Book Review: Infographics: The Power of Visual Storytelling

A quick infographic I created for free using Piktochart. Learn about Piktochart in our Savvy Researcher workshops!

A quick infographic I created for free using Piktochart. Learn about Piktochart in our Savvy Researcher workshops!

Getting your content noticed int he Digital Age can be a difficult thing. Since the rise of social media, infographics have risen in popularity, becoming a popular way of sharing information. In their book Infographics: The Power of Visual Storytelling, Jason Lankow, Josh Ritchie, and Ross Crooks — cofounders of Column Five, a creative agency specializing in infographic design — outline how infographics became so popular, why they are an effective medium, and how to use them to express different types of information.

According to Column Five, effective communication consists of three aspects: appeal, comprehension, and retention. Infographics, when done well, have the potential to be a great method of communication, as visuals on the screen connect to information already stored in the human brain, allowing quick comprehension and better retention of what we’re seeing. The focus of Infographics is on how to utilize infographics for business or editorial purposes, but many of their conclusions about best practices will be useful to a researcher or digital humanist who wants to disseminate their data online.

The Column Five separate infographic design into two approaches: explorative and narrative. Narrative infographics tend to be illustrative and design focused and intended to inform or entertain. Explorative infographics — which are more likely to be useful to someone displaying research data — tend to be more minimalist. Their goal is to communicate information concisely using visuals that represent their data.

Several of the main takeaways of Infographics, however, are universal. First, that you need to have a specific audience in mind when creating an infographic. While you may want to shout, “I want everyone to see and love my data!” the fact of the matter is that your work will be more appreciated by certain people, and you should tailor your infographic to that audience. Second, that your infographic must have a specific purpose. Rather than throwing everything you have on your study into one infographic, take a smaller chunk of data and use it to communicate one particular message. Third, that a good infographic has beauty, soundness, and utility. No matter what the topic, if your infographic has those aspects, you’re set.

While the book is aimed towards businesses, many researchers — digital humanists, especially — can learn from the Column Five’s book when trying to communicate on the Internet. If you can create a quick infographic that follows best practices, it could make a huge difference about your audience and reach.

If you have questions about infographics, or you want to get started on making some yourself, the Scholarly Commons has the resources you need, including Adobe Photoshop CC and InDesign. You can also email Sarah Christensen (schrstn@illinois.edu) for any questions you may have about infographics, or digital images.