story telling with infographics

books

Yesterday i designed & uploaded my first ‘infographic’. What are infographics – “graphic visual representations of information, data or knowledge that present complex information quickly and clearly” e.g. a tube map…

Story Telling

As a child i hated reading. Reading for the sake of reading – what was that all about? Reading to answer questions… reading to regurgitate lines other people have written. It wasn’t enjoyable. News was boring & papers were for old people. Who knows, were it not born when i was born, i may not have gone to college or gotten through it so ‘easily’. I’m well aware how easy i had it. The internet has been hands down the single greatest lecturer i’ve ever had. Without it, would i really go to libraries or arrange meetings & conduct interviews with people to get the information i needed to pass exams? Perhaps, if i was interested enough in the subject, but i’ve no doubt i would have found it a lot tougher.

Day Ninety Eight
Creative Commons License photo credit: Dustin Diaz

One thing i loved seeing in books though was pictures & diagrams. Whether it was science, history, business, religion, i’d always search for pictures on a page before i’d read the text. Sure, my eyes would be drawn to them naturally, but i’d *want* pictures to be there when i’d turn over pages, i always found text too boring, especially after a few pages.

In primary school, we’d have a bookshelf or two in a class. If you were finished work early, you got to read a book, it was a type of ‘reward’. I can’t recall the exact book names but i think it might have been ‘wonders of the world’ – something like this – basically a book full of illustrations and charts. I didn’t care what the content was, i just liked looking at the pictures because it was better than pretending to read a 200 page book full of text.

To this day, i don’t read books and i don’t read newspapers either unless i’m waiting on something / in someone’s house. Traditionally, that’s seen as ‘bad’. Don’t read books and you’ll go to hell… or something like that. It improves vocabulary, improves speed of reading, improves fluidity of speech etc… i’m sure there’s tonnes of positives that come out of reading.

Luckily, i can read and i can write and i’ve been able to progress both skills despite the fact i never really liked either. I did always like Art though and i did always like ‘reading’ pictures so that’s probably why i love infographics. Infographics have been around for years but over the past year or so, they’ve taken over the web. I predict a future job title called ‘infographic designer’.

Simple but complex

The thing about any design really is that some of it can be whipped together in a few seconds without any thought, but to someone else seeing it, they may try to figure out messages and patterns which simply aren’t there or were never intended to be there. Infographics to me (particularly modern day internet jobbies) usually contain a visual story created by the designer following some research. That’s what i set about creating yesterday…

Mobile phone plans are a really difficult thing to compare. I’m always furious when i see new plans because i know as consumers we usually end up getting a worse deal, but phone companies dress them up as a better deal. I’m furious but when i go to compare plans -v- competitor plans or last year’s plans i can’t because i’m never comparing like with like. Phone companies always introduce something new… ‘1 free ad on’ which could be any number of 10 different options… ‘free any network texts’ -v- 250 free texts last time out. The goal posts are shifted constantly and comparisons are made impossible, which is why we continue to pay €30/40/50 month even though we could be calling & texting less than ever before.

Goalpost @ Lowestoft, Suffolk
Creative Commons License photo credit: timparkinson

I remember the day when texts were 13c per message to any network.  No bundles, no nothing. 13c per message. How many would i send? Well, as a young teenager, probably hundreds per month. How much would i spend? €20/30 month? At my ‘peak’. Then bundles came in and now we have free texts to own network or free texts to any network if you top up by ‘x’. Bottom line is, we’re paying the same if not more than we were 10 years ago. Data transfer is our opportunity to cut those costs… but as i illustrated yesterday, phone companies are scrambling to prevent mobile broadband from destroying their business. Will the day come when we carry out all conversation over the web? Yes. And that day is called ‘apocalypse’ if you’re a phone company. They need to quickly get us in to the habit of paying for data otherwise we’re gonna end up conducting all conversation online and eventually abandoning paying for calls & texts.

Look at Skype, Facetime, iMessage… the latter of the three effectively ‘kills’ the traditional text message. As customers it looks the same to us, we still call it a text, but there’s no charge involved. Of course you need wi-fi to do that but you’re no longer paying a phone company for that service… that stuff is the future but if we’re being charged for mobile broadband by the megabyte, the price of communication won’t change for us, even though it should.

And that’s what yesterday’s infographic was all about… explaining my whole take on the situation and highlighting the facts in a manner people aren’t used to seeing. It carries a much bigger punch than a blog post in my opinion because it’s easy to look at and it allows people to read in to it how they want.

Infographics make the world a better place

That infographic took me several hours to complete, mainly because i had to do the research & gather the facts myself, filter through all of that info and figure out a way of laying it all out. I consider it story telling so it’s quite a difficult thing to do. It’s not like a blog post where i can just keep writing… with infographics, less is more. Fill it with too much text and too many ‘default’ design elements and the ‘boring’ factor kicks in, so that’s always playing on my mind.

Color Wheel | Color Poster Collection
Creative Commons License photo credit: ERNESTO LAGO

To pull stuff like this off, you need to be able to;

  • use photoshop / illustrator
  • be able to investigate (ok, use google) BUT you need to verify all sources & claims you make
  • draw your own conclusions
  • present those conclusions as a visual ‘story’

It’s definitely not easy but i think the end product is worth it so i’ll do my best to create more infographics and improve on them. I’d love to create 100 infographics in 100 days but i don’t think i could commit. I could probably commit to the design or the research, but not both and that’s why these things are so valuable and easy to read / look at – because so much time goes in to them.

Infographic lover? Check out these sites;

 

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