If you’ve read the first five parts of this series, you’ve hopefully realized that there are many diverse ways to present data in your infographic, and you have plenty of options when it comes to choosing a form that will effectively convey the information you want to share. From basic formats like bar graphs to well-known cultural images like metro maps, you can use your infographic layout to maximize your audience’s understanding of complex or detail-rich subjects.
In this final installment, I’m going to discuss how you can combine different graphic elements to increase your audience’s understanding of your infographic subject.
When you use compound visualization in your infographic, you’re tying together different graphic elements in one single cell or schema. That may sound like a recipe for a convoluted infographic, but when done well, compound visualization can actually help your audience make sense of your content by putting it in a framework they may already be familiar with.
Still confused? Check out the examples and images below to get a better idea of what compound visualization is all about.
What is it? Graphic facilitation is a process originally developed for group projects, seminars, meetings, workshops, and other team-oriented activities. Traditionally, a graphic recorder will listen to group members speak and record their information in a visual format, such as a poster or a cluster map.
Best Use: Graphic facilitation allows you to organically produce a visual to represent a process or even an abstract idea. If you want to be authentic when creating a graphic facilitation infographic, have team members discuss the idea you want to explain while one person draws, then polish that drawing to produce a final infographic.
What is it? Cartoons are one of the most widely shared types of visuals online. Part of their popularity in infographics may be due to the fact that they follow a schema almost everyone will instantly recognize; a short scene plays out in either one or several panels, often with a punch line at the end.
Best Use: Although cartoons can be used to tackle serious subjects, as many graphic novelists have proved, they may be best-suited to infographics that are meant to be lighter in tone. Use cartoons when you want to show that your brand has a sense of humor and can convey information in an entertaining way.
What is it? Rich pictures are used to teach about complex problems or ideas that have been poorly-defined in the past. There’s no strict format, but they involve as many images as the creator deems necessary to clearly explain the given topic.
Best Use: The danger of using a rich picture for your infographic is that it can look too “busy,” so make sure you choose a layout that makes it look organized and promotes a specific flow of ideas, allowing the viewer to delve into a complex topic without becoming overwhelmed.
What is it? If you’ve ever read a book set in a fictional world (such as Lord of the Rings or Game of Thrones), you’ve probably noticed that the book includes a map of the world to give the reader a better sense of the geographic location of certain events. Knowledge maps work in the same way, in that they use metaphorical geographic positioning to show how ideas or events are related to one another.
Best Use: Use a knowledge map when you see metaphorical connections between the information you want to share and traditional map features. For example, if you wanted to show how mobile-optimization has branched out as a major component of online marketing, you might depict mobile-optimization as a peninsula attached to the larger land mass of online marketing.
What is it? Learning maps are similar to knowledge maps, but instead of looking at a specific structure, they use a map metaphor to visualize a process.
Best Use: Learning maps work well to depict change over time. For example, you might depict a street where the center line is a timeline, and shops on either side of the street represent the evolution of marketing in the beverage industry.
What is it? Like graphic facilitation, infomurals are traditionally drawn live in front of a group, with multiple team members contributing ideas to be visualized. The idea is to combine specific details through various images into one comprehensive overview (the mural as a whole).
Best Use: You may choose to use an infomural to show how small details tie together into a “big picture” (e.g. how various college entrance requirements shape the student body on college campuses).
The compound visualization methods above do not follow a strict template, meaning that you have plenty of room for creativity. When working with complex subjects and combining different graphic representations, take the time to edit your infographic to ensure that your readers will clearly understand the information you’re trying to convey.