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What is your preferred medium for information when you go online? If you are like most people, you are not content to consume information solely as text. You find videos and images a lot more appealing. You might even find that videos and images are better at communicating information in a way you understand. This is the very essence of a form of content known as the infographic.
The infographic really came into its own as a content marketing tool following the 2000 US presidential race between Al Gore and George W Bush. Various infographics were developed to explain the results of that race in an easily digestible format. Since then, infographics have become a common tool for online content marketing.
Having said that, infographics themselves are not new. According to Smithsonian Magazine, the use of infographics goes back at least hundreds of years. Depending on how you define an infographic, you could make the case that they date back thousands of years. At any rate, well-known examples of pre-digital era infographics include:
- William Playfair’s illustrations designed to inform Britons about how much tax they were paying;
- Physician John Snow’s cholera maps designed to encourage action against the 1854 London cholera epidemic;
- US federal maps showing the concentration of slaves in various counties in order to motivate Union soldiers going to war; and
- Florence Nightingale’s charts motivating the medical community to improve hygiene as a way of reducing preventable deaths by disease.
What makes the infographic so powerful is its combination of hard data and graphical presentation. As you will discover by going through this article, creating an effective infographic requires two skills: writing and graphic design. Infographics can be created by a single individual possessing both skills or a team of individuals with separate skills.
What is an Infographic?
The infographic is a form of content that presents information in short, bite-sized chunks by combining them with graphic elements that make the information easier to understand. Here is an example of a modern infographic touching on the affect disability has on longevity:
As you can see from this example, its creator was attempting to illustrate how disability affects both length and quality of life. This infographic is very basic in its construct and lacking in SEO potential, but it should give you a basic understanding of just what an infographic is.
The best way to summarise the definition of an infographic is to describe it as a way to present factual information using a combination of graphics and text. The text offers the facts you are trying to get across while the graphics make the text easy to understand. In some cases, graphics even add a bit of context to the facts.
Acting as the foundation of the infographic is an underlying goal of presenting information in easily digestible chunks. A well-conceived and constructed infographic can be more helpful to a reader than a full-length blog post of 500-600 words.
What is the Purpose of an Infographic?
Like every form of content mentioned in this chapter, the infographic has a primary purpose in a number of tertiary purposes. The primary purpose is one we have already mentioned: presenting consumers with important factual information by combining both text and graphics. But let us expand on that purpose because there is more to it than meets the eye.
Let’s say your company printed paper coupons offering a 25% discount on one of your products or services. That coupon would be an infographic of sorts in that it would likely contain both text and images. You would distribute the coupon for two reasons: to inform customers of the special promotion and to encourage them to take advantage of that promotion. Therein lies the end goal of the infographic.
While your primary purpose is to disseminate information made easier to understand through combined text and graphics, you want consumers to make a decision about that information. The sample infographic presented earlier in this chapter, if it were real, would ideally serve to motivate people with disabilities to seek out ways to live healthier lifestyles so that their disabilities did not reduce the quality or length of their lives.
An infographic has the unique ability to cause someone to make an immediate decision through the graphic portion of its presentation. You are familiar with the idiom that says a picture is worth a thousand words, right? Visual images have a way of hammering home points we would otherwise not fully consider. In that sense, an infographic is a unique form of content packed full of potential. It’s all in how you present the information, which will be discussed in the style section of this article.
Moving on to tertiary purposes, infographics also serve to:
- Drive Traffic – Infographics are intended to drive traffic to your website. How does that work? By encouraging people who see your infographic on social media and third-party websites to click through to your website.
- Increase Social Media Engagement – Social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest are perfect for infographics because they are highly visual environments. A good infographic can stimulate social media engagement far better than a blog post or informational article.
- Improve SEO Performance – SEO relies on more than just keywords and phrases. The major search engines also take things such as traffic and backlinks into account. They even account for social media engagement. With all that goes into determining how sites rank, infographics that drive traffic and increase social media engagement also improve SEO performance.
- Increase Conversion Optimisation – ‘Conversion optimization’ is a fancy SEO term that describes converting casual website visitors into paying customers. Infographics are great tools for doing just that. Remember, they have the innate ability to encourage consumers to make immediate decisions.
- Generally Inform – Finally, not all infographics are geared toward sales or conversion optimisation. Sometimes you will want to create an infographic just to provide some general information that website visitors would find helpful. The information might be in support of a blog post, informational article, case study, or white paper.
Human beings are visual creatures that respond well to images that evoke certain kinds of emotional responses. That’s why Playfair used them to encourage British citizens to stand against excessive taxation. It is why the US federal government used them to help stamp out slavery. It is why Florence Nightingale used them to convince medical clinics to practice better hygiene.
What Style of Infographic Should I Use?
The infographic represents another form of content in which style is hard to pin down. The question you need to ask yourself as a content creator is, “what is the message I am trying to convey with my infographic?” To help you better understand, we have created a number of fictional profiles involving different styles of presentation.
Profile #1 – The Home Security Company
The marketing department of the Acme Home Security Company decides to create an infographic detailing information about home burglaries in order to show potential customers why a home security system is important to have. Researchers set about finding the data necessary to create the infographic. With data in hand, graphic artists create an image that includes the statistics in both chart and graph formats, along with small images including a home, a burglar, etc.
This presentation is primarily factual in nature. The idea is to focus the customer’s mind on factual crime data compiled by police agencies. The data is presented in graphs and charts because such a presentation helps customers visualise the threat of crime. The smaller images of a home and burglar are used to tie the statistical data to the consumer’s personal experience as a property owner and family leader.
Profile #2 – The Designer Eyewear Dealer
Mary’s Designer Eyewear Company wants to create an infographic to encourage people to purchase designer frames over their generic counterparts. They realise the key to convincing customers is going to be less about factual data and more about visual appeal. The research department starts looking for data relating to sales of designer sunglasses, who buys them, who manufactures them, etc.
Once the data comes in, the design department begins working on an infographic of a very different nature. At the top of the infographic they place all the data in text form, utilising icons and thumbnails to provide some sort of visual interpretation of the hard facts.
The remainder of the infographic, which takes up about two-thirds of the space, is devoted to a list of the assorted styles of frames currently on the market. Each style is represented by a graphic image and some sort of humorous remark to make the consumer smile. This infographic is less formal in nature yet still equally effective.
Profile #3 – The Freight Forwarding Company
John Smith Freight Forwarding is in need of dozens of drivers to keep their lorries moving. Their marketing company recommends an infographic that lays out the steps to becoming a professional lorry driver. John Smith management agrees, and research begins into just what it takes to get a lorry licence.
When designers are finally ready to put the infographic together, they decide to represent the steps as a maths equation, specifically addition. Each of the steps represents a part of the equation. Those steps are linked with ‘plus’ signs and followed by an ‘equals’ sign and some sort of reference to a lorry licence. This graphic presentation conveys the message that adding the steps together equals earning a licence.
Along with the equation are numerous images of the things you might find in a professional driving school. There might be an image of a lorry driving down the motorway. There may be an image of the student sitting behind a desk. All the images chosen reinforce the individual steps to becoming a driver.
As you can see from these three profiles, there is no one specific style that has to be used to create infographics. The best thing about infographics is that they allow for maximum creativity. The only hard and fast rules are the following:
- Size – Infographics have to be large enough to be seen clearly.
- Fonts – The fonts chosen for textual information must be easily readable. The size of the text itself must also be large enough to be clearly seen.
- Colours – The choice of colours should match the message you are trying to convey.
- Images – Any images used to construct infographics should also match the message being conveyed.
- Sources – Any factual information presented must be sourced by way of links or other references.
At the time of this writing, infographics were one of the hottest forms of content among online marketers. That is with good reason. Infographics have the ability to reach customers in a way that no other form of content can. This is one form of content you should definitely explore for your own use.
Here are the other articles in this series: