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G20 Saudi Arabia infographic

In this edition

Quote of the month

Frank Lloyd Wright’s message remains relevant to the design of anything:

“An architect's most useful tools are an eraser at the drafting board, and a wrecking bar at the site.”

Surf club

noupe has some good examples of infographics and examples of infographics that use typography to great effect.

Check out these science infographics from
Dear <<First Name>>

Welcome to our July 2012 newsletter: Designing infographics

We are all busy these days, so an infographic can be a handy way to get a quick appreciation of a topic or a process. A quick scan and we have learnt something new.

Below we share some infographics that we like and tips for getting them right.

Like any communication, when we are designing an infographic we need to consider its purpose, our viewers, what we want to get across, what they want to know, and what they could misinterpret.

What infographics do you like and why? Share your favourites on our Facebook page.

Regards, @EconnectTeam:
Jenni Metcalfe, Mary O’Callaghan (newsletter editor), Sarah Cole, Robbie Mitchell, Alison Binney, Jane Ilsley, Tom Dixon, Heather Stevens, Melanie McKenzie, Alice Peterson (intern) and Michael Lefcourt (intern).

Visual relativity

By Alison Binney

Some of the toughest science communication we do requires us to make the intangible tangible.

Using an infographic, or data visualisation, can help.

When something is difficult to express in words, or just takes too many words, consider how you might visualise it.

You can structure the information and draw relationships by using visual tools such as:
  • numbers
  • timelines
  • size comparisons
  • simple scales
  • colour
Use these tools together with icons and illustrations to summarise complex or emotionally charged information.

Greenpeace’s Boom goes the reef uses the colour red to communicate danger and negative emotional messages about the impacts of Australia’s coal exports on the Great Barrier Reef.

Different font sizes are used to emphasise or de-emphasise data. The Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) is used as a comparative measure.

Boom goes the reef infographic
Source: Greenpeace

The infographic is not a computer-era communication concept.

This one, showing how much a man could eat, drink and smoke over the course of 70 years, was published in a Spanish newspaper in 1898. It was accompanied by explanatory text.

Infographic from 1898

Activate your infographic

By Robbie Mitchell

I prefer visual communication to be animated and interactive.

As I mentioned back in February (Think visual but keep it real), we feel an emotional connection more readily with moving images and sound than we do with static text and images.

The motion also keeps us riveted for longer.

Here are 3 examples that use interactivity, animation and video to present data in a meaningful and thought-provoking way.

Car sharing

Learn about the benefits of car sharing and find car-sharing businesses in your country.

Of these 3 examples, I love it the most because it is simple, clean and linear.

You can move the car using your keyboard and click on pop-up links that interest you.

Car sharing infographic

Is the internet awake?

How many people in each country are on the internet and at what time?

When is the best time to tweet for maximum attention?

A simple, clean and linear infographic.

Is the internet awake? infographic

Collapsing bee colonies

How many years would we survive without bees?

This animated video infographic explains why bees are important for our survival, why they are dying and the research that has produced a solution.

Its strengths are that it is simple, clean and doesn’t try to overload you with too much data.

Dying bees infographic

Poor design can send the wrong message

By Alice Peterson and Alison Binney

What can make an infographic so right can also make it so wrong—design is 50% of an infographic’s success.

A common mistake is using a misleading scale.

In the Gallons of Water example below, your first impression might be that the range of the y-axis scale is 0 to 400 gallons (bar 1, sugar) when in fact it is 0 to 2,500 gallons (bar 2, coffee).

The number of gallons for each product other than coffee should be positioned lower down the bar, aligned relative to 2,500.

seametrics farm water infographic

Source: Seametrics

Colour, if used without thought, can also limit the success of your infographic.

If, for example, you use the colour red to communicate danger and, in the same infographic, you use red and blue to distinguish female and male, people may perceive your information about females as negative.

Infographics present facts and numbers to tell complex stories. This means that the reader can develop a story around the graphic.

The bottom line is to make sure that people cannot misinterpret the message you are conveying through your use of graphics.

13 top tips for designing an infographic

By Mary O'Callaghan

We are all busy, so an attractive, informative infographic can be a real timesaver. Done well, an infographic can also tap into our emotions.  

Here are 13 top tips for designing an infographic:
  1. Start by identifying the goal of your infographic and the message(s) you want to get across. Find the story you want to tell.
  2. Focus on a single topic or thesis to keep it focused and to avoid confusing people. Write down the thesis—that’s your title.
  3. Mine your data to support your story and messages. Data is the most important part, so choose the right facts and figures.
  4. Keep it simple. Don’t overdesign it or overcrowd it. And don’t bury the data in a busy, complicated design. If it looks confusing, you will probably lose people right away.
  5. Check your facts and include your sources. You’ll lose credibility if even one of your facts is incorrect.
  6. Keep text brief and to the point. If you have more text than graphics, maybe this is not the medium to use.
  7. Tell a story with the graphics. At a glance, people should be able to take away something without reading the text.
  8. Double-check all numbers. If you are presenting numbers in graphs, charts or diagrams, triple-check that you are presenting the numbers correctly.
  9. Make it look good and people will look at it for longer. Even if it’s really simple, get a professional designer to create it.  
  10. Choose attractive colours that are appropriate to the information, and take colour blindness into consideration. Some infographics use few colours but are still effective.
  11. Include a call to action – what do you want people to do once they’ve digested the information?
  12. Make it easy for people to share it—add share buttons (e.g. Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest). For email, keep the file size as small as possible without compromising the quality.  
  13. Add a title, introduction and alt text to your final image so that search engines can find it (they can’t ‘see’ the text in a jpg).

Sources: Naldz Graphics, HOW

The 2 infographics below are part of a set showing the status of women’s rights in the top 20 global economies of the world—the G20 countries.

Best viewed on a big screen, I think they tick most of the boxes, though the call to action is not explicit.  

G20 infographic - women's rights in India
G20 infographic - women's rights in Australia

The G20's best and worst countries for women (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – India came in at #19, Australia at #4.
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