turned into road lanes, and the secondary ones turned into sets of icons to represent sector growth.

 

4 Landcom

 

4. Bite-size it.

We humans are funny things – we feel more comfortable when we arrange things into groups. So help your reader do it in your infographic too. Here, the page has been broken into three distinct chunks of information, each enclosed within a graphic of a map, house or tree.

 

5 Paypal evolution

 

5. Let it breathe.

You hear designers say this all the time, normally in the context of white or negative space. This example is a beautifully rich and textured infographic with a lot of information. But at the same time it has a lot of space around each piece of copy, making it accessible.

 

6 Lion beer

 

6. Have a hierarchy.

People can be coy about who’s the boss, who’s the middle manager and who’s the lackey. Not so when it comes to typography! If your copy has clear headings, then subheadings and finally body copy, your reader will understand your content better. This example does just that with big uppercase titles, smaller but still dense subheadings, and then normal detail copy.

 

Bo speech infog - character 2

 

7. Have some fun.

Most of us have to look at fairly dry content for most of the day. What better way to attract a reader’s attention than to have some fun with the icons you use in an infographic. We don’t mean clipart (please never ever use it!) – we mean tastefully created imagery. Who’d have thought you could create an infographic about a Barack Obama speech that includes icons of thongs, a goat and a pitchfork-wielding farmer?

 


 

By Chris Chatfield