Oliver Conner

Two of the biggest tech news stories this year were the acquisition of mobile photo sharing app Instagram by Facebook for $1 billon and the incredible rise of the online pin board site Pinterest.

The emergence of both of these sites is the latest in what can be viewed as the growth of the visual web, a term used to describe the increase in videos and images as part of our online experience.

For researchers looking for ways to present their findings outside of PowerPoint and tell attractive and immersive stories with data – the visual web is a feast of opportunity.

Infographics are a great way to present findings from a study in a way that captures a viewer’s attention. It is also proven that people remember more when they are given visual aids as opposed to words alone.

At OnePoll, we have seen a sharp increase in the demand for infographics from our clients. So if you are thinking of dipping your toe in the water – these ten pointers should help you out:

  • Understand your audience: An infographic aimed at communicating data to teenagers will be significantly different to one that is being presented to a board of stake holders. Be sure to ask the right questions about who will see this infographic – will it be emailed around an organisation, posted on social network sites or used for link building?
  • A good infographic will tell a story: Unconnected images and visualisations on an infographic will confuse a viewer. Instead ensure that each part of the design leads onto the next. Use a visual cues to pull readers through, such as a road or a character
  • Match the form to the content: The subject of your research should be the launch pad for the structure of your graphic. If you are reporting on supermarket habits, use shopping lists, trolleys and groceries as a way into your design.
  • Create an infographic design process: An infographic project begins life with the information designer. Working closely with the research team, they are tasked with taking the data, sorting it, arranging it and then deciding on how best to present it. This is then passed onto the graphic designer whose task is to breathe life into graphic.
  • Keep text minimal: Remember, this is a visual report so try to communicate visually where possible. Edit all of your text until it is brief and concise.
  • Style: To create an effective infographic you must have a good understanding of design principles – this includes using a suitable colour palette, appropriate typography and following the rules of layout and whitespace. If working with a graphic designer then give them an indication of what you are looking for. Let them know if the infographic is serious or fun? Is it modern or vintage?
  • Understand the limitations of your budget: If your budget is small then that will affect what you can produce. For example, creating unique images or characters from scratch will require the skills of an illustrator. If an illustrator cannot be hired then a good graphic designer will have a good collection of vector illustrations taken from sites such as iStockphoto.
  • Know your graphs: Matching the right graph to the right data is an important element of infographic composition. Try to vary the visualisation methods you use, but not too much that it confuses the viewer. Check out the periodic table of visualisation methods for inspiration.
  • Display your sources: Make sure that all stats and figures have a reliable source (not a user generated site) and that all these sources are mentioned in full at the bottom of the infographic. Be careful not to use too many sources – a few well-chosen datasets should provide you with the information you need without leading to information overload.
  • Enjoy at least one infographic every day: The best way to learn about infographics is to follow some of the best curators. Here are some of my favourite infographic websites:
    Visual.ly – a huge database of uploaded visualizations.
    Guardian data blog – news related visualisations.
    Information is beautiful – some of the most stylish visualisations you will ever see.
    Cool infographics – slick infographics cram-packed with information

Oliver Conner is Head of Innovation at OnePoll