What makes a great infographic?

The topic of infographics came up during a recent conversation I had with a colleague. The question wasn’t about whether to create infographics or not, but rather what really makes an infographic an infographic and not just another chart or diagram.

I, of course, have an opinion on the matter (imagine that), but I really would like to open this up as a discussion. First things first, though, let’s establish the ground rules defining what an infographic is and how it is used. Then I will give you my opinion.

Infographics: The Definition

According to Wikipedia, “information graphics or infographics are graphic visual representations of information, data or knowledge.” Essentially it means taking complex information and presenting it in an easily understood manner, allowing the end user to grasp the concept without being overwhelmed with the data.

Today’s infographics are primarily found online, usually in blog posts. And they’re routinely presented in a long, vertical format, controlling the reader’s visual consumption of the information through scrolling down the page.

Infographics: Usage

While infographics have been around a long time (a really long time), they have seen an increase in popularity and usage recently online, especially in blog posts. The reason is they make great link bait. Infographics that are both informative and visually appealing get shared. A lot. Each share or mention could potentially (read: should) be a link back to the source or creator. Being that a link on the web is considered a vote, a good infographic that gets shared can account for a lot of votes. And those votes can help improve your search engine ranking. (I know I am oversimplifying SEO and link-building strategy, but for the sake of this discussion, bear with me.)

Infographics come in all sizes and shapes. The data they convey varies even more. Typically they encourage the reader to follow along and see how the information interrelates and progresses. The good ones (i.e. those that are shared) are super simple, easy to follow and visually appealing (more on this later). Here are just a few examples of some recent favorites (and shares).

The Life and Times of Steve Jobs (shared below, as well)
The Environmental Impact of Spam
How Much Data Will Humans Create & Store This Year?

Infographics: Matt’s Opinion

For those of you who made it this far, thanks for sticking with me. For those who just skipped ahead to see how wrong my opinion is, shame on you. (Oh, who am I kidding? I would have done the same thing.)

As I alluded to earlier, a good infographic is one that is easy to understand and is visually appealing. But there’s more to it.

What makes an infographic great? At the core of any content is a story. People are more likely to share a story than they are data. Great charts and graphs are created all the time, but because they fail to convey the story in a compelling manner, they fall flat. If you haven’t already, take a look at the Steve Jobs example included below. It literally presents the man’s life story from start to finish, or in this case, top to bottom.

You probably wouldn’t finish a book—not to mention share it—that didn’t pull you in to the story. The same goes for content. Whether it be an infographic on the web or copy in a print ad, without a story, there’s no reason to listen or share.

So there you have it, my thoughts on the subject. I invite you to share yours in the comments. What makes an infographic great and worth sharing?

 

Interested in finding more infographics than you can shake a stick at? Check out these resources:
Info Graphic World – They literally specialize in creating these and are really good at it, to boot.
Daily Infographic – The name says it all.
Information Is Beautiful – Literally making information and data sexy.
Mashable – More than just infographics. News, stories and trends, as well.
Marketing Tech Blog – Great resource for all things marketing, techy, bloggy…
Fast Company – A wide variety of topics visualized.

Life and Times of Steve Jobs - Infographic World
Created by: Infographic World


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