Infographics are everywhere. It seems as if they stormed out of the very recent Internet-connected past.
But if you think about it, the illustrated flow charts cavemen must have drawn on stone walls to demonstrate how to track and kill a wooly mammoth were infographics. They just weren’t called that back then.
What the latest technology and design allow, however, are many wonderful new uses for these handy, attractive conveyors of data. Here are 12 that I love.
1. Annual report
Adding graphics to annual reports is, of course, not new. But making the annual report into one big infographic. Now, that’s new. What a concept: An annual report people will read, from start to finish. Another bonus is that the presentation forces the most important details to be included. Check out this example by Warby Parker Eyewear
. Did your company’s annual report get tweeted more than 1,500 times?
2. Marriage proposal
Maybe this one isn’t for everyone. But for two digital hipsters in love, it’s perfect. Drake Martinet, associate editor at All Things Digital
, popped the question with this infographic
just in time for Valentine’s Day this year. And the lucky lady, Stacy Green, a senior vice president of marketing and communications for Mashable
, said yes.
3. A résumé
When done well, a summary of professional skills and experiences spiffed up with graphics and other design hallmarks of infographics, can be powerful. Some sites can even take data from another source, such as your LinkedIn profile, to make a visual résumé
. If you’re doing it yourself, plan to spend hours adjusting and improving. If you’re not particularly arty, creative, or persistent, it’s probably worthwhile to find a good designer who turns out slick customized versions. Here’s a Pinterest page
4. Research report
Usually, when a report is turned into an infographic, it’s an executive summary. And a link is presented at the bottom of the graphic where users can download the full report. Some of the infographic summaries, however, present an impressive amount of data—the format’s flexibility and visual excitement can communicate much more, in a much more interesting way, than a traditional executive summary. This one by Cisco
is a great example.
5. “White paper” that offers opinion or advocacy
Would you read a white paper on a disorder called convergence insufficiency? Nope, me either. But check out this wonderful advocacy infographic
. It’s a traditional white paper in disguise, explaining, advocating, and establishing credibility and authority. The difference is that, as an infographic, it is sure to reach—and interest—a far wider audience than if it had looked like a white paper.
6. Decision tree
A decision tree can help people sort through the best plan of action in a logical way, even when sketched out with pencil and paper. But when a decision tree is dressed up and visually engaging, it becomes a viewer magnet
. Businesses that aren’t necessarily interested in Pinterest would be drawn to this one. And the ones that are interested would find this especially relevant and helpful.
The amount of information presented in this infographic is stunning
. And, yet, it’s easy to read. Wonderful.
8. Flow chart
Picture this elegant, crisp example
pinned to an office wall—far more powerful than a text-heavy manual.
A how-to infographic trifecta
: fun, creative and yummy.
10. List or ranking
Infographics can also make simple lists less ho hum. Here is a list of free or low-priced tools and apps
that can be used to create infographics or visualizations that can be used on iPads and iPhones.
11. Brand message or advertorial
Infographics can make promotional data about a brand more alluring than with a more traditional presentation. It’s useful for consumers. But also very powerful for the brand. Here’s one
StumbleUpon had designed from its data.
12. Take rocket-science stuff and make the rest of us understand it
Go ahead and try to explain why we haven’t cured cancer
in one page—without an infographic.
These examples are executed well. Many infographics aren’t. Here’s one of the botched jobs
I’ve come across.
Do you think most of the infographics you’ve seen work well, or are they just design gone wrong?
Becky Gaylord worked as a reporter for more than 15 years before she launched the consulting practice, Gaylord LLC. The company helps clients improve their external relations and communication and increase their influence and impact. A version of this story first appeared on the 12 Most blog.