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February 4, 2011

What Are Infographics and When Should They Be Used?

It’s possible to express a thought, an emotion or a viewpoint in any number of ways – these different modes of expression are exalted as art forms if executed well and form the foundations of culture. Wordsmithery (a made up term referring to effective and powerful use of written language) is no exception and is a craft I often attempt to exercise in order to move people, encourage positive thought and of course get visitors to websites. I’m not going to quote any of the appropriate cliches here, but to put it simply: sometimes words don’t have quite the impact required.

When it comes to statistics, words (and of course their good friend: numbers) may comprehensively succeed in providing the bulk of the salient information that one wishes to convey – but the result can be lengthy and boring. Similarly, short of using Comic Sans or Word Art, it’s hard to add visual flourishes to reports on the findings of a research body, or to engage a passing eye and achieve impact on the page with just enjambment, alliteration and very self-indulgent punctuation. To succeed in these cases you need something which expresses the facts whilst also engaging the viewer and breaking often complicated concepts down into comfortably masticated chunks. In this area of communication the infographic is king.

Example 1 – Recruitment 2010…at a Glance

The title of this infographic concisely expresses the function of this infographic and the infographic itself concisely, clearly and imaginatively expresses the facts and figures that the originator wanted to share. View the image here –

Although many will find statistics pertaining to recruitment in 2010 absolutely fascinating…the majority of ‘pleasure-browsers’ probably won’t. This infographic caters to both parties by playing with color, graphically expressing facts and figures and providing both negative and positive findings in a clear and balanced way.

Example 2 – The True Cost of Asbestos

This infographic was created to try and raise awareness of the harm that asbestos exposure continues to inflict on a large number of people every year. Much like the previous example, the image serves to graphically demonstrate statistics which are generally never shown in a manner more exciting than a generic bar chart. It grabs attention, pleases the eye and imparts important knowledge, see:

Whilst the recruitment infographic still had an air of business-iness about it, this example plays more with color and utilities more elaborate and creative imagery.

Given that it aims to share a message with the widest possible audience, the almost playful presentation of very serious facts and emphasis on visual depiction over lexical elaboration show just how short the average attention span is.

So, if you want to show off some mind-blitzing facts and figures in a way which also appeals to the aesthetically minded you should probably at least consider an infographic…I personally think they’re ace.

Written by Jamie Lyons with the permission of Blue Octopus Online Recruitment and Lighthouse Health and Safety