How to Educate with Informational Editorial Infographics

By Justin Beegel, MBA, The Infographic World Team

Editorial infographics are akin to news articles in that their primary purpose is to transmit information. Under the umbrella of editorial graphics, there are several different types, with different balances of bias versus objectivity. Here is a look at a few:

  • A blizzard hit your town. The local newspaper creates a graphic that shows snowfall over the past 20 years, maps out the weather front that brought the blizzard, and shows which roads are designated as snow emergency routes. The graphic is purely informational, without any obvious bias.

  • You come upon a graphic called “50 Incredible Facts about Skin.” The graphic is nicely researched, beautifully designed, and appears to be a simple collection of interesting tidbits about skin. But, wait! At the bottom of the graphic, you discover that it was created by a company that sells and delivers beauty products.

    Infographics like this straddle the line between informing and promoting. It’s up to the reader to discern the difference.

  • It’s flu season, and in a parenting magazine, you see a cool infographic showing how the flu spreads. Sources are doctors. There’s no mention of any particular company or product. It’s probably pure editorial content.

    In a different magazine, you see a similar graphic on the flu. However, the copy recommends disinfecting your house with SuperClean wipes. Hmm. At the bottom of the page, in small type, you find that the content was sponsored by SuperClean Corp. This infographic is an ad although it is informational as well.

  • You read a lively, engaging infographic on beers of the world. The tone might vary considerably depending upon who created it. If a journalist created it for a men’s magazine, it probably has some attitude, with language targeted to appeal to a young male demographic. If a brewery created the infographic, it’s probably designed to inform and may have a more serious tone.

One of the biggest benefits of skewing your work toward editorial infographics is they are more likely to be shared organically by web users than infographics that carry heavy branding and are obvious advertisements. Totally unbranded infographics are ideal, but that’s not always possible because infographics can be expensive to produce.

Editorial infographics can have myriad purposes, including:

  • Stating facts or explaining processes

  • Exploring the history of a person or topic

  • Comparing companies, countries, educational institutions, teams, and so on

  • Supporting a political ideology

These educational approaches will typically follow a somewhat standard flow:

  1. Establish a problem/topic/proposal.

    What is the issue you’re going to be discussing or addressing in the infographic? Think of this like a lede in a newspaper or a thesis statement of a term paper. You need to clearly state what the infographic is about. For instance, imagine that you’re going to create an infographic exploring the ways that everyday Internet users put their personal information at risk.

    A lede is the introduction to a story or graphic. It’s a journalistic term that may have gotten its funky spelling to differentiate it from lead, as in the metal type that was formerly used to print newspapers and books.

  2. Offer statistics as evidence.

    This is where the bulk of your research comes in. Here, you offer data, facts, and analysis about the topic you just introduced. For example, you might offer statistics about identity theft, hacking, malware, passwords, and mobile security.

  3. Conclude with a “So what?” statement.

    The most effective infographics will take some sort of stand even if it seems obvious. Readers will expect a destination at the end of the road; they won’t be happy if the pavement just stops. Your conclusion could offer some analysis on which anti-malware programs are the best, or what readers can expect to spend for the best protection.