Choosing an Infographic Style: Side-by-Side Comparisons

Humans were built to respond to visual stimuli. Although we now can pass paragraphs around the globe, we still absorb pictures quicker. We process images 60,000 times faster than text, and our brains capture 90% of our information visually. It’s no surprise, then, that 65 percent of people are visual learners.

Even for those who aren’t visual learners, visuals have been shown to help establish long-term memories and improve comprehension. That’s why the infographic is our most successful way to communicate knowledge.

Infographics come in many forms, but which is right for your story? If you are weighing one thing against another, you need a side-by-side comparison.

Decisions and Debates

Two roads diverge and what do you do?

All day long we compare one thing with another. Stay or go? Pack lunch or go out? Trade in your car or drive it until it dies? We weigh the pros and cons of various choices all the time. It’s the heart off all communication. So naturally the side-by-side comparison infographic is a powerful device.

Maybe your project lends itself perfectly to a side-by-side. You’re comparing two cities, two products, or two schools of thought. Perhaps you’re comparing your thing to the competition’s thing. You could contrast the way your company is now with how it used to be.

Your story might not look like a comparison on the surface, but a side-by-side infographic might be a good way to get your point across. Are you trying to protect endangered sharks? Compare the Earth with sharks to an ecosystem without its top predators.

Your Narrative

You’re not just delivering information. You’re trying to prove something. What is it? Form a clear statement of the impression you aim to create. Building an infographic is like writing a mystery. Start by solving the crime, then work backwards. Now that you know what you’re trying to accomplish, how will you do it?

Brainstorm a list of all your thoughts. Write out your infographic in words only. Build a big pile of text we will use later. Then take that cloud of ideas and narrow it down to about five points. How will you prove those points?

Be sure you’ve researched both sides of your comparison. Chart similarities and differences. Note the most powerful bits of information.

Put your points in order. Lead your viewer down a road that ends with a kapow when you prove your point.

Finish with an introduction. What image and idea will welcome your viewer?

Your Stats

You can use statistics to prove anything. As such, you can use different statistics to disprove that same thing. Fantasy football writer Matthew Berry writes a “100 Facts” column annually where he admits all writers are liars. He shows numerically how to talk up or talk down any player in the league.

So choose your facts carefully. Get them from multiple sources that agree with one another. Just because it’s on the internet doesn’t mean it’s true.

Be sure to compare apples to apples. Not all metrics compare the same thing.

Now pick out your strongest stats with the most punch. Attach them to your main points and finish with your best numbers. Be sure to include a section at the end where you include the sources for your information.

Your Graphs

mac vs pc

Image via Flickr by Steven-L-Johnson

Plain numbers on a screen won’t palpitate anyone’s heart. Fortunately you have a multitude of options for displaying your stats. Pie charts, bar graphs, visual representations all show your points in different ways.

Play with them. Display your numbers in as many ways as you can. Put them on the screen. Print them out and hang them up. Ask people. Get their impressions. Read our guide on Data Visualizations. Then pick the one that works best for you.

Your Colors

Google vs Facebook

Image via Flickr by Sam Steiner

Whether or not this comparison resonates with you, it’s a wise choice of colors. It sticks to a basic red/blue palette. It uses a slight variation in hue from one side to the other, but the two sides look meant for one another. It’s not jarring.

Do you want to be jarring? That depends on your topic. If you are truly looking to upend your audience, you can make bold choices here. Still, you should stick to two or three basic colors. We’re not making a rainbow here.

Like graphs, play around with a range of colors. Get some opinions. Choose what works for you.

Do you already have a set of colors for your brand? If so, don’t vary far from that. Include your logo and contact information throughout. Don’t let anyone forget this is coming from you.

If you don’t have a brand color scheme yet, this is time to choose. Establish a recognizable look no one will miss.

The Hybrid

Your infographic is unique. Although you will start by choosing one style, elements from other types will creep in. Your finished product will be an original monster grafted from multiple styles.

You will certainly use parts of the Data Visualizations style because after all, an infographic is all about helping viewers visualize the data.

Read up on Flowcharts. You’ll learn how to guide your audience through the process. It’s more interactive because it focusses on the viewer. This will help you create a more orderly and purposeful infographic.

Keep it clean. The power of an infographic is its clarity. Attempting to build a map/timeline/chain-reaction Frankenstein might just leave you with useless chunks of corpses.

The Power of Comparison

Although many types exist, the comparison infographic is and tried and true style that can provide a solid starting point for a beginner, or a reliable tool for a veteran. Everything in life is a choice between A and B. Put your visitors, viewers, or customers in the same position. Put them on the fence and force them to pick a side.

If your content is strong and your strategy is wise, you can lead them in your direction.

About the author

David Klenda

David Klenda, also know as Eighty Six, is a poet and word mule. He writes for CopyPress, Bright Hub Education, College Factual, John Rood and himself. He's written two 10,000 syllable post-apocalyptic poems, a novella of cocktail fiction and many short pieces. He is a slam performer, Seahawks fan, cocktail maker, cigar lover, electric car driver, BBQ enthusiast, father of three and some things he forgot.