Is there a secret recipe for a strong infographic? Recently, we discussed this idea with some of our peers in the Society of Digital Agencies (SoDA). Yesterday, in “What Makes a Good Infographic? Part 1,” our Associate Creative Director for Editorial, Simon Steinhardt, looked at infographics from an editorial angle. Today I’ll be talking design.
The magic of a good infographic lies in making the complex understandable, and for me this means that structure and narrative need to be intricately linked. The two have to work in harmony to ensure clarity of the presented information. The path of the narrative dictates structure, which in turn determines the organisation of the information, controls the flow, and ensures the integrity of the data remains intact.
Image from JESS3′s UX Week Presentation “The Importance of Infographic Wireframing and Structure“
There are a number of key considerations that will impact the comprehensibility of a structure:
- The amount of data you have
- How the data should be categorized
- The medium (will it be static, interactive or animated?)
- Where it will primarily live (online, print, television screen?)
Fundamentally, a good structure:
- Provides clarification
- Aids comprehension
- Reveals trends
- Highlights key findings
A poor, or weak structure:
- Masks data
- Obscures facts
- Skews interpretations
Your aim is to make the data as accessible as possible to the viewer, so when working through the presentation of information it’s helpful to continually ask yourself whether the flow or structure makes the data any easier to understand. Could the data be presented in a format that’s even easier to read? Is the user guided around the information in a logical or linear fashion? Is the presentation of the figures helpful to the viewer? Can the viewer ascertain from the layout what the key points / findings are?
If either the narrative or structure isn’t strong, then the infographic can be confusing or even misleading. If the graphic is beautiful, but there’s no value to the information presented, then the infographic has ultimately failed in its purpose. If the information and story is compelling, but the structure is too convoluted or the information is presented in a complex way, then the graphic is not helping the viewer in any way.
Narrative and structure are far from the only key ingredients in a successful infographic, but they’re the ones that make it work.
Information Design Director