Teach me how to infographic
October 3, 2019 12:44 PM   Subscribe

With support from my supervisor and colleague, I need to summarize relevant aspects of a very complex topic (immigration law) in a way that my colleagues can understand and apply to the program that we oversee. I'm looking at this book, this one, this one, and this one. I'm interested in MOOCs, books, videos, or any resource that will help me go from basically zero knowledge to proficiency. I am technical and have design skills, but building a complex infographic is currently beyond my skill level. Help?
posted by onecircleaday to Education (12 answers total) 28 users marked this as a favorite
What I would do is look at creativegraphics.com, which has a ton of infographic templates and graphic sets, pick one that seems close to the categories of information to be conveyed, with an aesthetic that seems congruent, fire up Illustrator and get customizing.

Don't start from a bare artboard. Use the Force.
posted by zadcat at 1:30 PM on October 3, 2019 [2 favorites]

I like Canva and Piktochart for easy, template-rich infographic building.
posted by Bardolph at 1:40 PM on October 3, 2019 [2 favorites]

I would second Piktochart as being useful for making a quick info-graphic. There are lots and lots of templates that can help with design - and the free version is still pretty good.

That said, while it's good for design examples, the content will be more challenging. I'm not a knowledge translation person, but from I've seen the basics are: boil down your message into 3-5 points that you want your audience to remember, and use bullet points rather than full sentences.

(i.e. unlike this comment).
posted by jb at 1:48 PM on October 3, 2019 [1 favorite]

One thing that might be useful to clarify in your mind if not in a followup is whether you're an infographic to present something more like quantitative data (such as the number of people affected by an aspect of the law, the percentage of cases that are handled like such) like this or something more like a process - such as this or this. Tufte is stronger on quantitative data than on process.

One starting point -- as in music or any other art -- is to just look at a lot of infographics, and think about them. What are the strengths and weaknesses? What's easy to understand and what's hard? What's the message and is that the intended message? To give an example from my perspective, in my first link, in the upper left figure the recent increase in refugees is visible and you get a sense of how it compares to the overall picture, but you have to go looking for it. The bottom right is hot garbage; first, it compares a 5 year span to three decade spans; secondly, it's just tables of text which are hard to read; thirdly, countries might be bubbling under the list or split between the decades and not appear. It might have been better presented as a line graph similar to the upper left for ~10 or so of the top countries (maybe any one in the top 3 of any list or in the top 10 overall over the time period), with each of them identified at their peaks.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 1:59 PM on October 3, 2019 [1 favorite]

A specific detail: pie charts are almost always awful. Nobody should ever use them unless they are already experts at charts, graphs, and general data visualization, and know damn well what they’re doing and why.
posted by SaltySalticid at 3:45 PM on October 3, 2019

I've seen a lot of infographics over the years and worked on a few, but they've all used quantitative data. Can you explain more what about what you're communicating? Is this some sort of decision tree?
posted by pinochiette at 4:04 PM on October 3, 2019 [1 favorite]

I am not an expert but I am interested in this area. I really like the book Storytelling with Data, which is among the books discussed here.
posted by Bella Donna at 4:54 PM on October 3, 2019 [3 favorites]

Read one of the Tuftes at least. They're masterpieces at showing and explaining why representing data in different ways changes the story and understanding for the reader. Just starting with one of them now will give you a better handle on what you need from the possible resources out there.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 9:34 PM on October 3, 2019 [2 favorites]

You might want to check out Stanford’s Legal Design Lab, and in particular their project on legal communications design. There’s tons of great examples on ways to communicate complex legal concepts using a mix of language and visual tools.
posted by awenner at 6:09 AM on October 4, 2019 [2 favorites]

Seconding Piktochart or Canva, there are thousands of designs to look through and work from and it will be so much easier.
posted by DarlingBri at 8:38 AM on October 4, 2019 [1 favorite]

+1 to Storytelling with Data, which leveled up my "make pretty pictures that make the executives do what I'm asking them to do" game at work significantly. If you don't have time or inclination for a whole book, subscribe to the newsletter, which has practical advice and exercises in manageable weekly chunks.
posted by rhiannonstone at 9:51 PM on October 4, 2019 [1 favorite]

Having made infographics for my employer using Piktochart a few years ago, recently had to do it again for another employer (it was just a timeline but of course much easier said than done).

I found Venngage and was very happy with both their approach and plenty of online content / training to get you thinking.

One idea / suggestion would be to break up the complex overall topic into smaller chunks and focus on pieces to illustrate / convey what you want to communicate.
posted by scooterdog at 7:09 AM on October 5, 2019 [1 favorite]

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