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The 4 Tricks to Creating Meaningful Infographics


INFLUENCER: Karen Bellin, VP, Insights and Action at Mirum, offers up tips on how to harness insight over visuals

The 4 Tricks to Creating Meaningful Infographics

In digital analytics, a field that rewards rigor, there is a surprising dearth of standards. The lack of standards is perpetuated by vendors and their proprietary metric names and extends to marketing dashboards that seem hell-bent on concealing rather than revealing what’s driving performance. A side benefit of this is that in digital analytics we have leeway to report our data as “eye candy”, or infographics. There’s not much standardisation when you are presenting data as pictures – but there is a lot of fun.

With a design and engineering background, I’d rather work in an emerging field like digital analytics where creativity is embraced than in a field riddled with constraints and regulations. However, I hate to waste time and think that standards save time. So, I use four standard methods to effectively communicate metrics in infographics. These methods are used to ensure the eye candy being created is more akin to nature’s candy (e.g., fruit) than a shiny morsel that looks and tastes good but leaves you with a toothache (e.g., gumdrop).

When I’m in an infographic frame of mind, I’m thinking about sharing information that is bite-sized, sparse, thin and shallow – an apple slice. I’m thinking about immediacy of understanding. And then I choose from four methods for turning data into nature’s candy:

1. Finger Count

If my finding includes a percentage, I use the finger count method to incorporate it into an infographic. For example if your finding is: “Around 60 per cent of users engage with the site.”

- Convert your percentage into positive numeric values. Turn 60% into 60 out of 100.

- Convert values to a manageable number of representative units. Make 60 out of 100 more manageable by converting 100 into 10 even units.

- Use a picture for each unit that represents the users who do engage.

- Use a different picture for each unit that represents the users who don’t engage.

- Top it off with a clear and concise caption.

2. Prize Button

If my finding compares and contrasts two numbers, I use the prize button method to incorporate it into an infographic.

For example if your finding is: Video is a popular content type regardless of platform. Short video clips posted on YouTube have a 60 per cent audience retention rate while longer form ‘how to’ videos on the website have a 50 per cent audience retention rate.

- Use your key findings, the 60 per cent and 50 per cent figures, as emblems. Accompany with logos or graphic elements as added illustration.

- Visually connect the two emblems with a third emblem that represents their unifying characteristic. In this case Video Audience, and use a clear graphic.

- Add text to clarify the relationship.

3. Narrative Flow

If my finding is sequential, I use the narrative flow method to incorporate it into an infographic. The ideas is to show a progression or sequence.

For example: Vanity URLs used in TV commercials create a second screen experience

- Choose an icon for each step in the progression: Vanity URL, TV Commercial and Second Screen Experience.

- Use arrows to show a progression from TV to Vanity URL to Second Screen.

- Add a clear caption or description to clarify the relationship.

4. Graph Garnish

Finally, if my finding is best represented as a trend, I use the graph garnish method to incorporate it into an infographic.

For example, if your finding is: Consumer purchase intent is highest on visit two and is negligible after visit three

- Start by leveraging an existing graph or template. The existing graph I used showed purchase intent spiking at visit two and disappearing after visit three.

- Simplify the graph and highlight the dominant pattern. Here the simplified graph truncates the number of visits to five and removes the x and y axes.

- The graph is embellished with coins and a shopping cart to reflect purchase intent

Of course, there are industry organisations working on standards for digital analytics and I owe a great debt to individuals in the field who put forth best practices for others to leverage. In fact, the standards proposed above for more meaningful infographics are derivative. But, as far as I can tell, though there are a billion blog posts on how to create an infographic, there are not standards for how certain types of data should manifest themselves in infographics. This has contributed to many a poor infographic where the meaning is sadly sacrificed to the visual.

An infographic should enhance the understanding of the data, not obscure it. You can quickly turn findings into meaningful infographics following the methods described above. If enough analysts adopt them, who knows, maybe finger count, prize button, narrative flow and graph garnish will be the standards for the future generation of digital analysts reporting with pictures.

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Wunderman Thompson USA, Thu, 05 Nov 2015 17:20:52 GMT