Anatomy of an Infographic: University of Oxford Economic Impact

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Anatomy of an Infographic: University of Oxford Economic Impact

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This series of blog posts will go behind-the-scenes of some of my favourite portfolio pieces, revisiting the challenges and solutions. 


 

INTRO: One of my more recent infographics but definitely a favourite. I’d been looking to create an isometric map for ages, and this seemed like a perfect time to do so. Sadly, I was called away on a family emergency towards the end of this process and would have liked to have tweaked a few things, but all-in-all I’m very happy with it.

BRIEF: I was approached by the University of Oxford to create a series of digital assets for their latest campaign to promote the economic value of the university to the local region.

THE DATA: I was provided with a list of bullet point statistics explaining how much income and jobs students, staff, tourism, science parks and spin-outs bring to the region.

 

THE PROCESS

ASSESS THE AIM AND AUDIENCE

Aas part of my new process I now spend time considering the message of the infographic. This helps me shape a clear narrative and decide on an effective design approach. The aim here was to reach people of Oxford, and explain that the University has a value to the whole area, not just the students who attend. This led me to consider a variety of techniques for reaching a local audience – local landmarks, references and maps for example. The client had already asked me not to use the traditional ‘dreaming spires’ imagery of Oxford – and I was glad to oblige. This was a local audience, not necessarily an academic one, so the information had to be relevant, interesting and understandable. We removed one data point regarding the number of ‘spin-outs’ as I felt it was not relevant to this infographic.

EXPLORATION AND WIREFRAMING

Writing the information onto post-it notes I was able to experiment with different layouts quickly. The data lent itself to 2 possible approaches. We had 6 topics, each with 2 data points, which could be arranged into a neat 6×2 grid. Alternatively we could give each topic a geographical location and place all the information on the map. I created two datamaps / wireframes for the client (see below), so they could focus simply on the information being included and feedback on any changes they wanted to the text or narrative. The client eventually opted for the map approach.

 

 

LOCATING THE TOPICS

First, I had to allocate each topic a geographical location.

The two science parks were easy to place so they were placed on the map first.

Next I researched the main student residential areas in Oxford (despite the fact so many live in halls) and placed the ‘student’ topic to the east of the city. The ‘staff’ topic was located north-east – where the main administrative building is located. This left tourism, which could easily be located in any part of Oxford, due to its popularity with visitors. The research related to the wider Oxfordshire area, not just Oxford, so this area had to appear on the map. However the locations we were referring to were all clustered in Oxford. I used some artistic license to distribute the locations around  the outside of Oxford itself.

CREATING THE ISOMETRIC MAP

The base: Thankfully Adobe Illustrator has an isometric function – which means you can create a grid and tilt it using the Effects > 3D function and changing the option at the top of the box.

 

The roads: using a screenshot of Oxfordshire I recreated the roads as best i could using the grid format. I did this on a flat square (before I applied the isometric effect above). In retrospect, I would instead use a large green grid, and simply recolour the squares I wanted to show as roads. This would have kept consistency and made for a neater map.

The buildings: I used several buildings from Adobe stock as a base, but amended some key features and added colour to tie in with the topic colour. I attempted to make the science parks look as similar to their real buildings as possible, based on research via Google Earth. I edited some of the windows on the student building to maintain detail-consistency and made some changes to shadow direction as the buildings came from different sources.

The people: I found a set of isometric people which I amended to create the population of the map. I added longer white coats to the scientists, changed the hair colour and dress of the other characters to bring variety.

 

AND NOW?

I’d definitely like to create another isometric map – I really enjoyed the process of creating the universe and found it a creative way to present information.


About Author

Caroline Beavon

A communication professional with 12 years journalism experience and a genuine passion for new technologies. An experienced blogger and social media user

"Really good, start with some theory, end with practical work. Bang on!" Infographics training attendee, Oxfordshire County Council