An infographic can be an engaging, impactful alternative to written content. But what goes into a compelling data visualization?
In an age of information overload and big data, infographics, or visual illustrations of data, can help turn complicated, dry facts and figures into more easily digestible, inviting content displays.
It appears that novel and unexpected visualizations can be better remembered than the visualizations with limited variability that we are exposed to since elementary school.
According to this infographic about infographics, we tend to be drawn to visual representations of content, rather than pure text, because they are more engaging, accessible, persuasive, and easy to recall.
Whether you’re looking to get more life out of your meetings content or demonstrate the latest findings from a research report, successful data visualizations have the power to call attention to your brand message, according to the Content Marketing Institute. They also have viral potential, are easy to share, and encourage linkbacks from other sources (see above).
But what makes for an effective infographic?
A meaningful infographic answers the questions who, what, why, and how, wrote Nicole Lampe, digital strategy director at Resource Media, on NTEN: The Nonprofit Technology Network’s blog.
- Who are you trying to reach?
- What do you want them to know (and do)?
- Why should they care?
- How will you get in front of them?
“It’s not a beauty contest,” Lampe wrote. “Your graphics have to mean something, and the data they convey has to matter.”
That’s not to say design is not important. In a recent Harvard study [PDF], researchers analyzed what makes visuals memorable or forgettable by collecting memorability scores for visual data from news media sites, government reports, scientific journals, and inforgraphic sources. While memorability doesn’t correlate to comprehension, understanding what makes people remember a visual is a step toward understanding what makes it effective or engaging, the study authors wrote.
Visuals with color and recognizable objects—things people come across regularly such as icons and photos—were found to be more memorable. Somewhat surprisingly, visuals with more clutter or “chart junk” were also more memorable, and the more varied and novel the visualizations, the more memorable. For example, diagrams, grids, and matrices had significantly higher memorability scores than bar graphs or lines.
“It appears that novel and unexpected visualizations can be better remembered than the visualizations with limited variability that we are exposed to since elementary school,” the study authors wrote.
If you’re looking to start producing your own infographics, this Social Fish blog post recommends a few sites to help you get started:
Or for some ideas on to how associations are using infographics check out:
- The National Parks Conservation Association’s visualization of how reduced government funding is impacting the nation’s parks.
- The Brewers Association’s depiction of homebrewer demographics
- The Newspaper Association of America’s illustration of how millennials consume newspaper content.
Have any other advice on creating infographics? Let us know in the comments.