September 23, 2015
The old adage “less is more” is highly relevant where data visualization is concerned. When designing an infographic, it’s easy to overburden your design with too much text and too many images. Ensuring your infographic is clean and concise will set your work apart from other more cluttered graphics. This does not mean taking away the fun and flare offered by infographics—but learning to pare down and polish your visual content will lead to more interesting, more fluent information communication.
At the heart of effective information communication are basic elements of storytelling and revision. To produce good writing, you need to be able to edit and revise—to remove extraneous and unnecessary words and sentences until you are left with a polished piece. The same process of revision is required for good data visualization; but it can be difficult to know what to keep and what to cut.
When designing your infographic, consider the four C’s for clutter control: Conceptualize, Create, Critique, and Cut.
Conceptualize—It’s always a good idea to plot your infographic before you create it. Draw out a rough draft on a piece of paper. Come up with an enticing and descriptive title. Establish a beginning point to contextualize the information you are presenting. Similarly, have an idea of what the ending point will be and come to some form of conclusion or call to action. Figure out what path you want the reader’s eyes to take: top to bottom? Inside to outside? Also, what is the tone of your infographic—is it playful? Businesslike?
Create—Create your infographic. Remember: have fun with it. Include interesting and surprising information that the reader might not have seen before. Look for creative ways to illustrate your points: pictures, icons, graphs, charts. Interactive elements like polls can drive reader engagement with your and can spur further investigation. Make your infographic visually interesting by using color, font, and graph style variations. Remember: “form reflects content,” so your infographic design should reflect the nature of the information you are presenting.
Critique—Have someone else read your infographic before publishing. A second set of eyes will always reveal things you missed, and will be able to tell you whether or not your infographic makes sense. Ask yourself: is the content of your infographic consistent (same verb tense, consistent terminology, consistent design)? Is your infographic focused? Is there any information that distracts the reader from the main message of your infographic? Is it fun to read?
Cut—Remove information that is extraneous or unnecessary. Keep information that is essential and interesting. Don’t overwhelm your reader with too many images or too much text—give them space in between points to digest what they’ve read. Ask yourself: can extra information can be removed and set aside for another infographic? Can any text be replaced by a graph or image? Could a part be arranged differently to improve the flow of your infographic?
Don’t be afraid to experiment.
Data visualization is a boundary-pushing genre where creators can synthesize statistical information with visual design. Although revising your work can be tedious, it’s an essential step in the creative process. By considering the four C’s to cut through the clutter in infographic design—conceptualize, create, critique, and cut—you can create infographics that are both fun and functional.
Here’s an infographic for quick reference:
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