How to Organize Information for Your Infographics
The goal of your infographic is to convey information. To do that effectively, you need to plan your structure accordingly. Information works best in a hierarchy. The structure guides the reader, letting him know the main points as well as what information is supplementary.
Think of this from a reader’s viewpoint. If everything on the page is given equal treatment (see the figure), where should the reader start? A lot of data in your graphic can come across as information overload — and that feeling is more likely to alienate readers than draw them.
An infographic, like a story, should have a beginning, a middle, and an end. The beginning is where your readers’ eyes go when they first look at the page.
If you’re doing your infographic as a single page, with a chart that’s larger than all the rest and contains an assortment of bright colors, that’s where the readers’ eyes are headed. That spot — the focal point of your graphic — should contain the most critical information.
From there, decide where you want your readers’ eyes to go next. Steer them to the next most important piece of information. The following figure actually guides the reader from a clear starting point to the conclusion with the help of subheadings and visuals along the way.
On that note, here are a few points to consider as you determine how you want to structure your information:
Real estate: How much space you devote to a graphic element should match its importance. The data proving your thesis should get a relatively large amount of space. On the other hand, relatively insignificant data that requires a large map to display might be best reworked into a smaller element or even omitted.
Location: People generally read from top to bottom, so elements at the top of the page tend to attract eyes first. This is true whether you’re reading in print or online; however, online reading habits hew to an even tighter visual frame.
Researchers have found what they call a Google golden triangle, which describes how users read all the way through the search result at the top of the page but then read a bit less of every search result below it, resulting in a rough triangle of material that is thoroughly read. The Google golden triangle is something to keep in mind as you’re designing.
Think about where to put your focal point, and how you want the graphic to flow into the other data you’re including.
That said, size can still trump location, meaning that an exceptionally large element at the bottom of the page might be where the reader’s gaze goes first.
Colors: Bright colors draw attention, as do graphical elements that employ several colors instead of being monochromatic. Your main chart shouldn’t be a neon collage visible from space, but consider where your readers’ eyes will go first — and where you want them to go from there.
The best infographics build a narrative in much the same way a story does, starting with a premise and then revealing something new at each turn. To a large degree, you can decide how your story unfolds by directing the readers’ eyes to where you want them to go next.