Infographics are at the nexus of art and copy. Too much copy, it’s just information, but too much graphic and it still may not make it as a piece of art:
the key is to strike that elusive balance between the two elements and create an infographic which is greater than the sum of its art and copy parts.
How you get to that perfect pitch is a matter of debate and depends on which side of the art and copy divide you come from. Copy should lead art; words are where the message is, but the visual aesthetic is what drags the mind’s eye to the piece to begin with.
So where do you stand?
Basic principles: start with the single, most appropriate word that sums up the product, service or data set. For instance, if you’re creating an infographic on the forthcoming 2012 presidential election race, what is the one word which is going to sum up the burning issue for voters to decide?
These are some “focus words” to play around with:
“Jobs” “Economy” “Taxes” “War” “Healthcare” “Imports” “Foreign Relations” “Terrorism”
At this moment in time, we’ll take a stab and say the burning issue is going to be jobs. That is, jobs will be the main battleground that the political parties and presidential contenders are going to be slugging it out on. Sure, the other issues will be relevant, but we have narrowed the central plank of our infographic medium to this one burning issue – Jobs.
We have our word and from this we can focus on the both the imagery and the numbers. This becomes easier for us because of the one-word concentration.
Think jobs – think images – think numbers.
What springs to mind?
Depending on the spin you are looking to put on this hypothetical infographic, are you focusing on positive job creation or lamenting the number of people without a job?
The Democratic candidates will focus on job creation, how many jobs have been saved by hard-dealing and treaty negotiations with countries such as China, Mexico and India, the raising of minimum wage standards, the protections put in place for American workers, the provision of universal healthcare for American workers (and do you see how some of our other focus words are coming into peripheral play here) and any increases in the average take-home pay (signifying the benefits of tax rates for working Americans or the relative strength of the economy).
Republican candidates may concentrate on how many long-term unemployed there are, the rise in welfare spending for unemployed workers, the rise of unionized labor, the number of jobs lost to overseas competition, the rate of unemployment, the lack of competitiveness under a Democratic administration, the weakening of the US manufacturing base in the face of overseas competition, the lack of tax breaks for job creating small businesses.
Sourcing and creating images becomes simpler when you have these elements, using your principal focus word. Using this approach, it also becomes easier to research and isolate the statistical and numerical information which will form the message backbone of the infographic message.
Infographics are very powerful tools for imparting a lot of information
but to be effective, their design requires an exceptional amount of concentrated focus be brought to bear on the underlying issues. This applies whether you are working as a political campaigner, the media industry or within a marketing demand for the next best product or service.