There are two types of mainstream documents that traditionally contain data that is graphically or visually arranged. They are presentations, or what most people affectionately refer to as a PowerPoint, and infographics. In truth there are many similarities between the two. Both try to convey data in a pleasing fashion and in a way that can be quickly and easily understood. Good presentations and infographics also tell a story, be it a story that helps you sell a vision for a new and exciting product to a group of investors, or one that clearly shows how an election was won, or how solar energy works.
Due to their popularity, most designers have probably been called upon to create PowerPoint presentations before. And there are plenty of great resources on the art of building better presentations, including Guy Kawasaki’s famous 10/20/30 Rule of PowerPoint, that’s 10 slides, 20 minutes, 30 point font. There is also Nancy Duarte’s TED talk and her book Slide:ology, and of course, Edwards Tufte’s brilliant essay: The Cognitive Style of PowerPoint. But in order to create infographics, you have to understand that they are different from presentations; they have different rules.
And that’s mainly because presentations and infographics are presented differently. A presentation is usually delivered verbally in person; while an infographic is usually something a person reads and digests on his own. This difference affects two important aspects; the STORY and the GOAL. Now don’t get me wrong; both Presentations and infographics need a story, and they should both have a clear goal of what they’re trying to convey. But in a Presentation, you tell the story and the graphics in your slide support that story. In infographic your graphics must tell the story for you.
It must be clear by looking at it, because you aren’t there to explain it to the intended audience. For example take this pie chart. The information and it is clear and correct, but if I’m giving a presentation, I might be telling my audience that I’ve just invented a method of using solar energy for refrigeration purposes. The low number attributed to that appliance might represent a large growth opportunity. In an infographic, I’m not there to explain that story, so I have to make sure that my graphic leads the reader’s eye to the important point that I’m trying to convey.
In other words, you have to make sure that you’re infographic is what’s telling the story, not the other way around. Another important difference is in the GOAL. Now during a Presentation you’re likely trying to provide information to your audience. For example, how much money your division made in a certain quarter, a proposed budget for the upcoming year, or a new product idea that you think will revolutionize an industry. You’ve done the research and you have all the answers. Your GOAL is to convey that information to others. If questions arise during a presentation, and that’s okay, you have the answers to all those questions.
A good infographic elicits a different response. The GOAL is less about providing answers or getting approval. It’s more about providing information that results in even more questions. A good infographic doesn’t necessarily provide answers, but it reveals data in a visual manner that piques the reader’s interest and forces them to come to their own conclusions. Most people want to run through a presentation as quickly as they can; just tell me what I need to know. An infographic is something that a reader will become engrossed in, allowing them to form their own decisions about the meaning of the data.
Realted: The Five keys to a Great Infographic
You’ve always heard people say that a slide in a presentation should be simple and should only show a limited amount of information. That’s usually because you’re in the room to provide additional data if necessary. You want to be the focus, not your slide. But with an infographic, the word ‘simple,’ simply isn’t in the vocabulary. Now don’t confuse simple with clean, clear and legible. An infographic should present enough data to allow the viewer to come to their own conclusions. Now of course, getting your story straight and understanding the questions and the answers around your data is key. How to you do that? Well, let’s find out in the next movie.