Updated: Jan 22
Information graphics or infographics are visual representations of information, data or knowledge. These graphics are used where complex information needs to be explained quickly and clearly, such as in signs, maps, journalism, technical writing, and education.
They are also used extensively as tools by computer scientists, mathematicians, and statisticians to ease the process of developing and communicating conceptual information.
They can present a rich amount of information without intimidating you. Or sometimes they intimidate you but make the digesting of the information much more bearable. Here in this article below, we are going to discuss best practices for designing infographics followed by some examples which might help you learn a thing or two.
What is InfoGraphics?
Infographics are traditionally viewed as visual elements such as signs, charts, maps, or diagrams that aid comprehension of given text-based content. Often more powerful than words or imagery alone, infographics utilize visual elements of design and words to convey a message in such a way that context, meaning and understanding are transcended to the observer in a manner not previously experienced.
However, visual representation of information can be more than just the manner in which we are able to record what has been discovered by other means. They have the potential to become the process by which we can discern new meaning and discover new knowledge. The observer becomes enlighten, having learned from the visual feast and is motivated to seek out more knowledge in this medium.
Since the days of the fire evolution, we’ve been using infographics, as visual shorthand to convey information to the viewer or readers that might take paragraphs or pages to explain in words. It’s not easy to represent the whole story in one single page or paragraph but it’s far more effective than reading an entire book. There is a number of infographics out there on every street. Infect, we interact with infographics on a daily basis, from the stick figure telling us when to cross the street, to icons in web navigation designs.
Little History of InfoGraphics
In prehistory, early humans created the first information graphics: cave paintings, later maps and now charts. Throughout most of this history, image and text have remained inextricably mixed. Later map-making began several millennia before writing and the map from around 7500 BCE. After that icons were used to keep records of cattle and stock. The Indians of Mesoamerica used imagery to depict the journeys of past generations. Illegible on their own, they served as a supportive element to memory and storytelling.
Wow… That’s enough for history unless you really want to get die with boredom. Let’s move further.
Why Using InfoGraphics?
Because “A picture is worth a thousand words”. Information graphics can be done for several reasons. Along with them, we can highlight the following important ones to enlighten the mystery.
To transmit or communicate a message.
To present large amounts of information in a compact and easy to understand way.
To reveal the data. Discovering cause-effect relations, knowing what’s happening.
To periodically monitor the evolution of certain parameters.
Elements of Information Graphics
There are many theories available by which you can identify a number of entities that can be considered as the elements of infographics but the basic and key material of an information graphic is the data, information, or knowledge that the graphic presents with limited resources. However, In the case of data, the creator may make use of automated tools such as graphing software to represent the data in the form of lines, boxes, arrows, and various symbols and pictograms. The information graphic might also feature a key which defines the visual elements in plain English. A scale and labels are also common.
Type of InfoGraphics
There are many types of InfoGraphics available out there. Many information graphics are specialized forms of depiction that represent their content in sophisticated and often abstract ways. In order to interpret the meaning of these graphics appropriately, the viewer requires a suitable level of understanding. In many cases, the required understanding involves comprehension skills that are learned rather than innate.
At a fundamental level, the skills of decoding individual graphic signs and symbols must be acquired before sense can be made of information graphic as a whole. However, knowledge of the conventions for distributing and arranging these individual components is also necessary for the building of understanding. Here we are conceding some major type of InfoGraphics to understand its usability.
01. Statistical Based InfoGraphics
Information graphics are visual devices intended to communicate complex information quickly and clearly. The devices include charts, diagrams, graphs, tables, maps and lists. Among the most common devices are horizontal bar charts, vertical column charts, and round or oval pie charts, that can summarize a lot of statistical information. Diagrams can be used to show how a system works and maybe an organizational chart that shows lines of authority, or a systems flowchart that shows sequential movement.
Illustrated graphics use images to related data. The snapshots features used every day by USA Today are good examples of this technique. Tables are commonly used and may contain lots of numbers. Modern interactive maps and bulleted numbers are also infographics devices.
02. TimeLine Based InfoGraphics
Timelines are another type of infographics uses where the visual representation of information and events that happen over time. A timeline is the presentation of a chronological sequence of events along a drawn line that enables a viewer to understand temporal relationships quickly. Sometimes it is also referred to the chronology that is in tabular, year-by-year paragraphs or another form.
03. Process-Based InfoGraphics
These types usually can be seen in workspaces of factory or offices. You can also catch them in cooking magazines which shows their recipes using graphics. Have you ever wonder why most of the food products have InfoGraphics instead of detailed procedure at the backside of their cover or box. Out of many, there is one important reason is to give you an understanding of its uses in limited space. Using images to related data it can produce a good example of a particular process so it’s easy to understand.
04. Location or Geography Based InfoGraphics
It’s the most common type of infographics which you can find everywhere starting from your school map to complicated astronomical graphs. City and country maps can also consider as a good example of geography-based infographics. These types of graphics include symbols, icons, diagrams, graphs, tables, arrows and bullets.
You must remember that there are many types of lines (parallel, dotted, straight) used in maps to define subways, streets, highways, and railway tracks. Also, many symbols and icons used for a specific landmark like school, church, hospital, bank etc. scale is the important parameter here as everything marked according to particular scale or ratio.
How to Create InfoGraphics?
Three main Questions needs to be answered before starting making any information graphics which is Why?, How?, Does it Work? Making good information graphic consist of facilitating the understanding of complexity, instead of complicating what is simple. And this cannot be achieved without a clear understanding of what goal we pursue, who our audience is and a good deal of work and reflection.
Question 1: Why? It’s the most important question out of three that why you want to create InfoGraphics? What is it for? What is the goal? Is it for research, for discovery, Or for monitoring the data? If you can able to answer these queries then only you can able to collect the relevant data. This determines the type of relative data to gather and about which we have to ask what type it has to be (quantitative, sequential, categorical, analytical etc.) and more importantly: are they relevant for what we want?
Question 2: How? If you are done with “why?” part then you need to think about How you going to refine your data and in what way we will represent the data. A fundamental aspect of this section is that information graphics are interesting because they reveal differences. For this reason, refining them and representing the data derived from their statistical treatment often reveals aspects that otherwise would result confusing which often leads to wrong conclusions.
Once data is refined now you have to choose the most effective visual metaphor. Mostly, for a little data, a table or even a sentence can be clearer than a chart. In certain occasions changing the colour palette or the type of chart can clarify the situation enormously.
Question 3: Does it work? Now, this is a critical section where you have to identify if the outcome is fit the goal or not. if it doesn’t fit the goal that we have defined in the first step, we will have failed and again start with the first step. There is no documented rule which says how to verify your results but after thoroughly answering all three questions you must able to judge if the result is favourable or not. The key resides in revising and experimenting with what we have done until we find an improvement. Selection of Colors, Typography A perfect layout, a good selection and nice resource can produce a creative output. Layout, textures and typography are used more often than one may think but the outcome of different combination can result in verity of designs. Professionalism is built upon knowledge and experience. Typography is one of the most important key aspects of any design project.
Among other things, effective typography always manages to achieve some of the important objectives of projects like corporate identity, the attractiveness of the project, enrichment of visual appearance, trust and interest of viewers etc. Also, it helps you to represent the bound emotions of your graphics.
Varying the colours, reducing the saturation of what is less important and increasing it for the most relevant data, modifying the typography, the size of fonts, eliminating everything that doesn’t contribute to showing and clarifying the data (irrelevant grids, redundant data, and unnecessary labels) without losing relevant information sometimes provides surprisingly improved results.
To learn about design and how to make your work better, consider taking up a graphic design course from MAD School.