If a picture is worth a thousand words, then, visuals – in the form of infographics and data visualisation – must be worth ten thousand words. Why so? They easily break down complex data or information into easily digestible bits (or bytes, if you are publishing online), essentially, as easily recallable take-home-messages.
So, what are infographics and their cousin, data visualisation, all about? In summary, they are virtually the same and the words can be used interchangeably. Technically, though, there are slight various here and there but with overwhelming convergences.
Simply put, infographics narrate visual stories by combining illustrations, facts, figures and words. Principally, they are subjective in nature as they are designed to create a certain perception or invoke a particular call-to-action on the intended audiences. This is so as they appeal to emotions.
Data visualisation, on the other hand, is primarily concerned with the presentation of data with greater clarity, though objectively. Like infographics, data visualisation incorporates illustrations, facts, figures and text while laying more emphasis on the data so presented, thus communicating it more effectively.
So, what are the best practices in creating visuals – whether infographics or data visualisation – that communicates effectively?
First, any such visuals employed in your publishing must be deliberate and must add value to the content at hand. For instance, suppose you are working on an Annual Report stating the various activities, achievements, expenditure and sources of revenue for the last financial year. Would visuals make all this information more accessible to your stakeholders? If yes, proceed with the visuals. If no, then you can do away with the visuals.
Second, be accurate. For instance, in the case of data visualisation, this means being careful not to reinterpret, distort or fabricate the data as you develop the visuals. This calls for close collaboration between the design team doing the visuals and the author or authors. Otherwise, a discerning audience will be able to pick the inconsistencies, thus eroding their trust in what you have published.
Third is appeal. This means that visuals must live up to their name by being pleasing to the eye. As such, this means that they must be sourced from credible platforms as well as being manipulated or created with suitable software to maximise on this. Otherwise, badly done visuals are worse than no visuals at all. Of note too is to look out for typos in the visuals as these may easily be generated in the process of creating the visuals. This calls for careful editing of each visual as some visuals may manifest as images. As such typos in these visuals may be missed if the editing is being done with editing software such as Word.
Further, visuals must adhere to the overall theme, mood or tone of the publication. This means conformity to the elements of good design concerning the choice of colour, font, font size, standardisation among many others, relative to the whole publication. This ensures that they blend well as part and parcel of the publication thus adding value in totality.
Lastly, visuals must be optimised for the particular medium they are to be published in (or the channel of information dissemination, should they, for instance, be shared on Twitter or Facebook as standalone graphics). The mediums namely are print and web, with different technical specifications concerning designing visuals for each.