Use Comparisons to Give Meaning to Your Infographics
Infographics traffic in data. They’re made up of charts and graphs and drawings, all filled with facts and statistics and more facts. For all this data to be meaningful to readers, however, it has to tell them something worth knowing about its subject. Context is everything. Readers can’t form opinions about issues and won’t feel well informed without having information for comparison.
Here’s an example. How much does the United States spend on elementary education each year? Say the total is $250 million. To the average person, that’s a lot of money, and to be sure, if you found this deposited into your checking account, you’d be having a pretty good day. But on the scale of a government with 300 million citizens, is $250 million really a lot of money?
To figure that out, you could compare education spending in America with spending on other areas, such as defense, healthcare, and more. Say you found out that America spends $500 million yearly on healthcare. That’s twice the amount spent on education. Now, in context, the amount spent on education seems smaller.
And take a moment to think about why comparing these budgets adds meaning. These numbers aren’t just dollar amounts — they’re about priorities. Comparing how much a government spends on different sectors suggests something about where that government places value.
If you compare the budgets of different presidential administrations, you wouldn’t just have a picture of their financial behavior; you’d also have a sense of what each administration thinks is important. That level of meaning — that story — isn’t evident without making a comparison.