UX design of infographics – how much can we challenge the reader? Why does everything have to be easy for the reader? Could we convey additional emotion / understanding by making a layout challenging / longwinded / complicated etc?
Total Bombardment – Nellys approach to her work
infographics in every field – using the communication through their visuals
For several years I’ve been testing and trying different pricing structures for my freelance design work. However, one area I’ve been looking to explore is agile pricing.
The problems I’m hoping to solve are:
– new clients asking for ideas as part of a ‘pitch process’
– scope creep kicking in and pushing the project over budget, with no clear grounds for me to increase the price
– addition of new items
– blurring between the various stages so unclear when I can resort to my “I charge more for changes in this stage” caveat
What is Agile?
If a project is agile, it is broken down into “sprints”, each of which has a defined and tangible deliverable, in my case, a wireframe, image or report. With a tangible outcome, we can also attach a pre-agreed price to that ‘chunk’ of work.
Each section is priced up during the sprint before it – to allow for changes in scope.
– setting a price for each ‘sprint’ (including initial consultation) will mean I am paid for any work I do, even if the client takes it no further.
– currently my initial suggestions are made with a single pre-defined outcome based on quote price, this allows for more flexibility as we (the client and I) explore the project.
– it is an easy entry point for clients not 100% sure about working with me
– we can easily discuss and price-up changes that arise during each sprint
– if it’s not working for either party and the project does not reach completion, I still get paid for the work done – often not possible to quantify with a flat rate job with one outcome
– it is an unusual approach for design work and might confuse / deter clients
– charging for ‘ideas’ may put some clients off from the outset
– as with hourly – clients may be unwilling to enter into a project with an unknown final price. The solution here may be to offer an estimate or even a Max price.
What are your thoughts? Do you, as a designer, use this method?
A few months back I was invited by Glynis Powell and Sue Knox of the Marches Network (a group of museum development officers working across the West Midlands) to create an infographic to show off their work.
The information was a mix of statistics and text-based information on the various projects and successes throughout the year.
Grouping the Information
My first job was to look through the information for groupings – a way to sort the data and allow the reader to approach it in an organised manner.
I settled on 6 category titles:
These neatly covered all the areas of work – and all the data fitted into at least one of these categories – with some falling into more than one. This led to an interesting challenge, showing crossovers, and shared categories. I’ll confess, I’ve been dying to try a tube style map for a while, and this seemed like a perfect opportunity.
My normal process is to scribble a few words about each “bit” of information onto a post-it note, and spend a good amount of time (1-2 hours) rearranging them on my desk until a pattern or structure appears. However, in this case I felt Gliffy was a better tool. Gliffy is an online mind-mapping/flow diagram tool – and the main benefit for me is the ability to attach connection lines between 2 boxes, which move as you rearrange the boxes. perfect!
I created a series of boxes, one for each section of information, plus one header box for each category and started drawing the connection lines.
See the diagram below.
Note: as with any information – these connections were based on my understanding of the data – the client made some changes and further advice on how they felt the data should be grouped – so this diagram does not match the finished piece.
Moving into Illustrator
This Gliffy diagram gave me a great point of reference – when moving into Illustrator.
Gliffy allows you to export as an SVG file, which can be very useful in Illustrator, however i this case I simply printed off the image and had it next to me as I worked.
I created a grid on my Illustrator page to give me an idea of how large each “text box” should be, and then started creating the individual elements.
Once the tex boxes were in the right place I used the pen tool (with a 2mm curve) to create the lines.
There was some time between getting the brief, and receiving the information, so I spent this time working on the theme and colours I’d use in the infographic. Along with this infographic, there was also a set of 7 infographics I was to create in the future, so wanted to settle on a strong colour scheme that would work across all of them.
Textures and Ephemera
Even from the early drafts I wanted to give the infographics a weathered, archive feel – so used the texture below at 20% opacity. It added a beautiful finish to the infographic.
On the final graphic – I had to remove this texture as it caused some problems with file sizes, to be replaced with a simple pattern of random small dots. However it did reappear in the series of 7 infographics that followed.
I also wanted to add some further elements of “ephemera” to the infographic – museum style items, i.e handwritten notes, postcards, objects that would give that archive feel. As you can see above, the handwritten notes really added some texture>
I sourced these items from a range of places, including Design Cuts, and the host of free-vintage image sites out there including:
I’ve been considering the relationship between brand guidelines and infographics recently. I’d love your thoughts on this – tweet me!
A lot of infographics created today are wholly standalone from the rest of the company’s materials.
Is this right? Should infographics be 100% branded, partially or not at all?
(of course, it depends on the use, right?)
In my experience there are 3 potential scenarios:
client wants the infographic to strictly adhere to their brand guidelines
client would like fonts and colours used correctly, but is open about design style
client want’s something completely different to their brand guidelines
Scenario 1 – a client will furnish me with their data, creative brief and brand guidelines. They are insistent that all fonts, colours and logos are used as stated and want an infographic that fits wholly within their communication materials.
I can understand my some organisations would want to maintain a clean, consistent brand: especially if it’s particularly strong. The infographics would be easily recognisable as being from that organisation. They can be used in presentations, reports and alongside other communication materials whilst maintaining a united approach.
However, is there a risk of the infographic appearing too-corporate? If the company has a fun brand style, then it may work well as an infographic. However, a more traditional, staid, (dare we say it boring?) brand could end up looking like a corporate presentation. If you’re trying to reach a new audience, for example younger or more ‘hip”, this brand may not work in this case.
Scenario 2 – this tends to be smaller clients, or those who do not have a defined creative “look” for their organisation. They may not be in the creative or tech industries (i.e. engineering or manufacturing) and are less concerned with their corporate identity.
In these cases I tend to lean towards using the colours in their logo. As they are less defined about their brand, I would want anything I create to fit, in some way if only colour, with their other communication materials.
The risk here is that the client develops a disjointed approach. Yes, the infographic may have been effective in it’s own right – and perhaps that’s enough. However, if the client is considering using the infographic long term, or developing their corporate brand, it may be wise to spend some time thinking about the overall look and feel of the organisation and bring the infographic in line with that.
Scenario 3 – I have had clients who have wanted to try something completely new and move far away from their corporate identity. This tends to be more traditional organisations who recognise that their brand is either not suited to the infographic or would not be well-received by the public.
I am yet to come across a client who wants an infographic without their logo (although I can imagine a public body, for example, may want the focus to be on the message, not on the organisation behind it!)
Organisations that have a range of audiences, i.e. a local council may want to reach out to different people at different times, so would want a range of design approaches.
Surely the audience should come first. If they would respond positively to the clients brand then use it, if not, perhaps go another way?
@carolinebeavon too much adherence to brand guidelines means the end user is forgotten about. Content designed for consumer not brand…
The focus of my talk was Presenting Your Big Data, where I was keen to stress the importance of thinking about the audience. Highly technical and numerate crowds often forget that the people they’re communicating with may not understand data as well as they do. It’s important to engage the audience, connect with them, help them understand, reveal the data through navigation and allow the audience to make their own discoveries through exploration. You can see my slides here
Ahead of the event I was collared for a quick interview with Paige from The Information Daily. The interview may be appearing on the Information Daily website soon – I’ll share the link when it goes up!
The presentation was delivered on the Giant Screen at Millennium Point which I wasn’t a huge fan of – no slides look good at that scale and some of the audience looked a little too comfy in those big cinema seats!
I did get the change to have an interesting discussion with Vernon Blackmore about the use of infographics and diagrams in academic documents. Several organisatons are still reliant on heavy text and documentation. A phD student (Stuart?) who joined our chat admitted that his attention span was low and he struggled to tackle weighty tomes! Vernon suggested that there could be some greater encouragement of visual communication within academia, where students are encouraged to demonstrate their learning through diagrams instead of text, and he’s already recommending tools like Infogr.am to help them present their information!
I’ve also spend quite a bit of time this week researching environmental graphic design after a potential client asked be to quote for creating a wall-based infographic for their new building.
This is an interesting area. Museums and galleries are already adept at using their space to relay information but until now my experience has been either on a flat surface (paper or online) or in an animated interactive space (touch table).
The added challenge with this brief was to allow the infographic to be up-dateable on a regular basis (ie monthly) as the statistics change.
After seeing her speak at the Design Festival in Cheltenham, I was taken with Morag Myerscough/Studio Myerscough‘s huge scale graphics, and have been inspired by her use of text, colour and usability. You can see some of the images I’ve pulled together as part of this research on Pinterest
The job would include actually putting the infographic onto the wall, so I’ve also been looking into various techniques for adding lettering and design to a surface – ie vinyl letters, stencils etc.
Fingers crossed the client likes the ideas I sent over!
CUC – Creating Usable Content
I’m in Cardiff next week delivering an Infographics workshop for the Creating Usable Content event. I’ll be travelling down with one of my co-tutors, Pete Ashton, on the Sunday night and spending all of Monday delivering the course several times over.
My aim for the 50 minute workshop is to guide group through the infographics process! Now as this usually takes a couple of days it’s going to be quite fast paced, but I’ve already prepared the information and will be using it to help everyone learn the important of sorting your content and thinking about your audience!
I have a couple of other projects bobbling along nicely right now – I’m working on Sampad’s My Route project, where we’re developing an interactive touch table app to allow people to explore the history of the Stratford Road in Birmingham.
I’m also in the very early stages of writing an e-learning book on Music Journalism for the Open Professional School – I’m making a start on the initial outline next week so will report back then on how it’s coming together!
And finally, I’m trying to find the time to work on a couple of self-initiated projects (i.e. not for a client) including:
an idea for some hyperlocal maps to help people find useful locations in their local area (ie cashpoints, cafes, parks etc) that they may not be aware of
images for Red Bubble – a site which allows customers to “build” their own products (tshirts, iphone cases etc) from images uploaded by designers, who get a cut of the original – not sure if its entirely worth the effort, but I’m currently investigating!
Caroline Beavon is a freelance information and infographics designer – get in touch for more details