Infographic: three errors to avoid

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For some years now, data visualisation has become an increasingly concrete and present reality on the web. Starting from the first communicative banners, then passing through the first forms of infographics and finally arriving to motion graphics and dynamic infographics.
The evolution of this new form of communication in Italy has not been experienced by everyone the same way. There are those who have followed the wave of the most advanced countries in this sector, constantly updating themselves on new fashions and new graphic trends and there are those who have found themselves catapulted into this new universe without fully understanding the principles behind these new means.
For this reason I wanted to summarise in a short, but in my opinion essential, guide to the 3 things not to do in an infographic.

1 – Text wall

Graphic information starts precisely from a need to summarise and simplify information that would otherwise be accessible only to a few people. This concept fits perfectly with the evolution that our society has been experiencing in the last 20 years.
People live a hectic life and do not always have the time and the desire to spend a few minutes to inform themselves, let alone find themselves in front of a wall of insurmountable text.
Yet it seems that someone has not fully understood this concept.
Too often I see in the web infographics that, while presenting a relatively attractive graphic part, still have small walls of text scattered here and there between one graphic element and another.

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The result at first impact can be pleasant but if you analyse it with a more critical eye you will realise that from a technical point of view it is not good at all.
Usually a good infographic can communicate 60-70% of the main information in the first 20 seconds of visualisation.

If you try to time yourself on the infographics in the previous image you will realise that this is not the case.
So the first thing not to do if you decide to use infographics as a method of communication is to put the walls of text.

How do you notice if your text has become a wall?

Simple if it exceeds 15 words most likely you are not noticing but you have lime and blocks in your hand.

2 – Forget 40% of the Work: the Title

Another aspect to be taken into consideration, and not to be underestimated under any circumstances, is the presence of a title that immediately recalls the subject matter. This seems obvious and quite obvious, but unfortunately it is not always the case.
Take for example the following infographic

Lassegnazione-dei-seggi-al-Senato

In this infographic are shown some numbers about the various Italian parties and their distribution on the national territory, but unfortunately the title on the infographic is missing.

So the unfortunate person who should come across this infographic without passing through the web page where the title is present instead (as happened to me) is not said to immediately understand the data in the infographic to what they refer.

If I said that it is the thousands of euros spent for the election campaign, could it work?
Well why not, they are not such disproportionate figures and also reflect the political propaganda made.

Whether you have understood it or not, the infographic does not refer to that but to the number of seats won by each party on the national territory in 2013.
Maybe for someone more attentive and more informed on the subject was clear from the beginning, but the graphic information is used precisely for this reason, to allow anyone to receive the same information.

The title therefore, as I wrote at the top of this paragraph, corresponds to 40% of the work. This is because it prepares the reader for the topic and therefore makes the understanding of the present data even faster.

So the second thing you absolutely must not do is to forget the title.
The title must be chosen in such a way that it attracts the user and immediately recalls the subject dealt with in the infographic.

3 – American Cakes

The title of the paragraph is a bit bizarre, I’ll explain why I chose it. In America are very famous cakes with countless decorations on them, such as fondant and sugar paste puppets… but when you go to eat the cake the inside is almost always the same for everyone.

This short parenthesis to introduce a very essential element, that is the abundance of graphic elements and little substance.
They are present in the web infographics that to avoid the error of the text wall fill the infographics with graphic elements until it explodes, forgetting to focus on the content and especially on the comprehensibility of it.

In doing so, another type of error occurs, which is technically comparable to that of the text wall.
The infographics that have usually been made with this criterion have a lot of graphic elements, some of them perhaps useless for the mere comprehension of the data, but that however have been added to make it more attractive. Take for example the following infographic.

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If from the graphic point of view it may be a winning move from the communicative point of view they are a real failure because the reader will focus his attention only on the communicative elements of the infographic and not on the embellishment ones, which will tend to slow down the user making the communication less clear.

Usually we try to get a balance between words and graphic elements (usually 50:50, but also 40:60 is fine) and the graphic elements must be at least 95% informative and the remaining 5% decorative.

So the third and final prohibition is to fill your infographic with graphic elements defined “embellishment” to the detriment of the elements that will have to communicate information.


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Daniele Cattaneo

Anno 1993. Dopo il diploma presso l’Istituto Tecnico Aeronautico mi iscrivo alla laurea Triennale di Scienze Forestali. Durante il periodo degli studi inizio a coltivare la mia passione per la grafica e dal 2010 inizio a lavorare come Graphic Designer. Nel 2014 ho fondato ByTek Marketing, insieme ad alcuni studenti della facoltà di Ingegneria, dove svolgo il ruolo di responsabile dell’area UX/UI. Nel 2017 ho partecipato ad un Master in UI Designer presso Tag Innovation School. Appassionato di sport, natura, musica, scoutismo e vita all’aria aperta. La cosa che odio di più in assoluto è il Natale.

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