Find Patterns in Your Infographics Data

By Justin Beegel, MBA, The Infographic World Team

The human brain naturally seeks out patterns. Spotting patterns is vital to creating compelling content for infographics because patterns point to a layer of meaning behind the data and suggest the presence of an underlying relationship or structure to investigate and unearth. In short, patterns are another important way that a data journalist finds the story in the facts.

Here’s an example from professional American football. Say you’re working on a simple graphic comparing the top ten current quarterbacks. You know, either from your love of football or from your research, that Peyton Manning dominated the NFL as an Indianapolis Colt before missing an entire season due to a neck injury. How did the Colts perform with and without him?

Indianapolis Colts’ winning percentage

  • 1998–2010 (with Manning): 68%

  • 2011 (without Manning): 13%

Clearly, the Colts did much better with Manning on the field. Manning, however, moved to a new job with the Denver Broncos. Over the same time period, take a look at how Denver performed before and after Manning played with the team.

Denver Broncos’ winning percentage

  • 1999–2011 (with at least five quarterbacks, but not including Manning): 53%

  • 2012 (with Manning): 81%

The pattern you see emerging is that teams led by Peyton Manning tend to be successful. To be sure, many other factors affected each team’s winning percentage, but simply isolating this one pattern reveals just how instrumental Peyton Manning is in the success of the team he plays for.

You can take this ball and run with it. Now, perhaps your simple graphic on the top ten quarterbacks becomes a look at how one player can change a team’s fortunes. Perhaps Manning becomes the focus of the graphic, and the top-ten data becomes supporting background information. Your entire visual story may change based on the patterns you find through your research.