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4 simple steps to building an infographic

4 simple steps to building an infographic Sean X

I have seen the future, and it is infographics...shiny, happy, rainbow-colored, icon-encrusted, seizure-inducing infographics. In an age where everything is interactive, they seem an old-school, static, ever-scrolling throwback to an earlier time.

And yet, they are uniquely suited to our brains. Although we are entertained by interaction, we seem unable to absorb the deluge of information the internet provides without containment; we need, nay, we crave the order and simplicity that an infographic provides.

To make an infographic, it requires a human to sort through the cornucopia of available information and elucidate the salient points. It requires omitting that which is irrelevant in order to ensure effective communication.

I have a son who was born August 19, and the sheer number of obnoxious clicks of the shutter of my "baby TV" had me thinking about what photo apps are best suited for which tasks. And so I embarked on creating an infographic about photo-sharing apps. I use Instagram when I am out with friends, SeeMail (a company to whom I am an advisor) when taking pictures of my baby and sharing them with family, and I used Camera+ when I was recently out trying to take a picture of the space shuttle flying over the Golden Gate Bridge. I sought to see what other need-states other people would have for using these three photo-sharing apps.

I already curate a board on Pinterest on Digital Marketing Infographics, so I decided I would crowd-source a comparison of the three photo-sharing apps I use the most and then make my own infographic. I wanted "need-states of consumers when using photo-apps." People contributed what tasks they used each of the apps for and where each of the apps for them rated.

I expected photo-journalism, sports photography, or even the best app to take a picture of your junk would be on the list; but, alas, I completely forgot how much people enjoy taking pictures of their cats. The devolution of society is now complete...with LOLcats, for which all photo-apps should apologize for enabling.

Through this process, I learned four steps to creating an effective infographic:

  • Position a product with other products in the same category. This creates something for each product to "push" against in the comparison.

  • Frame the discussion for what will be compared. In my case, "use-cases" for the product. But it could as easily be "features" or "time-saved" at particular tasks. The framework will usually elevate out of real world use of the product. This is what the emotional connection of people to a product is.

  • Gather the data for the framework. I crowd-sourced the data, but often the data is readily available in charts of features or you can run a focus group. If a product sucks, this is where it will show up. A combination of quantitative (numbers and stats) and qualitative (how people feel about it) is most effective.

  • Present the data in a format that is visually compelling, yet simple to understand, and communicates the framework you established.

I present to you, "Which Photo-Sharing App Should You Use When?"

Click the image below to view the full infographic.

Sean X is founder of SXC Marketing.

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to leave comments.

Commenter: Jo Oskoui

2012, October 25

Sean, we are on the same page. I only wanted to point out that the process of creating compelling infographics can actually be quite time-consuming for the reasons mentioned. Since this is the second iMedia article on infographics, let's make sure that we all understand what an infographic actually is and what makes it so appealing.

Commenter: Sean X

2012, October 25

The Book I Mention Below is Edward R. Tufte's, The Visual Display of Quantitative Information

Commenter: Sean X

2012, October 25

Yes, Jo, the word Infographic in its purest meaning is more where the visual is such that it communicates with limited textual context. That the assemblage of information is presented in a way where the visual itself brings meaning to what would normally be lost in a spreadsheet of data. The classic examples are http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Nightingale-mortality.jpg">Florence Nightingales mortality rate Infographic in the Crimean war or http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Minard.png>Charles Minard's Infographic of Napoleon's invasion of Russia.

However the term has somewhat morphed in modern day marketing as a more graphically appealing way to present information than Powerpoint. From that standpoint marketers have been shackled to Powerpoint's visual presentation slide metaphor for the last 15 years, and at least re-meaning this information in an "infographic" format forces the user to dispense with much of the text.

That is not to excuse this usage. Graphics should do much more than simply display information in a visually compelling manner, however, I would not underestimate the "visually attractive manner" aspect of displaying information. It is but a first step toward better information presentation and usage.

However, not all information can show relevant properties or relationships of data, as there needs to be relevant properties and relationships that exist to show. Some of it is just informational, and as such would normally be relegated to a textual assault via Powerpoint.

In this case I could have used the score ratings from ALL of the people who responded to my survey in a graphical way breaking them down by gender, and geography to visually provide something that someone could delve more deeply into. Unfortunately my sample set would have had to been much higher, about 1,200 respondents, instead of 127.

However, your point is valid, and all infographics should seek to provide a visually compelling graphic that can be teased apart.

If I had more time to gather more respondents, and more time to put the graphic together maybe I could have accomplished such a feat :) Thanks for your input and feedback. It is important that people know there are more compelling ways to present information.

I would suggest they start with http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0961392142/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=0961392142&linkCode=as2&tag=s0ba6b-20">Edward R Tufte's The Visual Display of Quantitative information.

Commenter: Jo Oskoui

2012, October 25

Very helpful article on infographics. Could not agree more with the four steps (Position, Frame, Gather, Present). I think that step four (Present) is, however, a bit over-simplified. Most designers would argue that you must be able to understand an infographic without reading a lot of text. Graphics need to do more than just display data or support copy in a visually attractive manner. Instead, the visualizations should show relevant properties or relationships of data and allow users to understand this data visually. Most of your examples are not really infographics. As a general rule, if you can create it in PowerPoint, most likely it is not an infographic.