Improve Designs With Infographics

Copywriters often use numbers and statistics to emphasize the benefits of the product they're selling. They'll also use them to show trends or study results for health products. But presenting numbers in the body of the copy can be counterproductive. The prospect will often skim over the numbers and not get the important trends or the central idea the copywriter is trying to make.

Let's face it, too many raw numbers can cause the MEGO (My Eyes Glaze Over) Syndrome.

I'm sure you've heard of the left-brain and right-brain division. Your left-brain is the analytical side. It deals mostly with numbers, words, complex ideas, and logic. The right-brain is oriented to pictures, emotions, intuition, symbolism, and art.

While some of your prospects are strongly left-brained, most of your sales are still made by appealing to emotion and feeling – right-brain functions.

So what's a designer to do when you need to share numbers and statistics with readers … but don't want to bog them down with a lot of numerical data? That's where “infographics” come in very handy.

Infographics are components like charts, graphs, and tables. They are valuable tools for providing data in a simple, digestible form. They provide pictures that appeal to the right side of the brain. These pictures helps readers understand general trends faster and remember the information longer. They also help break up the copy and make it more visually appealing.

What are the different types of infographics you can use in your designs? Which are best for different applications? And how can you “dress them up” so your prospect will find your infographics as interesting as they are informative?

Here are some of the most useful infographics for “drawing a picture”:

  • A pie chart depicts the proportion of parts to the whole. This type of chart is circular, like a pie, with wedges cut in various sizes to reflect particular proportions. For instance, you might use a pie chart to show how a business's budget is distributed between salaries, supplies, building maintenance, and so on.

    Design Tips: When you use a pie chart, avoid splitting it into more than eight pieces. Otherwise, the pieces become too small to recognize or label. You can use a screen tint or bold color on the most important piece of the pie, or pull that piece partially out of the pie to separate it from the rest of the info. Also, you can tilt the pie, add a shadow, or try a three-dimensional effect for added visual interest.

  • A bar chart displays the relative quantity, size, or frequency of data in several different categories. You might use a bar chart to compare opposites (such as income vs. expenses plotted over a period of time), quantities (like the number of active members in several different organizations), or averages (such as the average amount of money spent on direct-mail campaigns for each year over a five-year period).

    Design Tips: Avoid having too many bars or they'll look too thin. You might add a drop shadow, a three-dimensional effect, or a screen tint to make them stand out from the graph behind them. And to make them look more interesting, you can replace the bars with illustrations, such as stacks of coins, chimneys, building silhouettes, or another graphic that supports the information you're discussing.

  • A line graph shows changes over time. You can draw lines from point to point to show progress made. A frequent use of line graphs is to show the price of a stock charted over time.

    Design Tips: Avoid using more than three lines in one graph, or it will become confusing for the reader. You can use different colors or screen tints to help separate the lines from each other. And for added interest, you might put the graph inside an illustration that relates to the information you're sharing.

  • A table gives more precise information and a larger amount of information than a chart or graph. Tables are left-brain devices. Readers need to study a table rather than merely glance at it, so tables are best used when (1) readers need exact numbers, not just lines, bars, or pieces of a pie; (2) when you have too much information to condense into a chart; and (3) when readers are already used to similar information being presented in tabular form, such as an expense report.

    Design Tips: To increase eye appeal, use a different color, a screen tint, a wider border, or a double-rule to highlight rows or columns that should stand out from the rest.

When building your infographic, you'll want to include all the necessary information, along with a legend next to the graphic – or labels within the graphic – to help readers understand the information. If needed, you should also add a caption below the graphic, just as you'd add one to a photograph, to offer a more complete explanation.

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Published: December 30, 2005

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