Doing More than Infographics

Summary: Most infographics are just well-designed infodumps. This article provides strategies to ensure that your work doesn’t receive this label.

There has been a flood of articles and postings covering infographics—the science behind them, how to create them, free tools to use and many other topics. This is great as infographics represent a powerful way to present content, but all of this has overshadowed one key concern with them:

infodumptextThis is fine if your goal is simple awareness, but if you want to change behavior, then you need to do more.

Infographics Don’t Have to be Static Pages

In this regard, it’s hard to ignore the literature on the importance practice, feedback and repetition plays in learning. These elements help ensure that your students are able to process and internalize your information.  Without them, it’s difficult for them to establish where they are, what they have learned and what improvements they need to make. By themselves, your normal infographics don’t address these needs—they are just static pages presenting quick bite-sized chunks of information.Luckily you can create opportunities to add these elements by opening up your infographics—here you can give your students the opportunity to dig-in and play with your information.  Some strategies for this are:Interactive InfographicsIf your infographic is online, you can use animation, scrolling, links and other means to get users to interact with your content. Creative use of this can create a Prezi like presentation for your content. This is useful, as it allows you to create a linear flow to your content or establish a graphic organizer for it.  Each strategy will allow you to better highlight or tell the overarching story of your infographic.Good examples of interactive online infographics can be seen on the How Search Works  and the Future of Car Sharing sites. As you look at these, keep in mind that your interactions don’t have to be limited to simple content links – here you can link to discussion board and forum features or initiate email, phone and video conferencing abilities.Additionally these abilities don’t have to be limited to online infographics. Software apps like Layar, Aurasma, Clickable Paper and QR Code readers will allow you to embed additional content into your posters, manuals and other hardcopy materials.  Once embedded, students can use their mobile devices to interact with your infographic.

Expanding Your InfographicInfographics simplify your content by consolidating your information into numbers, facts and other small chunks of information. However, finding ways to illustrate the aggregate details of your infographics can help students internalize your content. Strategies for this include:

  1. Qualitative MeasuresJust highlighting a few stories from the data may be enough to give students the repetition that they need. In this regard, stories can be particularly powerful in highlighting key concepts and elements within your content. In addition faces, names and events are often more impactful than simple numbers and facts.
  2. Clocks and CountersThe numbers and facts associated with your infographics are often large and as such may be difficult for your students to realize or fully grasp. To help them make sense of your content you can represent these numbers with clocks and counters. Here saying a company is losing $5 million a year may not have the same impact as a counter showing that money quickly adding up. Some ideas on using these objects can be found on the Running on Empty post.
  3. Data visualizationIncorporating sorting, filtering and other reporting abilities to your infographic data is another useful strategy. These features give your students the ability to focus in on key elements and attributes within your content. These activities require database connections and advance programming, but can be worth the extra effort.The power of this can be seen with the Liveplasma site. This data visualization allows you to search for music, books and movies and will show you how your search connects to other similar items.  So searching for the Pixies will show you how their style relates to other bands—besides showing the visual connection, users can play samples to better highlight each band’s style characteristics.

Giving your students opportunities to interact with your content will provide them with the practice, feedback and repetition that they need to internalize your information.  In addition, these activities can expand your content options.


Increasing Your Content Options

In this regard, infographics are well suited for conceptual content objectives as they allow you to highlight the key elements and attributes of that content. Attitudinal, interpersonal and others content objectives; however, don’t realize similar benefits. Using the above strategies to open up your infographic data though will allow you to meet the unique needs for these other objectives. For instance, creating interactive infographics can allow you to link to videos that highlight your procedural and interpersonal content needs.In addition, the data visualization and qualitative measures can allow you to hit your attitudinal content needs.  Here numbers and facts might be easy to dismiss, but faces, names and stories have power—great examples of this can be seen at the People Killed Since Newton and US Gun Deaths sites.Do MoreCreating good infographics is a challenging activity—here  you have develop useful graphic metaphors, use appropriate fonts, maximize your whitespace and confront variety of other design considerations. Meeting each requirement takes skill and time, so don’t waste this time and effort by just creating an infodump. Do more.