What the Heck Is an Infographic?

► So I have used alot of Infographs recently, figured it was time to explain what they actually were. So here is an Infograph to explain an Infograph :)

(click to enlarge)

[via business2community]

The world of online information and media is always changing. Now, that may seem like an obvious statement, but it’s worth keeping in mind because hey, you’re not always going to be on the cutting edge of every innovation online. Even big names like Mashable and TechCrunch get snuck up on from time to time. This also begs the question: do sites like these report on innovations like the latest crowdsourced project or the next social network because they are legitimately big and important, or does their coverage help to make them so?

Either way, it’s okay if you are a little unsure of what all this infographic stuff is and why it should matter to you. So many times companies, websites, and social networks seem to jump onto a bandwagon for no apparent reason and you’re left wondering if you’re being stupid for not jumping on yourself. This article will explain what infographics are and why you should consider adding them to your diverse catalogue of online activities.

Visual Essay

One way to think of an infographic (IG) is as a visual essay. It has a clearly defined, tightly constructed thesis that you can express in one sentence. This becomes the title and you slap it on everywhere you can (the title of the IG, the title of the page when it loads, all links to the image, etc.). It needs to be painfully obvious to the reader what this IG is about so that they can contextualize and understand all the data that they are seeing. On a certain level, the data visualization has to be so good that a viewer can look at it and instantly understand what it’s about, but with a good title and proper links, you won’t even need to worry about that.

Data Visualization

When people talk about IGs, one phrase you’ll hear over and over again is “data visualization.” This is just what it sounds like: the designer has used their skills to turn dry, starchy fact and figures into a tasty, dynamic feast for the eyes. Data visualization (or “data viz,” as you’ll also hear it referred to) is really where the designer’s skills come into play. Depending on the subject of the IG, he or she will use different images to convey the most important points. An IG about the dangers of smoking could have a bar graph made up of cigarettes of different lengths. One about sports players could have a pie chart that is a baseball. The surprising, but easily understandable, ways in which the designer chooses to represent information are part of the fun and charm of your IG. If there’s not at least a handful of things on your IG that make you smile, nod your head, and actually think, then it still needs work.

Takeaways

Like I said above, data visualization and understanding the data easily are two vital parts of putting together a great IG. Like any essay or presentation, your audience needs to come away from your IG with some key takeaways. This is where your tightly defined thesis comes into play. If you’re doing an IG about the world’s most expensive celebrity cars, then you better make sure that the numbers are big and the names are closely associated. You need the info to stick in people’s minds so that they want to keep talking about them. That will add to their viral nature.

Viral

The holy grail of online media and communications is “going viral.” Getting other (unpaid!) people to spread your message for you has real, monetary value for your business down the line. IGs have a unique, almost unmatched ability to go viral (okay – videos are pretty good at going viral too, but IGs have a MUCH lower barrier to entry). Good data viz and a catchy title/thesis get people excited, get them talking, and get them sharing. The embed code that you’ll include with every IG you post will make it super-easy for people to share them and make sure that the proper links get back to your site so that you can build up your visibility and links.

Summation

Running your own website, getting links, and keeping traffic flowing is a big job. There is no one technique, product, or media type that is going to shoot your site up to the top of Google’s searches overnight. But if you find the right infographic design team, there are some proven strengths associated with infographics: titles and topics to intrigue people and draw them in, data visualization to delight and inspire, and embed codes that make them super-easy to share.



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