Choosing an Infographic Style: Data Visualizations

Infographics are a powerful option for making large quantities of information easy to understand. Visitors don’t always have time to read through an entire article, but they can scan and digest an infographic at a glance. There are several different approaches you can choose from to get your message across in a creative and appealing way. Data visualization, while one of the most common choices, is also one of the most misunderstood.

You may have seen data visualization and infographics compared as separate options for sharing information. However, you can have the best of both worlds by incorporating this type of visual into your design.

What is Data Visualization?

Image via Flickr by bigbrand@rocketmail.com

Data visualization is at the heart of the traditional infographic, a prime example of why infographics exist in the first place. Today’s online browsers don’t have the patience to read through data-heavy articles. They’re far too busy to slow down and try to digest large chunks of information. Data visualization offers a fast and easy way to understand complex numbers and statistics.

There are many types of data visualization, and skilled infographic designers are well-versed in them all. Some common options include pie charts, line charts, scatter plots, and heat maps. These take complex data ranges and translate them into engaging graphics that you can absorb quickly. Reading through a list of percentages is tiresome and confusing, but glancing at the data in a pie chart makes it easy to understand which response was most prevalent and which barely registers.

With the right data visualization strategies and smart comparisons, you can make even the most complex topics easy to grasp. This is an outstanding way to turn pages of numbers into something sleek and engaging.

Incorporating Data Visualization into Infographics

Most infographics include some form of data visualization, but some are so heavy in this area that data visualization is their primary feature. Some people consider data visualization and infographics to be two different approaches to sharing your information. When data visualization stands alone, it’s typically used in a bland, single-topic way, such as a small bar graph inserted into a larger blog article.

When you incorporate data visualization into an infographic, it becomes much richer and more complex. In an infographic, you can expand on your data visualization and give it more aesthetic appeal. That bar graph might take on the shape of a birthday cake with candles representing each bar. You can include several different pieces of data together to show the bigger picture rather than a single piece of the puzzle.

Data visualization infographics excel at putting data in perspective. Seeing a chart that shows you that 2.2 million people are in America’s prisons is informative but difficult to really grasp until you compare that number to the population of Paris, France. Now you have the recipe for a stunning visualization that gives your data a powerful punch.

When to Focus on Data Visualization

Choosing the right type of infographic is an important step in the design and development process. Think about the information you want to present to your audience. Here are some key indicators that you’re working with a data visualization infographic:

  • Most of your data is in the form of numbers
  • You have a large collection of data to synthesize
  • Some of your numbers are difficult to digest on their own
  • Your points are best supported by statistics
  • You need only minimal text to support your message

If some or all these points apply to your project, data visualization is likely your best option. However, if you find that there aren’t many numbers to support your key points, you’re probably better opting for a different type of infographic such as a story or DIY format. Remember, data visualization is all about the numbers. The more you have, the better you’ll do with this design.

Data Visualization Done Right

Data visualization seems easy on the surface, but it doesn’t translate well to an infographic unless you develop a cohesive theme to carry viewers through. Colorful charts and graphs can easily overwhelm the viewer. However, a skilled infographic designer can develop an attractive color palette and understandable visual theme for your data visualization.

Consider how this Washington Post infographic uses a simplified color scheme in shades of blue with recognizable landmarks. Clear imagery shows the incredible depth of a black box signal associated with a downed Malaysian airliner. This dizzying data is difficult to understand on its own and would lack real appeal in a standard chart or graph. However, descending into the ocean as you scroll down the page is a fascinating way to share the information.

Sleek Examples of Visual Data

The most important thing to keep in mind with a data visualization infographic is that you don’t have to conform to traditional collections of data visuals to share your point. Utilize the beauty and versatility of infographic design to vault your data sets to a new level of interest and intrigue.

Think past the obvious associations with your data and find new ways to help your viewers relate to the numbers. Check out this infographic on the largest bankruptcies in history illustrated as sinking ships of varying sizes. Bright pops of color on each boat’s paint job identify the sector for each bankruptcy so you can take in the greater scope of the information at a glance, while the nautical theme makes an otherwise dry financial topic more interesting.

The effectiveness of vaccines is extremely easy to grasp with this visual comparing pre-vaccine morbidity and post-vaccine incidents of disease. Simple syringes serve as an on-topic alternative to basic bars for this chart. The simplified color scheme makes it easy to absorb the information.

Data visualization infographics are a powerful way to condense your data and transform it into a single piece with incredible visual appeal. If you’re looking for a fresh way to share essential information, consider an infographic for your next piece of content. Highly shareable, educational, and interesting, data visualizations are a smart choice for nearly any topic.

About the author

Mandi Rogier

Mandi Rogier lives and writes in central Indiana. Over 8 years of freelance writing, she's covered everything from finance and business to culture and crafts. She spends her free time traveling, hiking, and exploring the Midwest with her two sons.