The Who, What, Where, Why, When and How of Infographics
Who, what, where, why, when and how are the fundamental questions that journalists are taught to ask when they collect information for a story.When you design and publish infographics, you in essence assume the role of a brand journalist.
The following are some questions that can help you synthesize your ideas, taken from the book, The Power of Infographics: Using Pictures to Communicate and Connect with your Audiences, by Mark Smiciklas.
• Who is the audience for your infographic? As you are distilling your thoughts, keep asking yourself who you are designing the infographic for. The culture of the sector or the general persona of the individuals consuming your content will influencethe type of information you need to visualize or the tone of the infographic.
• What is the purpose of your infographic? Each of your infographics can have a different objective, such as thought leadership, simplifying a complex idea, or creating brand awareness. Understanding the purpose of each infographic helps you synthesize your ideas.
• What key message are you trying to convey? The data, ideas, or information you will visualize may be complex. In many cases you might want to explain several points in your infographic. During the process of filtering your thoughts, pick the most relevant and important message your audience needs to understand. This will help crystallize your creative direction.
• What other information do you need to complete your infographic? When you begin analyzing the information that will go into your infographic, make sure you have everything you need to create a useful piece of content. Don’t take shortcuts when it comes to the integrity of your message or the value you are presenting to your audience. If you don’t have an important number or don’t understand some of the elements of an idea, invest more time in rounding out your research.
• What symbols come to mind when you think about your information? Thinking visually helps you synthesize your information more easily. Drawing parallels using the visual cues around you, such as icons, graphics, shapes, images, charts, and metaphors, is an effective way to develop an infographic idea.
• When is/was the information relevant? The information that forms the foundation of an infographic can be time-sensitive. An infographic that is more universal in nature—such as one that explains a process or idea—is less bound by time, tending to retain its meaning and offer value to those consuming it. Conversely, visuals based on statistical data may have an expiration date and need to be published within a specific time frame to be relevant to an audience. Using time as a filter when distilling information helps you decide whether your data or ideas have infographic merit now or are stale and need to be abandoned.
• When do you need to publish your infographic? Another factor that helps you process your information is the deliverable date. Your publishing timeline can often dictate what ideas or information you need to consider and which ones need to be set aside or delayed. For example, if your objective is to post a monthly infographicto your blog, and you are facing a deadline, you will likely work on synthesizing the easier information you’ve collected and save working through the more complex ideas for another time.
• Where is your data coming from? The saying “garbage in, garbage out” applies here. To maintain content integrity and continue to present relevant, meaningful information to your audience, it’s important to pay attention to the source of your infographic inputs. This type of filtering applies more to numbers than ideas. Data literacy becomes important when you are visualizing statistics. So, as you process the data you are thinking about using in an infographic, keep the reputable sources and discard the rest. When it comes to synthesizing ideas, opinions, and insight, what gets distilled to useable content depends on a number of factors, including your own ideology, audience, and sector. For example, some infographics are edgy and entertaining, addressing controversial subject matter or viewpoints, and others are more straightforward.
• Where will your infographic be published? Some of the observations you make or ideas and information you collect will translate differently in each infographic. Keeping in mind the publishing parameters and channel expectations of your intended channel and audience expectations will help you filter your ideas and informationfor each visual you are working on. For example, if you are posting an infographic online, such as to a blog or web page, you need to consider things such as usability, limited resolution, user attention span, and screen size. In this case, your more complex ideas may not make sense. On the other hand, if you plan to print your infographic offline, where resolution and scale are less of a concern—such as infographic poster—you can include a more robust level of information and detail.
• Why is the information important to your audience? One of the fundamental objectives of an infographic is to convey complex information to your audience in a way that makes it relevant and easy to digest and understand. Using relevance as a criterion during the information synthesis phase is another way to help filterout ideas that may not meet the information needs of the people consuming your content. If you can’t think of one reason why the information you are visualizing is important to your employees, customers, and prospects, it’s time to abandon that particular infographic concept and move on to a new idea.
• How easy is your information to understand? When you’re distilling ideas or data, use ease of comprehension to help guide your next steps. If your infographic inputs lead to a confusing message, reconsider your direction and/or the type and scope of the information that’s being utilized. To make sure your infographics clearly communicate your intended message, it helps to have a fresh pair of eyes check the content. Consider having a few coworkers or colleagues assess your infographic ideas during the info-synthesis phase. If other people don’t completely understand your message, you need to go back to the drawing board.
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