What are infographics?

Have you ever found yourself needing to relay a large amount or complex pieces of information in a concise and efficient manner? If so, infographics may be one of the many tools available to do so. As the name may suggest this week’s technique , infographics, employs the use of graphic elements in order to present information to a particular audience.

Although not formally named as such, infographics have been in use for a lengthy period of time, often being used in scientific books and  maps as early as the 1600s. Since then, their utility has expanded from academia and cartography  to include any discipline or area needing to relay knowledge. As an everyday example, newspapers often use infographics to present the weather, show current stock rates, and  analyze the outcome of sport events.

Resources, time, and skill

One of the attractions to using infographics as a way to mobilize knowledge is their ease of use. With little effort, a visually appealing and informative graphic can be made either by hand or using a variety of online tools. For example, here is an infographic I recently made using Piktochart.com that took a relatively short period of time.

Infographics are only limited by the ingenuity of the individual that is creating them.

Key considerations

The utility of infographics lie in their ability to display complex knowledge in a simple way. However, sometimes a particular piece of knowledge needs to remain complex and not be distilled in any way in order to remain  informative. For example, if a novel new technology is being researched, the findings associated with that research are probably best disseminated through lengthy papers as opposed to an infographic. This way the  subtle nuances associated with that research are not lost.

Furthermore, the target audience of the infographic should be taken into consideration before the design. The language used within the infographic should cater to that audience (there’s no sense using jargon that your audience doesn’t understand). Also, the infographic should be memorable in some way. The use of impactful content and visually appealing displays help with this. Finally, the infographic shouldn’t overwhelm the reader. Simple messages are easier to remember and thus are more impactful on the reader.

The take away

Companies and organizations can establish and align their goals through the use of infographics. For example, an infographic could be used to represent a Theory of  Change, detailing the paths of knowledge used in each part of that organization. Furthermore, infographics could be used as a means to disseminate knowledge between groups within an organization. Furthermore, infographics may be used in order to raise awareness on an issue; by first gathering the attention of a reader, then directing them to more detailed sources of information such as a policy brief or a research paper.

The following is an infographic on how to create successful infographics and the things that should be avoided by R Alwis, C Evans, S Karmali, M Maheru, & D Sriram (2014).

Other resources