For this month’s Expert Interview I spoke with Randy Krum, President of InfoNewt, author of Cool Infographics, speaker, and recognized expert in the field of data visualization and infographics.
LC: How and when did you get started in the field of infographics?
RK: In 2004, I was working for a consumer products company and used data visualization to present analytical information to leadership. I began collecting what I thought were great examples of infographics for inspiration. That collection became the content for my blog, Cool Infographics, which launched in 2007. It was so popular that I realized there was not only a great deal of interest in infographics but a need for design support and consulting. Two years later I started InfoNewt where we assist our clients through the entire process of creating infographics to tell their story.
LC: Can you explain the difference between data visualization and infographics?
RK: Great question. Data visualization is displaying information in a graphical way such as a chart, diagram, icon, image, etc. An infographic tells a story by using those data viz elements combined with text, illustrations, and an overall layout.
LC: What are the advantages of using infographics over text alone?
RK: Today, more than ever, people have short attention spans. Research suggests you have 5 to 10 seconds to capture the attention of your audience. Infographics make it easy for people to scan and get the point of your message quickly. The human brain processes images in 13 milliseconds. Also, people remember visual information 65% more than they remember text so retention of the material will be greatly enhanced.
LC: That is amazing! No wonder infographics have become so popular. What are the current trends in this type of communication?
RK: Infographics have been an important element in the content marketer’s tool kit for several years now. Companies are experimenting with infographics in every aspect of their sales and marketing communication strategy from sharing company history, industry trends, press releases, and frequently asked questions.
Here is an example of Dade Paper’s company overview infographic:
Today, animated infographics are becoming more popular as are infographics designed for small screens. In the future, we’ll see augmented reality infographics with 360 images, real-time data, and virtual reality capabilities.
LC: What advice can you give to someone who wants to incorporate infographics into their communication plan?
RK: Start with some simple data statistics about your company. Focus on your one key message or your call to action. Keep it simple with minimal text and highlight the data that leads the audience to the desired insight or conclusion. Also, make sure that your data viz is accurate mathematically and graphically. Work up to more complicated infographics that tell more complete stories. Then share those stories on blogs and other social media channels.
LC: Is this something people can really do on their own?
RK: It depends on what in-house capabilities are available. If you have a good data analyst or graphic designer, try them first. Data visualization and infographic design is a very specialized style of design. It takes someone who understands both statistics and design. If that is a skill set that is not available, then you may want to partner with a design firm that specializes in infographics.
LC: Are there any simple software tools available for someone who’d like to give it a try?
RK: This is the question I get most often, and it’s a complicated question. A data visualization or infographics designer will have their own favorite vector graphics application where they put the whole design together. It could be Adobe Illustrator, OmniGraffle, Inkscape, or even PowerPoint. Separately, they will create good data visualization elements and then import those into the project in the vector graphics application. Most designers keep a toolbox of many different tools for charts, icons, maps, word clouds, and more. I maintain a large list of tools at www.coolinfographics.com/tools that people can check out.