Join Mordy Golding for an in-depth discussion in this video The five keys to a great infographic, part of Creating Infographics with Illustrator (2013).
Great infographics don't happen by accident; rather a carefully crafted infographic displays various attributes that contribute to its overall success. I've come up with a simple way to summarize these attributes into what I call CHART: the five keys to a great infographic. The first key is Contrast; Contrast in a design creates tension and displays a clear distinction or difference offering no ambiguity. In graphic design, Contrast can be used to draw a viewer's attention to a specific area.
For example, a splash of color amidst the grayscale image, but it's equally important when displaying data. Take for example, a common question that you might find in a survey where respondents are as to provide an answer on a Likert scale. I the world of research, using a Likert scale can help researchers gauge interest levels by forcing someone to choose from of range of options, rather than just requesting a yes or no answer. But when you convert a Likert scale into a chart, such as a pie chart, you end up with a diluted answer.
Making it difficult to either use the data or to make a decision or even to help a viewer understand the point hat you're trying to make. You try to digest all this information and it doesn't really result in any clear choice. To add Contrast, you might consider dividing the data into clear parts, like yes and no, while still providing the original information should the reader decide to want to build their own opinion. Alternatively, you may just combine the values into a more general statement, this way the point you're trying to make, gets across. The next key is Hierarchy, important in any composition or layouts you need to provide clear direction and how the viewers should look at the design.
You must lead the eyes from the most important elements to the least important. A variety of elements can be used to indicate Hierarchy, including Size, Weight, Color and Position. Keep in mind that you can also use graphic elements, such as lines or arrows to help lead the viewer's eye from one part of your infographic to the next. The third key is Accuracy; you have access to your data through all the research that you've done, and that data has led you to a conclusion. Don't be afraid to reveal that true data, as it allows your readers to believe what you're saying.
Illustrator also allows you to be as precise as you need, so don't resort to eyeballing it. In addition, it's always best to reveal your sources, so that your viewers know whether you're presenting your own opinion or if the data is coming from a trusted source. The fourth key is Relevance. You might think that this is commonsense, but don't provide information that would just confuse your reader. Extra noise will just reduce the impact of the point that you're trying to make. I say that you might think that this is commonsense, but as a designer myself, it can sometimes be too hard to resist adding some cool graphic that you came up with, and that you might want to include it even though it doesn't contribute to your infographic's story.
A good way to protect yourself here is to have someone else review your designs. If they don't get the point right away, or if you find yourself having to explain it to them, you may have a relevance problem. Now the fifth and final key is Truth. Even if your data is accurate and can be presented in a way that tells a false story. For example, putting two charts side-by-side will immediately force the viewer to compare the two. If the scale of the charts aren't even, the viewer likely won't realize that, leading to a false assumption.
In these two charts, you might think that both solar and wind are similar, but they really aren't. Each chart uses a separate value scale. Technically the data in each chart is valid, but when you present them side-by-side, it's easy to think that they're quite similar. When both charts are using the same scale however, it's readily apparent that solar and wind energy aren't really that similar at all. Scale can also be used to deceive a viewer. For example, these two line charts show the exact same data, but each design might force a viewer to come to a different conclusion.
Remember that everything that you do on your infographic, will either strengthen or weaken your story. Keeping these five key attributes at the forefront of your mind will help ensure that your infographic will be clear, beautiful, and great.
- Visualizing data vs. presenting data
- Understanding the anatomy of an Illustrator graph
- Formatting data with Illustrator
- Defining the scale for charts
- Adding numeric values
- Designing your own chart from scratch
- Creating simple icons
- Building line, bar, column, and matching-scale charts
- Adding a table with threaded text
- Creating a layered PDF for distribution