At SGEi, we specialize in creating memorable, motivating, and effective solutions for our clients and team members alike. One of the services that we offer is the use of our incredible creative team in designing unique products based on a client’s content and brand standards. Our team implements the most sophisticated techniques when creating all sorts of deliverables, from e-Learning modules to advertisements, from posters to decks of brand standards cards. A favorite skill that our Lead Graphic Designer, Alex Bjerk, possesses is the insight and ability to create infographics and other visual representations for all of our world-class clientele. Today, our Social Media Administrator, Rachel Fergason, sat down with Alex for a Q & A style interview about infographics and the power of visual learning, as well as to share with you some best practices for creating your own infographics.
Rachel: To start with, what exactly is an infographic?
Alex: An infographic is a piece of information that is represented in a creative and more visual way, rather than simply putting words on a page. An infographic can be used to highlight different pieces of information in a more visually stimulating way when compared to some bold text on a white document. Infographics are very effective in helping our audience to better retain the content we are sharing. They do this by engaging the viewer’s sense of visual stimulation while they are taking in the information.
R: It seems like a lot of the business world has shied away from using infographics, opting instead for more traditional text- and photo-heavy designs to get their desired messages across. Why do you think that we should use infographics more often?
A: I think that today, the visual representation of information is more effective than auditory or text-heavy representations for most people, both for comprehension of the concept and for retention of the ideas. Think of the last television advertisement you saw. Which do you remember more, the words on the screen, or the images and visual examples they used?
R: There was some fascinating research that came out a few years ago, that talked about the different learning styles, and how important it is to include elements of all learning styles when training or teaching. One researcher, Neil Fleming, developed the VARK model of learning styles, where VARK stands for Visual, Aural, Read/write, and Kinesthetic. In most school or corporate learning environments, a lot of reading, writing, and auditory-friendly content is used. But a 1998 study from the social scientists at Mind Tools revealed that 65 percent of the population are visual learners. I’m sure that those numbers today are even higher, given the visual world that we live in. It’s no wonder to me that visual content is what goes viral online.
A: Not only do infographics help get information to visual learners, but they help in a world of shorter and shorter attention spans. Microsoft conducted a study in Canada last year that found that our digital lifestyle has caused the human attention span to go from 12 seconds to only eight seconds in a little more than a decade. Even goldfish have an attention span of nine seconds.
Where infographics have power is that they can pack in a lot of information in one easy-to-follow design. The best infographics don’t have too much to focus on. Every piece has a purpose, so when people take it in, they get it all without losing focus or shifting their attention.
R: Given all their benefits, in what context can or should we use infographics?
A: I think an infographic can be used to share any type of information for a business. They can be used in customer-facing materials, such as advertising, brochures, or even signage in a store. But they can also be used on the employee-facing side as well, to emphasize short, important pieces of information.
R: So, what do you think is more important and makes for a more effective infographic; the design work, or the content it is based on?
A: I believe these two things go hand-in-hand in most cases. The content has to be flexible in some way, shape, or form so that it may be represented in a visual way. But the design work has to be inspired entirely by the content itself. The two things really play into each other in a big way.
R: Finally, how do you ensure that the right message is getting across?
A: For me, personally, this is a trial and error process. I have to put my designs to the test with the people around me. Every person learns in a different way and has a different grasp on the content or the design. Something that I may think is effective for me may not work at all for the majority of others. So I rely heavily on feedback and constructive criticism from the people around me.
I think that infographics are an incredibly important piece of what I do. Taking content and turning it into something that will capture and keep people’s attention, as well as pique their interest and help them retain the relevant information is really great. My favorite moment is taking a finished piece to show to the rest of the team and hearing the audible “wow.” To me, that means I did my job right.
Best Practices for Creating Infographics
Relate the Content to Imagery
After receiving content for an infographic, try to relate it to any images or clipart that might help portray the message of the content. Looking at images for inspiration helps spark the creative process. For unfamiliar content, be sure that you have a solid grasp on the topic so that you start your design off on the right foot.
Choose an Effective Layout
Your layout should complement the amount of content you have. Often, a lot of words can detract from the design of the infographic. Turn whatever wording you can into a visual representation. Don’t underestimate the value of white space – cramming too much into a small area can be distracting. White space helps direct your audience’s eye to see what you want them to see.
Use Color for Emphasis
Just as white space is a big part of an effective layout, color is essential to getting the right message across. While it is important to stay on-brand when designing an infographic for a business, you can still implement color strategically. If a client’s branding is largely shades of black and white, for example, adding a bold red or green to a couple of elements or words in the design helps emphasize a specific point and designates a path for the eyes to follow. Make sure that the colors you use are appropriate for your message – as well as still allow for readable text within your design.
Design to Keep Viewers’ Attention
In a world of short attention spans, you have to be able to not only capture the attention of your audience but keep it on your design as well. Create a sense of flow in your layout so that viewers’ eyes can easily move through the design without getting lost or jumping around. Using color and shadows as visual cues helps to highlight and emphasize the things you want your viewers to notice first or subtly take in afterwards, enticing them to keep their attention on the content in front of them.
Know Your Medium
It is important to know on what media your infographic will be presented. For example, if you are designing something for a tri-fold brochure, you’ll have a different approach than if you are designing a larger-than-life wall poster. Similarly, it’s important when designing for the web to consider the different screen sizes on which your infographic will be viewed. Designs can appear much differently on a cell phone or tablet than they do on a desktop or laptop computer. The most effective designs will translate well no matter how they are viewed.
Know Your Audience
To create the best infographic, keep your audience and their unique brand in mind. You wouldn’t want to give a luxury brand a design featuring neon clip art. Brands have carefully selected their aesthetics for a reason, using the psychology of color and design. You’ll get a feeling about your audience – stick to that feeling when you design, and that is when your products will be the most effective.
To ensure that your designs aren’t just white noise, it is important to stay relevant and innovative. Learn a new technique; stay on top of current design trends as they come and go; and, most importantly, continue to evolve as a designer throughout your career. The most memorable, motivating, and effective work comes from trying something new.