Have you ever tried to explain a process to someone but found that you were unable to do it without some kind of visual aid? That’s because humans are visual learners, and we often need an image along with text or dialogue to help us fully grasp complex ideas.
In the past three parts of this series, I’ve been talking about different types of infographics that your company may be able to use to convey data or abstract ideas in an engaging and comprehensive way. This week, I’m going to talk about how you can create infographics that convey a specific strategy.
If you read my last post on concept visualization, you may have noticed that a lot of the infographic types I discussed stemmed from visualization processes used in the business world. Most of the strategy visualization methods discussed below also stem from organizations’ internal visualization processes, but they can also be used by B2Bs and B2Cs who want to better explain specific strategies to their customers or clients. It’s up to you to decide how you can best implement them.
Supply Demand Curve
What is it? This graph illustrates the principle that the price of goods is determined by the quantity demanded by consumers and the quantity available from producers. Supply and demand are represented by two different curved lines, and the point where they intersect shows the economic equilibrium for quantity and price.
Best Use: The supply demand curve should be used to show how the price of a particular product is affected by its demand and availability (one might look at Tickle Me Elmo dolls in 1996 to illustrate how demand and scarcity drives up price, for example).
What is it? Although strategy maps can vary in appearance, they general depict a text objective within a shape, with different objectives placed along horizontal bands representing different perspectives, such as organization or customer perspective. Arrows can be used to show the relationship between different objectives.
Best Use: Strategy maps are generally used by businesses or management teams to show how various objective align with a company’s overall vision or strategy.
House of Quality
What is it? Designed like the two dimensional view of a house with a sloped roof, this diagram depicts customer wants/needs in relation to a business or product’s capabilities. Customer wants and business/product offerings are depicted as a table in the main part of the “house”, and the roof is a correlation matrix.
Best Use: As an infographic, a house of quality could show any group’s needs versus solutions available to them (e.g. the needs of people with pollen allergies in relation to the effects of an over-the-counter allergy medication).
What is it? Also sometimes referred to as a fault tree, this diagram starts with a root cause (generally text within a shape) at the cause, with primary effects branching down from the cause, and secondary effects branching down from primary effects (and so on).
Best Use: This is a great visualization method for looking at cause-and-effect and could be used in any infographic where the creator wants to show how one root cause has wide-ranging effects, such as how the extinction of one species affects the rest of its ecosystem.
What is it? This four quadrant matrix shows the relationship between completeness of business (on the horizontal axis) and ability to execute (on the vertical axis).
Best Use: You might use magic quadrants to compare different businesses in a particular industry based on how well they carry out their particular mission.
What is it? The fishbone, or herringbone, diagram shows a specific problem or event as the “head” of the fish, with different causes broken up into categories along the “bones” of the fish. Typically, the six categories are people, methods, equipment, materials, environment, and measurements.
Best Use: While it’s most commonly used in product design, the fishbone diagram could be used in any infographic that seeks to show how one problem has many potential causes across different categories (e.g. potential reasons for a college student to drop out).
What is it? The spray diagram is almost identical to the mind map in appearance, but it has a different function. While a mind map allows for looser brainstorming or forming associations between ideas, the spray diagram breaks down the structure of an argument, with a thesis circled in the center and supporting arguments branching out from that thesis.
Best Use: Spray diagrams can be used to closely examine a topical argument, such as whether or not the government should grade colleges to hold them accountable for graduation rates.
What is it? The IT research firm Gartner invented the hype cycle, which places time on the x-axis and visibility on the y-axis of a basic line chart to show how specific technologies evolve. The line typically has five different “points” or phases: the technology trigger, peak of inflated expectations, trough of disillusionment, slope of enlightenment, and plateau of productivity.
Best Use: While the most obvious use for the hype cycle is in the technology sector, it could be adapted to show the development, popularity, and application of products in other categories, such as fashion trends.
What is it? A value chain is usually shaped like an arrow pointing to the left, with types of business activities (such as production, marketing, and sales) leading to the delivery of a product or service on the left.
Best Use: Value chains are generally used to show the business products that lead to the release of a product, but it could be adapted in an infographic to show the chain of events that lead to any major point (e.g. the fundraising steps a non-profit takes to reach their funding goal).
While their primary application lies in the business world, the framework of all the visualization methods described above can be adapted in the creation of your infographics. In the next part of this series, I’ll be moving on from strategy visualization and discussing how you can convey complex ideas in your infographic using visual metaphors.