They can also be on any number of topics: a timeline of Marvel superheroes’ first publication dates, or a study of libraries’ most popular rentals. Infographics are a fun way to share dry, numbers-based data in a visually appealing way.
So where do you start?
You need good data. Now, when I write “good data,” I mean numbers that cover different aspects of one topic. In order to explain something using only numbers and statistics, you need to be able to paint a full picture using a variety of figures describing the same entity. For instance, you might use data about hot dogs, watermelon, and baskets in order to create a picnic infographic; however, you probably do not need data about average adolescent Internet usage. You might include dimensional measurements of the picnic blanket, weight of the food items, number of games brought; you can use any of those numbers as they are all related to the main topic of your infographic: picnics.
What kind of data are we talking about?
Data can be any number that is related to the subject matter; measurement of the object, percentages reflecting use, quantity of people affected by the topic, etc. Above all, be sure you find the data compelling; it will be easier to create an infographic if you have a personal interest in the subject matter. Whether this is data that you have personally compounded, or numbers that you have found while conducting research, any topic will work! If the numbers are the result of someone else’s research, be sure to give credit where credit is due – using someone else’s research without attribution is plagiarism.
Now that you have an idea of what to include in an infographic, how do you actually create one?
There are a number of websites that will help you create infographics with the help of icons. A couple of these sites are: http://infogr.am/, http://piktochart.com/, and http://www.easel.ly/. All of these services allow you to sign up for a free account, before using one of their templates to create an infographic (see a blog post by our own Chrystal Dawson on using Infogr.am here: http://bit.ly/1i9QVzL). Another option is to create an original illustration to host the data you want to share. This is a good idea if you a) are a talented graphic designer/artist, especially when it comes to digital images, or b) know one such individual and can wrangle or bribe an illustration from them (see my own infographic below).
Once you have selected your method of producing the infographic, you can just follow the principles of great presentation design:
- organize your data/main points,
- keep your text concise, and avoid repetition,
- use contrasting or coordinating colors or fonts,
- stick with one style (unless your infographic is about the evolution of styles),
- align the different objects (this is not to say that all of the items should be exactly one below the other, but rather to keep the design of the overall infographic visibly organized),
- and be mindful of objects’ proximity to each other.
Creating an effective infographic is a lot of like creating a good presentation; many of the basic rules apply to both. However, there is one great difference: a presentation is meant to support the speaker, and thus does not need much verbiage, whereas an infographic can be a stand-alone interpretation of data.
Is an infographic an appropriate vehicle for your information?
There are three main points to consider when deciding if an infographic is a good idea:
- Appropriateness of topic to be pictorially represented: Can the topic you are describing be illustrated?
- The infographic’s tone should match that of research: For instance, if the subject matter is of a somber nature, be sure your infographic is respectful of the tone of your data.
- Will the person evaluating your work approve of an infographic (specifically if giving in lieu of an assignment): If you are turning in an infographic in lieu of an assignment, check with your professor first! If you are posting your infographic on your blog, be sure it is something your readers would find compelling.
Now let yourself have some fun with numbers! Below is an infographic depicting Instagram users and their habits, illustrated by Allison Schafer. Enjoy!