What Is the Desired Impact of Your Infographic?

By Justin Beegel, MBA, The Infographic World Team

The flow of your infographic strongly influences the effect your work has on its reader. The choices you make as the designer can alter that effect. Some graphics, for instance, seem to explode off the page from the moment you look at them, and every bit of information is treated like a major element.

Other graphics reveal themselves slowly. They may have a few primary elements and then a great deal of subsidiary information for the reader to explore.

This figure shows two infographics, one with each approach. On the left is an infographic that highlights a smaller amount of information but makes a bold visual statement. The second infographic (on the right) is more subdued and packs a lot of information into its subtle design.

image0.jpg

Each approach has its place. The former can be great if you don’t have a lot of complex information to present and you need to make a statement as quickly as possible, like in a brief sales presentation. The latter may be more appropriate for an academic journal, where readers expect detailed data and will have time to consider it.

Look at another example. Say you have information you think is quite surprising, and you want to use the flow of your graphic to heighten that surprise in the reader. In this instance, you’ll likely want to find a way to build some suspense and then reveal this surprising information at the end.

Using this structure properly can be a little tricky. You really need the right information to support it. First, you have to grab your reader’s attention at the beginning, so you need relatively compelling data to start at the top. Second, you need information you can then use to build to your surprise in much the same way a thriller builds suspense before a shock.

To give you an example, say you’re creating an infographic for a company that has found several ways to modify a standard home so it uses dramatically less energy than a typical home. Here’s a hypothetical structure outlined step by step:

  1. Draw in readers.

    Begin with a detailed drawing of a home and point out the modifications.

  2. Build suspense.

    Go through the energy savings of each modification.

  3. Reveal surprise.

    Show the (ideally quite dramatic) collected total energy savings of these various tweaks, as shown in this figure.

    image1.jpg

You can see how the flow here works to a climax to create the desired impact. Now as a mental exercise, imagine the impact on a reader if you were to place the total energy savings at the top and then break it down piece by piece. The original approach feels dramatic, while the second feels more analytical. Again, each has its place.