What Makes a Great Infographic?

Posted on May 25th 2011

What Makes a Great Infographic?

[Guest post by Joe Chernov]  Since agreeing to speak about infographics at Content Marketing World, the question “What makes a great infographic?” has been ricocheting around in my mind. Turns out, the topic is on a lot of people’s minds.  A stealth mode data visualization start-up called Visual.ly is readying to launch and FastCompany recently created an infographic-of-the-day section of its blog.

I think a great infographic is an imbalanced equation: the amount of information conveyed is disproportionate to the time it takes the viewer to process it. < Tweet this But this post isn’t about what I think (surprise).  It’s about what the brightest minds in design, content and social business think.  I shopped the question around, and the following is what 16 of my friends had to say.

(And because everyone loves a competition, we made it easy for you to tweet your favorite answer.)

1. Jeremiah Owyang, Partner, Altimeter Group : A great infographic isn’t about information or graphics.  A great infographic tells a meaningful story that can be consumed in an instantly digestible seating.

“A great infographic tells a meaningful story in an instant.” via @Jowyang < Tweet this

2. Steve Farnsworth, Chief Digital Strategist, Jolt Social Media: A good infographic takes data and visually illuminates the patterns within it, and makes accessible the insight that the viewer might have otherwise missed.  A great infographic makes big data accessible in a way that allows the viewer to grasp its larger implications, internalize it strategically, and then make actionable decisions going forward.

“A great infographic allows the viewer to  grasp the implications of big data.” via @Stevology  < Tweet this

3. Robin Richards, Director of Information Design, JESS3: When the visual clearly represents the contextual relationship of the data, without prejudice, to present a meaningful and informative narrative.

“A great infographic represents the contextual relationship of the data, without prejudice.” via @ripetungi < Tweet this

4. Ann Handley, Author, Content Rules: A good infographic offers clarity: Simple, clean design. But also, it allows a read to scan and quickly grok the data being communicated, almost immediately. A secondly, a good infographic isn’t stuffed a spreadsheet: So why is it that so many look like a graphic artist just used cool fonts on a spreadsheet and called it in infographic? The infographic is an opportunity to present data in a more interesting, understandable, compelling (non-boring!) way. For the love of Pete, can we NOT stuff them full of crazy-busyness? What’s the most important thing you’re communicating here? Then what? Edit, edit, edit!

“For the love of Pete, can we NOT stuff infographics full of crazy-busyness?” via @marketingprofs  < Tweet this

5. Todd Defren, Co-founder & Principal, SHIFT Communications : A good infographic compellingly communicates the maximum amount of data in the least amount of space. Too many infographics now are too darned big: more focus on “embedability” might lead infographic-makers to atomize the content into smaller chunks.

“Too many infographics now are too darned big.” via @TDefren < Tweet this

6. Jonathan Block, VP & Service Director, SiriusDecisions : A good infographic effectively communicates its intent without the need for further explanation. It brings a common-sense order to what could easily be rendered confusing and changes organically in response to the dynamics of the content it is based upon. Think of the London Tube map as a prime example.

“A good infographic communicates its intent without the need for further explanation.” via @jblock  < Tweet this

7. Mike Volpe, CMO, HubSpot : The best infographics have a high density of information and are easily consumable.  It is an art to be able to take a lot of data, or a number of concepts, and boil it down to one image.  If your infographic makes sense when you look at it for 5 seconds, but is still teaching you things after you have looked at it for a full minute, then you know it is good.

“(Great infograpics) take a lot of data, or a number of concepts, and boil it down to one image.” via @mvolpe < Tweet this

8. Joe Pulizzi, Author, Get Content. Get Customers : Compelling data that tells a story. Data from a variety of sources, which adds to credibility and increases the odds for social sharing. Simple enough to read but creative enough that it makes you look twice.

A great infographic is “simple enough to read but creative enough that it makes you look twice.” @juntajoe < Tweet this

9. Jeremy Victor, Founder, Make Good Media: A quality infographic deepens a viewer’s understanding of a complex topic by clearly and concisely presenting data in an appealing visual design. At the heart of its success is the communication of a story, a point of view, or a fresh perspective. Simply regurgitating facts without a message is a sure-fire way to inform the viewer you don’t know what you are doing.

“A quality infographic deepens a viewer’s understanding of a complex topic.” via @jeremyvictor   < Tweet this

10. Sarah Evans, President, Sevans Strategy: A few weeks ago, one of the Twitter co-founders Evan Williams tweeted something to the effect of  good design used to set people apart, now it’s required to get them in the door. That’s one of the fundamentals of good data visualization and story telling, great (not good) design. Even more important is the story the infographic tells — what is the point of the images and data? I also like when infographics allow you to find several stories within. They can oftentimes contain a lot of data that leads you to several conclusions, not just where the headline directs you.

“I like when infographics allow you to find several stories within (a single image).” via @prsarahevans < Tweet this

11. Valeria Maltoni, Principal, Conversation Agent : A good infographic starts with a good “why” question. Even if you’re trying to prove a theory, it’s important to keep an open mind to the data you find. Looking into an issue credibly means using data sets and information from reliable sources and expressing the resulting point of view in a compelling visual story that carries the meaning to its intended audience. The aim should be to make the complex easy to access and digest. Good infographics are faithful if creative representations of serious inquiry. Great inforgraphics show us what is possible.

“A good infographic starts with a good ‘why’ question.” @ConversationAge < Tweet this

12. Mike MacFarlane, Senior Marketing Consultant, Couch & Associates : A picture says a thousand words. If your picture is supplemented with a thousand words, then you have missed the mark.

“If your infographic is supplemented with 1,000 words, you’ve missed the mark.” via @mikemacfarlane < Tweet this

13. Ardath Albee, CEO, Marketing Interactions : A good infographic is fun to look at, relevant and rich with an arrangement of information that has context based on the viewer’s interests. The statistics or information on the infographic are most engaging when they connect ideas in new ways, show cause and effect and provide a useful takeaway the viewer is motivated to share with others.

“A good infographic is an arrangement of information that has context based on the viewer’s interests.” via @ardath421 < Tweet this

14. Craig Rosenberg, Vice President, Focus.com : There are three simple rules to great infographics: 1. Compelling data, 2. Rich graphics (not just charts and graphs), 2. Great viral title (keyword rich if possible but err on the side of viral not keywords for spread).

“Three rules to great infographics: 1. compelling data, 2. rich graphics, 3. viral title.” via @funnelholic  < Tweet this

15. Adam Singer, Social Media Practice Director, LEWIS PR : In one word: clarity. The infographic should be easy to skim without users having to zoom in or strain to read anything. Text used should, as Nathan at Flowing Data likes to say, “go big or go home.” Also consider weight of fonts, effects or bolding to help your messages stand out: users should be able to scan it easily just like any other type of good web content. Theme and content matter too, but without clarity they fall apart.

“(Great infographics) in one word: clarity.” via @AdamSinger < Tweet this

16. Jeff Widman, Facebook Analytics Expert, PageLever: From a publisher’s perspective, a good infographic needs to be fun to consume and fun to share. It’s more sharable if it’s slightly controversial or includes trivia that makes me sound smart at the next party. Just look at your audience – what do they jovially disagree about with their close friends?

Viral infographics are “controversial or include trivia that makes you sound smart at the next party” via @jeffwidman < Tweet this

Now it’s your turn.  What do you think makes for a great infographic?

sbohan

Sheila Bohan

PR Manager, Eloqua

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