Tips for better InfoGraphic Design
How big is an acre?
Unless one is a farmer, rancher, or realtor, very few of us know. Here's the correct answer:
1. An acre is the amount of land a yoke of oxen can plow in one day.
Well, nice, but I still don't know. That may define an acre but it doesn't convey how big it is - how much space it takes up. Okay, here's a more specific answer:
2. An acre is 43,560 square feet.
More precise, but how big is that?
3. An acre is about the size of a football field, minus the end zones:
Okay, I can relate to that - now I have some idea how big an acre is.
Making the complex clear or communicating information in a manner that is easy to understand - that is Information Graphics.
One way to do that is to relate the unknown (acre) to something known (football field) to clarify understanding.
The acre example is from Richard Saul Wurman, the Information Architect, the Guru of Understanding.
Some examples of poor chart design
Confusing order of items
The headline says 'Tops', yet the item is at the bottom. Why would anyone do that? Put the Top one at the bottom, instead of at the top? That is more expected, more intuitive, more appropriate, and clearer communication.
The rest of the items are in random order - alphabetical or by decreasing dollar amount would be better for the reader to see a comparison - "Who is in second place?"
Unnecessary inconsiderate legend
Below: three options to improve clear communication.
Tip: Avoid legends when feasible. Note: it is very often feasible.
Poor readability: all caps, condensed font, tight kerning, poor contrast, small point size
Randomly arranged charts
Why are the countries arranged in that order? I can't find a reason - it just seems random.
There are two better options:
1. Alphabetical - allows the reader to more easily find a specific country.
2. By amplitude - least to maximum - allows the reader to compare and rank nations.
Below: The heading, Brand by Maximum is incorrect.
Original version should be Brand with Maximum - as it is not (Arranged) by maximum.
The poll question was Do you sing in the shower? But, that isn't what was in the headline. Why not? If the headline is accurate, there is no need to repeat the question at the end of the body copy. The regular reader knows this feature is results from a poll. I suspect most don't read the copy - they read the question and view the results.
• Changed the headline to be more accurate and clearer.
• Deleted the repeat of the question in the copy.
• Reset the text copy with a narrower column width.
• Enlarged the result captions to be easier to read.
• Put the results in ascending order and aligned, not a random placement.
Arrangement of elements in a list
Why the maze to decipher - is this the puzzle page? A test?
No, it's a chart of information that shows odd requests made by teams of their hotel.
Better options: Below left: improved. Right, even better:
1. Straight links to clearly communicate the content.
2. Alphabetized list of countries to improve finding a particular one.
3. No horizontal and vertical graphic lines. There is no need for the overused outdated vertical line to separate the black disk from the heading. Nor does the line beneath the heading serve any purpose. If a graphic element serves no purpose, it is just crap - clutter that the reader has to process and then ignore.
Another example of poor arrangement
In the original graph on the left - notice the bent lines that lead the eye away from the item being referenced. Sup? I can't think of any reason why a designer would think that those angled lines improve comprehension of the message or the aesthetics of the image. They just detract and confuse. The tweaked version on the right is clearer and more appealing.
Here is a page from Gallup.com. Please read the list of Office locations by country.
I suspect you read down the first column. At some point you may have realized that the list is organized in rows, not columns - we are supposed to read across first, then down. Oops, bad design. We read down for two reasons:
1. We are conditioned to, its more familiar. When we recognize a list (with bullets and aligned in a column) we read down the list, no matter how many columns there are.
2. The designer of this page gave us visual cues to read down. The countries are aligned in vertical columns with a column of bullets next to the country names. The spacing conveys to read Australia first (again, conditioning to start at the top left) and then read the next closest country. That would be Canada, not Belgium.
Flush left alignment of elements in a chart
The graph in the middle of the page is a comparison of games per month. To visually clarify a comparison, it helps to align the icons so that the width of each row starts from the same zero point. As printed in The Magazine (left), there is inconsistent spacing and an awkward alignment. There is no advantage to having the months aligned left - we can easily scan the list.
Tip: Align the elements that convey the message content, not the message labels.
Nulo is a premium dog food that prides itself on healthful, honest ingredients. But, their promo piece is a bit dishonest. Note the visual above left comparing carbohydrate content - it makes Nulo (bottom in red) appear impressive - almost no carbohydrates. On a scale of 30% to 50%, selected out of context to show the red bar more favorably. The company relies on the fact that visuals are more memorable and persuasive than text words. On the right is a fair comparison - using the scale from 0% to 100% - the complete gamut. Now, the red band is not quite as impressive. The red band and the one above it differ by only 5%, almost negligible. But, the visual on the left makes it appear that there is a huge difference between the two.
Makes me wonder - what are they hiding? Why don't they show the complete chart? I am often skeptical of companies who try to trick the consumer.
The two above have their instructions buried in blocks of copy, in a small point size, and reversed out of the red background.
Now look at the better brand below. The designer of these packages was considerate of the reader. The heading, Cooking Instructions, is large and easy to find. The most important info (the time) is large, set in a box, and put on a higher contrast background. Users can scan the back of the box easily and quickly find the info they are looking for. Microwave ovens are fast, their instructions should be, also.
The box above has two important steps - Prep and Cook. Both are very clear at a glance. The prep photo makes sense.