- What: Infographics in Technical Communication
- When: January 19, 2017
By Steve Corey, Chapter Member
We’ve all experienced this before, reading a dense paragraph of complex information where you have to go back and re-read it just to try to make sense of it. If there had only been a picture or graphic to explain it, it could have made it clearer and easier to understand the first time through.
Infographics in Technical Communication, a combination of information and visual graphics, was presented by Sree Pattabiraman, a member of the STC Carolina chapter and resident expert on the topic, in a very vibrant, enlightening and interactive presentation. Sree described infographics as a way to not just show data visually but use graphics strategically to inform the reader on a topic or to tell a story. Used appropriately, infographics provide better engagement of readers, draw attention to important information, and break down large chunks of information to increase the reader’s willingness to read the content.
Types of infographicsThere are five general types of infographics, each with its own focus or purpose, and are described below:
- Informational: How-to-do something or information to describe a product, these are process-oriented and cover a single topic in the infographic.
- Data-driven: Used more with data over text, these include charts, graphs, icons and cause-effect relationships, these might include survey results and trends in an industry.
- Life-cycle/timeline: There is usually a starting point and a possible end point, or specific dates and timestamps that highlight milestones. These are useful for showing a product in development, an event or a process.
- Comparison: Similarities or contrasts on two or more topics best shown in a two- column format, these answer why you should prefer one thing over another. They show good vs. bad, differences between two products with similar functionality and things to do or don’t do.
- Photo/video: Dominated by photos or videos, minimalist design, and about/explanation information, examples include resumes, quick start guides and recipe sheets.
Questions to ask before using an infographicIf there’s one thing you want to communicate and you’re not sure if using an infographic would be appropriate, here are questions you should ask yourself to help you decide:
- Do my users really need it?
- Is it relevant to my document?
- Do I have the time and perhaps resources to create one?
- Does it align with the goals of my organization?
- Can it be re-used across documents?
Best practices for using infographicsTo design infographics that work, consider several basic principles. Here they are:
- Have a story and script for your infographic: Determine the flow of your content, shape the beginning and end of the story and create a wireframe on paper to help with the design.
- Segregate your data and analyze it: Think through the information you pulled together in your research, use the data from surveys, if any, and review the data you obtained from SMEs.
- Pick a relevant type of infographic: Decide which type will bode well with your content and consider combining two or more types of infographics into one.
- Use consistent and sustainable design methodologies: Pick a color scheme - don't use more than 3 color tones/pallet, use colors relevant to the issue you are addressing, don't overcrowd with data and similar color tones and use easily editable graphics.
- Measure the success rate of infographics: Get feedback from your peers and users, measure the metrics on content usage and promote the new changes to your project team.
Resources to build your own infographicsCreating infographics doesn’t need to be as labor intensive as it’s been in the past as there are now online resources available to use templates to design your own:
Missed the meeting? View the slides here!If you missed Sree’s vibrant and informative presentation, view her slides using the link below.
View Sree’s PowerPoint presentation.
''Steve Corey can be reached at SteveCoreyRTP at gmail dot com."