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With great data comes great responsibility.

As data supports and leads more and more of our decisions and communications, we’ve developed a profound need to present it in ways that are compelling and easy to understand at a glance. When done right, infographics (or data visualizations) can be a very effective way to do this.

So how do you make sure it’s “done right”? In general, by making sure form and function go hand in hand.

But maybe the most important strategy is forgetting the “graphic” part of it for a second, and focusing first on the info.

Is an Infographic Really What You Need?

Too often, people decide that an infographic is the way to go before they really know what they need and want. Before you begin the process of creating an infographic, here are a few important questions that you should ask yourself:

  • Who is my audience?
  • What information do I want to get across?
  • Will my infographic tell a relevant story that flows well?
  • Do I have enough data points to fill out this story?

Visuals can support and enhance almost any story, but don’t jump on the infographic train just because it’s popular. If your story relies on lots of prose, you’re probably better off just typing out the story and adding in some engaging pictures. Big blocks of text defeat the purpose of an infographic (which again, should be easy to read and understand).

Or you might have a story that isn’t packed with words but also isn’t packed with data points. It may not be enough to support an infographic, and you may want to choose another medium to tell your story.

Without Good Design, They’re Just Statistics

The internet is full of poorly designed infographics. So it’s refreshing to see beautiful design applied to data. Here’s a great site that explains why we are drawn to (good) infographics and why they are so successful.

I’ve always appreciate Edward Tufte, a pioneer in data visualization who has written several books on information design. He’s also a big proponent of visually appealing data. Another good example is Nicholas Feltron, who has managed to collect a sizable amount data about himself and present it in an artistic way.

Infographics Can, and Often Do, Succeed

Though my tone has been fairly cautionary, there are many good reasons and good practices for creating infographics.

If you have all the data points, storyline and branding ironed out, and it all adds up to a relevant story that doesn’t rely on too many words, you’re ready for an infographic. And I’m sure there’s a designer out there who’s ready to help you make it beautiful.

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