Have you been noticing a bunch of infographics on various websites lately? Do you wonder what they are and how they came to be?
If so, read on.
An infographic or information graphic is a graphical representation of data. The main purpose of an infographic is to convey complex information in a quick and clear manner.
Simply put, an infographic is the representation of textual data with design elements (such as colors, pictures, illustrations, etc) in order to help improve comprehension.
Analysis from experts has revealed that it is easier for humans to consume content presented in a graphical format than in a purely textual form. This is one of the main reasons for widespread adoption of these graphics by various media portals and companies.
In the past, infographics weren’t easy to produce and therefore, the only people who made use of their power were mega organizations. With the advent of the internet, social networking sites and free graphic tools, a large segment of the population is now able to create infographics and use them to convey great looking data with their audience.
Even if you’re no techie, you can have your own infographic created. Sites such as Facebook & Twitter allow your data to be conveyed in a graphical manner (hint: timeline).
Popular examples of infographics that you may not know were infographics:
- Snapshots in the USA today (This is not the only newspaper. Various other newspapers have different columns where they present data graphically)
- Public transportation map of the London Underground and Washington Metro
- Your Facebook Timeline
- Google Trends (Google.com/Trends)
There have also been many books that solely consisted of infographics. One such book is “The Way Things Work” by David Macaulay.
Like we mentioned above, there is a genuine reason as to why more and more companies are focused on using infographics to convey data. It’s because it makes the information a lot easier to digest because humans are wired to consume data visually.
“A good infographic is simple and requires very little text” says Hotbutterstudio, who have also put together this wonderful infographic titled an infographic is?
Effectiveness Of An Infographic
It’s impossible to calculate statistically (through lab tests) how a certain piece of information conveyed via graphics is understood because the perceptions of each and every single individual and his/her cognitive functions tend to vary.
The cognitive abilities of two individuals with similar demographics and background are likely to be different and as a result, calculating statistical data on the effectiveness of an infographic over textual data in regards to comprehension is quite difficult.
I’d like you to watch the following short video that attempts to convey the effectiveness of an infographic over textual data:
Can you see how easy it is to calculate the number of 7′s in the chart when the color or the size was changed? It’s a simple example of using design to convey data. Color coding – an ancient memory retention technique used by many students is actually a form of infographic.
Why Infographics Work?
The main reason as to why infographics are effective is because they are primarily visual. As humans, we receive input from all of our five senses (sight, touch, hearing, smell and taste).
But generally, we receive and process a lot more information visually than we do with each of our other senses. Therefore, our brain allocates more of its resources towards visual processing of data.
It has been discovered that the brain approximately allocates about 50% of its resources to visual processing. Moreover, almost 60% of humans are primarily visual learners as opposed to kinesthetic and auditory.
This makes the infographic a lot more effective because it appeals to a wider population.
Breakdown of an Infographic:
An infographic can be broken down into three parts – the visual, the content and the knowledge. The visual is the design element and comprises of colors and graphics. There are two types of graphics used in infographics – theme and the reference.
The theme represents the underlying visual representation of data whereas the reference is a pointer that specifically points to certain kinds of data.
The content is the textual data that may consist of how-tos, facts, consequences, etc from various sources.
The knowledge is the special insight that the specific infographic tries to convey.
Who Can Use Infographics?
This can be demonstrated by the fact that more humans spend more hours watching T.V. than they do reading.
Reading is considered a chore by many people even though it helps improve their cognitive abilities. But watching T.V. isn’t.
Anyone can make use of an infographic to convey information a lot more effectively. It doesn’t matter if you’re a student, teacher or the CEO of a mega organization – you can always use an infographic to communicate with your audience and help get a better response.
Here are some examples…
- A student can convert certain portions of his important lessons into graphics and use the graphical data while preparing and revising for his exams.
- A teacher can make use of infographics to quickly capture the attention of his/her students and improve their comprehension on a specific subject.
- A marketer can use infographics to convey factual data to his prospective customers with a special insight and attract more leads, customers, etc
- An employee can use an infographic to convey a special insight he’s discovered in his line of work to get the attention of his managers and possibly, get a raise
- A soon-to-wed couple could use an infographic as their wedding invitation and convey information such as the timings, number of people that would be attending, who would be attending (old school mates, college mates, etc) and why the guest needs to attend the wedding.
Infographics helps process information quickly and influences decision making. It’s an effective medium for communicating content and gaining attention.
Tools To Create Infographics
In the past, infographics were created by hand with tools such as pencils, markers, rulers and graph paper. To a certain extent, they are still done by hand by various artists, students, etc.
But thanks to the advent of technology, more and more people are using computers to create infographics. Using computers has made the creation of infographics much faster and easier.
Here are some tools that you’ll need to create infographics:
1. Graphic Illustration Software
A basic graphic illustration software is more than enough to create infographics. Inkscape is a freeware graphic illustrator that you can use. If you’d like a more complex software that offers more features, Adobe Illustrator or Fireworks is recommended.
2. Infographic creators
There are many websites on the internet that create infographics automatically by uploading data you have and using pre-designed templates. Some of these services are Infogr.am, Piktochart and Easel.ly.