Devon Mason
Devon Mason, NATIONAL Public Relations

Today, we know that people are distracted. Over 35% of us check our phones before getting out of bed. Most Canadians use the Internet for more than 20 hours per week. It is harder than ever to get our attention.

Clear visualization of complex data is a service to any audience with whom you are trying to reach or engage. Infographics (information graphics) are a combination of illustrations and text (as minimal as possible), used to convey or support an idea in a clear and concise manner. It isn’t just about communication anymore. Now, more than ever, we are challenged as communicators to attract the attention-depleted masses.

Incidentally “infographic” is new terminology for a very old technique (though communicators might have you believe that it was invented yesterday). Science, cartography and economics have been visually communicating data to people for centuries. Things like maps, charts, graphs and timelines are a few of the more common ways that data is presented visually.

What are you trying to say?  

With the rapid evolution of technology and the mind-numbing speed with which technology handles information, people are inundated with massive amounts of raw data. This data is often useless or incomprehensible in its original form, and frankly, can often be overwhelming. We also know that the brain processes visuals faster than text.

The process of creating an infographic first begins by finding patterns in raw data, and then categorizing, organizing and developing this into interesting, manageable pieces of relevant information that the viewer can quickly digest. The speed and ease with which the viewer can interpret the message is one of the most important characteristics of data visualization. If we are only shown the important pieces, we are not as overwhelmed and are inclined to engage those snippets of info and string together the pieces of the story being told.

Stop hoarding data!  

Infographics are popular due to their ability to communicate information without much effort from the viewer.

Consider this: A satellite image contains considerable amounts of information, and most of it is useless if you’re looking for driving directions. To make it more usable, a cartographer removes land cover, elevation, surface textures and often even building structures to simplify the data presented. Now, a user can quickly reference where they are, and determine the best way from point A to point B.­ 

data visualization

Are we filtering out all of the insignificant or irrelevant data that only distracts from our main purpose? We need to highlight only what’s important to make sure that we deliver the intended message to our audience. Often we need to add supporting data to the original data set to clarify or simplify the general message being offered.

Solve the Puzzle

Data should not be simplified to the point where the viewer doesn’t have to interpret or decipher the information. It still needs to be interesting and compelling to the audience. A user needs to apply at least some effort to decode or process the information presented—simply, they must actively interact with the information. When an infographic’s users have to solve a small puzzle or make a connection, they’re much more likely to remember the information or the message being expressed.

Infographics must walk a fine line. If an infographic is too confusing, it fails to convey its information and is an ineffective tool. On the other hand, if it’s too simple, it might end up being dismissed, or even worse, forgettable.

When done right, an infographic is a stand-alone piece that is understandable with little or no outside explanation, a tool you can use to convey your message to your intended audience, and a simple, compelling graphic that can be quickly referenced and shared with others.

Devon Mason is a designer with NATIONAL Public Relations in Halifax. With an educational background in Physical Geography, Geographic Information Sciences and Cartography, he applies this experience to his focus on Graphic Design. With a diploma in Graphic Design from NSCC Devon put his skills to work as head of the design department at Etruscan Resources Inc. before joining NATIONAL. He enjoys a wide range of projects and has established a solid reputation as the firm’s infographic authority, developing pieces for clients ranging from Nalcor to the Government of New Brunswick and Chevron to the Labrador Chamber of Commerce.