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Sep 27, 201112:00 AMThe Web Chef's Cafe

with Paul Gibler

Tell it, sell it with pictures...

Tell it, sell it with pictures...

The Web Chef's Cafe will focus on giving you insights, tips, and links to free and fee resources on some of the latest developments in online marketing. Our Web Chef encourages you to send topic ideas and to comment on the postings as the biweekly series continues to evolve. Read Full Bio

Ever since the advertising trade came up with the cliche “a picture is worth a thousand words,” visualization of content has played a role in simplifying and conveying meaning in a way that text doesn’t always achieve. With text relying on interpretation filtered through the lens of our multitude of experiences, the pictures that are painted from reading about something can be all over the map.

Advertising images often focused on illustrations or photography to tell their story and sell wares. Today, through the mashup of data and illustration tools along with the immediacy of the Web, we’re seeing the growth of static and interactive

infographics (information graphics) as part of the astute marketer’s content strategy.

Infographics lend themselves to your content strategy for various reasons, including their ability to convey meaning at a glance, their appeal to visual learners (estimated to be 65% of the population according to the Visual Teaching Alliance), their immediacy in breaking through the clutter in today’s world of information glut, their ability to simplify complex concepts, their potential to enhance reader engagement, and their “shareabilty” as part of a word-of-mouth marketing strategy.

The early king of the infographic was probably USA Today, with its simple, clean graphics to explain a range of topics. Yet today we see infographics exploding in all sorts of media well beyond static print into dynamic engaging graphics.

For example, in an article by Ross Crooks, creative director of Column Five in Newport Beach, Calif., in the Sept. 20, 2011 issue of Fast Company, we saw the embedding of the following motion infographic on last year’s oil spill:

Oil'd from Chris Harmon on Vimeo.

One place you can go to explore infographics is Visual.ly a repository of infographics on a myriad of topics of interest to consumers and businesses alike. Another way to locate interesting infographics is through an ongoing search on Twitter for the keyword “infographic.” You’ll find an abundance of tweets with infographics from every field imaginable. Not too surprisingly, some of these are effective while others leave much to be desired, obfuscating rather than clarifying complex or even simple topics as they over-communicate a range of meanings in a single graphic.

So what makes a good infographic?

A good infographic is based on the following constructs:

  1. The visualization supports the communications objective – informing, instructing, persuading, etc.
  2. The message conveyed by the infographic is clear.
  3. The data are appropriately aggregated or disaggregated to communicate.
  4. The data are visually interesting.
  5. The infographic’s name is catchy while being informative as to the content of that infographic.
  6. The visualization technique supports the message (i.e., maps for location-based content, charts for comparative data, etc.).
  7. The infographic is organized, simple, concise.
  8. The typography, illustrations, and shapes support the message.
  9. The colors are differentiated and convey meaning.
  10. The infographic is designed for re-distribution by including an embed code that can be inserted in other sites like the one below, “Web Equity owning your local presence,” that was re-distributed through our site by the insertion of a convenient embed code provided at the originator’s site.

Web Equity Infographic
Web Equity by Mike Blumenthal is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at www.blumenthals.com.

Last December, Mashable published an article titled “The Best Infographics of 2010” that showcased some interesting examples of both static and dynamic infographics. They also publish their own infographics periodically and had one recently that I found particularly interesting. Titled “Social Media Marketing by the Numbers,” it looked at what was happening with Twitter, Facebook, and location-based services in a nice comparative fashion.

One of the interesting trends we are seeing in the world of infographics is an expansion beyond static infographics to dynamic and interactive infographics that allow the viewer to interact with the data as they compile and view it. For example, The New York Times recently published an infographic titled “How Many Households Are Like Yours” that allowed visitors to explore comparative census data against a self-generated profile of their household while also creating another dimension with the data mapped over time.

Another interesting dynamic visualization is one called “The Evolution of the Web,” for those interested in how the Web has evolved. This visualization was created by the Google Chrome Team, Hyperakt, and Vizzuality.

Edward Tufte, a pioneer in the field of data visualization and author of The Visual Display of Quantitative Information, had this to say about visualization: “Public discussions are part of what it takes to make changes in the trillions of graphics published each year.” Hopefully, this overview of the field will contribute to this change.

Do you have a favorite infographic you’d like to share or tips on the effective use of infographics?

Sign up for the free IB Update – your weekly resource for local business news, analysis, voices, and the names you need to know. Click here.

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