Tag Archives: infographic

18 Sep

Anatomy of an Infographic: CATH project flow diagram

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


INTRO: Yes, it’s busy and overwhelming but I love this piece I designed in 2014 for a collaborative arts project in Birmingham.

BACKGROUND: The project, headed up by a team from University of Birmingham, saw 3 types of organisations come together into smaller project groups to essentially ‘see what they could come up with”. Academics would bring a research capability, SME’s would perhaps offer technical services or design skills and SCOs (Small cultural organisations) would bring cultural awareness and challenges.

BRIEF: my brief was to create a diagram that truly captured the complexity and challenges faced by the project and to give a feeling of chaos moving into organisation.

THE DATA: I was given a Word document table, with a row for each group with the name of each SCO, SME and Higher Education representative in that group.

THE PROCESS

  • Expand the data: The data was a useful starting point but I felt there was more interesting data to be uncovered by getting more specific. By drilling down into each individual participant, I uncovered more data and develop a hierarchy / categorisation of everyone involved. So a lecturer from Birmingham University was given a more specific categorisation based on his specialism – e.g. Humanities > History. SME’s and SCO’s were similarly broken down into more specific sub-categories.
  • Structure the data: Whilst I had added new layers to the information, I also had limited space in which to present it, so I had to go through a round of merging and rethinking in order to create some smaller groupings. I also wanted to get data-sign-off before starting the design stage, as it would be much harder to change later on. I used a wireframing app (e.g. Draw.io or xDiagram (mac)) to create a basic flow chart which the client could easily understand. It was also important for each participant to approve their categorisation – this was to be a permanent record of the project and we needed buy-in from everyone involved. These basic wireframes of each sector were sent to the relevant participants for their comment. As you can imagine there were some changes with some valuable feedback and suggestions. By the end of this process I had a spreadsheet with each participant on a different row, with maximum 4 layers of detail for each one, plus their outcome project title.
  • Create the basic diagram:  I used RAW (http://rawgraphs.io/) to create a basic alluvial diagram. Whilst a complete mess it was simply a starting point and once imported into Illustrator as an SVG it was incredibly useful.
  • Finalise the diagram: At this point I realised that the left hand side of the chart required a more hand-drawn approach, whilst the right could rely more heavily on the output from RAW. This had the additional benefit of capturing another element of the project. The tree-branch feel on the left represented the human, natural unstructured growth of the participants, but when pulled together they produce a more digital, structured outcome. I spend considerable time in Illustrator developing the left and side of the chart in order to distribute the ‘chaos’ and ‘twists’ evenly, but also aid comprehension.

 

 

28 Jun

Anatomy of an Infographic: University of Oxford Economic Impact

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.

09 Apr

All about mapping right now

All about mapping right now

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I’m currently working on a handful of map-based projects for clients.

Two of them are using Tableau to create maps about funding in relation to demographic information. I’m leaning heavily on Mapbox (https://www.mapbox.com) to create personalised maps
The other is a map-based infographic for a new educational client (HINT: a well known top-notch University!)

(note the image above is NOT my map – more on that later)

We have 8/9 key statistics to get across, each of them relating to different groups at the University – e.g. The students, the staff, spin-out businesses etc.

The aim of the map is to highlight the connections with the local community so I’ve decided to put these on a stylised map – with the statistic connected to an area associated with those people e.g. The mainstudent living areas.

The risk now is to avoid the map turning into just a map – as there is a desire to add more locations attatched to the wider project.

I’ve been exploring vairous approaches to the map

> flat
> stylised
> computer-game style

I have come across a great app (http://ift.tt/2ntpUke) that turns any area into a Sims style world – great fun but probably not overly helpful for this project.

Watch this space

14 Feb

Infographics? Infovisuals? Stop and think

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Visual communication is nothing new.

Man has been daubing on walls and scratching into rock for centuries. Whether it’s “5 Ways to Catch and Skin a Deer” or “The River Styx: Everything You Need to Know”, visual representations of information have been the simplest way to pass information from one person to another.

Nowadays, the data explosion has meant there is not only more information to be conveyed, but an increased demand for access and understanding. We want price checks, reviews and evidence before we hand over our money and companies have to work harder to gain our loyalty. There’s also the decrease in trust of power – public organisations have to be transparent, as each member of the public becomes as hungry for facts and proof as the most voracious reporter of the past. Add the internet and especially social media into the mix and you have the perfect transportation method for this information.

Of course, with every shift in human consciousness, there are those who misunderstand, misuse and abuse this shift. The demand for infographics has reached fever pitch and organisations are now jumping on this dangerously overcrowded bandwagon.

If you’re one of those people thinking, “we need to get visual” but aren’t sure how or why – read on.

 

What are you visualising?

buttons-02-150x150I’ve been approached by organisations in the past who want infographics creating, but have no idea what the content will be. They’d simply heard the phrase and wanted a piece of the action.

Your visual communication must be driven by content. Would you write a press release or blog post, with no idea at the start what it’s for? Of course not. An infographic or data visualisation must be part of your overall communication message.

If you’d like to use visuals, take a look at your current projects. What kind of information are you dealing with?

For example, are you dealing with numbers/stats, the most common form of content for visual communication? Charts and data visualisation are tried and tested methods of explaining numbers. Great for showing prices, budget cuts, population counts and user demographics.

Perhaps you have location data. Maps are the most obvious way of communicating geographical data, as we understand how maps work and can instantly put ourselves into the picture – we can see how the data will affect us directly. New store locations, country of origin of products, transportation routes all work well mapped.

timeMany organisations overlook the third type of data: time and dates. Visit a museum and you’ll probably come across a timeline – again, a tool that allows us to put concepts into a visual form for us to understand. If you’re trying to explain the growth of your company, future development plans for an area or a events schedule, a timeline allows the user to access this data in a logical way.

There is another form of data that does not fall into any of these categories, but often requires the most explanation: systems and processes. How your company is structured, how that process works or why that thing happened. Flow diagrams and mindmaps can be useful tools to turn that understanding into something that anyone could follow.

Of course it could be a mix of these – showing stats on a map or the timescale of a process – and this is where infographics and data visualisations get really interesting.

 

Who is Your Audience?

Spending some time considering your audience will help you pick the right tool for the job. No point using an interactive online only tool if you target audience are not computer users. Of course, infographics and data visualisations can work well in print, whether that’s billboards, posters or flyers – it’s just worth thinking who they are before you start designing.

So here are a few questions to ask yourself about your reader

  1. what do they want from your visual? Why are they engaging with it?
  2. How old are they? You’ll use a different visual for young people and adults
  3. where are they? Reading online? In a doctors surgery? Different attention span, different tool – think
  4. What prior knowledge do they have? Avoid confusing them, but also don’t be condescending.
  5. What are their literacy/numeracy levels? Can you rely on text and stats, or does it need to be simpler than that?
  6. What will they think? You’ll use a different approach to announce job cuts than to promote your new product.
  7. What is their starting point? If you’re mapping libraries in your town, what will they use to search – will they necessarily know the library name or their “ward”? Think about how they’ll interact with your information

 

Why are you doing this?

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What story are you trying to tell with the information? As with a press release, there is something you are trying to get across. Are you announcing some new plans? Is there budget cut information you need to explain?

Each set of data will contain key information – this has probably sparked the idea for a visual in the first place – so make sure your visual tells that story clearly.

Then there’s the message – it may be that you’re not conveying any opinion or feeling on the data – or perhaps you need to make sure you appear sympathetic about those job cuts, or excited about the new product announcements. Either way, you need to make sure that tone is clear through design decisions and tool choice.

The final consideration is action – specifically, what do you want the reader to do? An anti-littering infographic will have the aim of encouraging them to use the rubbish bins. Perhaps you want them to think less harshly of your organisation, or simply understand the situation a little better. Make sure you keep this intended action at the front of your mind when developing your visuals.

 

Caroline Beavon is a freelance infographic and data visualisation designer. She has worked with local authorities and charities offering information design solutions to comms teams across the UK.

19 Apr

Studio Diary: 19 Apr 2016 – Levellers, text-wrangling and hi-res images

noun_calendar_404 19 April 2016
10:45am
noun_map-pin_394189My desk
Jewellery Quarter, Birmingham

 

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I’m working on a couple of fairly straightforward infographic projects today. I prefer to have several projects on the go at a time – it means I always have something to work on, even if some are with clients for review.

 

screenshotArts report
I’m creating 5 A4 graphics to be inserted into a Word report. These 5 pages are made up of stylised maps (of a town, a region and the UK) with points referring to a directory of artists / organisations. Working over several pages has been interesting (most of my work is single page) and wrangling this much text has been fun. I’ve also got to use cute icons and to aid navigation across the page.

 

 screenshotRecruitment one-pager
18 months ago I worked with a Birmingham recruiter to create a series of infographics to share their key statistics and contact details. Now I’ve been asked to modify one of the pages for a different department. My design skills have improved in 18 months and I’m having to fight the urge to redesign the whole thing. I’m also getting to work with a subtle texture on the page, which really adds something special to the image.

 

screenshotPublic health survey
This has been a long running project with some major rethinks along the way. We’re 99% there, and after toying with data visualisations and interactive tools, we’ve now settled on a set of 3 infographics to show the key data from this sexual survey. I’ve wanted to use a hi-res photo background for an infographic for a while, and the image worked perfectly. Bonus that it was one of my 7 free images from Adobe Stock.

 

08 Apr

This week: waiting waiting waiting

w/c 4 Apr 2016

 

It’s all about waiting this week.

 

 

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MOVE DATE

I’m in the middle of selling my flat in Birmingham and relocating to Brighton, on the south coast. As with any move there is a huge list of things that need to be done – not the least is packing. However, I’m still waiting for my move date so I can’t really start tackling most of that list as it could be a few weeks away.

Also knowing a move is coming I’ve cleared the decks a little work-wise, so I’m now spinning my wheels a little. I know it’s going to be hectic once we get the dates so I’m trying to enjoy the downtime while I can.

 

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SURVEY PROJECT

Last week I was approached by a professional organisation to quote for a 4-page infographic report due end April. I sent over a few ideas and some figures and am now keeping my fingers crossed.

I’m due to hear back this week and and keen to get started as soon as possible if I’m successful.

 

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CAR RETAILER CHAIN

A blast from the past this one! A former work colleague contacted me through Facebook to ask about my infographic services. They’re keen to add this communication format to their portfolio, but had no strong ideas of what they wanted to do.

This is quite an unusual situation for me, as I’m usually working with a clients data or information. In this case, I’m pulling from my journalism background to help develop a series of small infographics to be seeded over social media.

Again, a few ideas were sent over .. let’s hope it comes off as I’m really keen to work on this one.

03 Apr

Paxlife / Cloud 10 – graphics for explainer video

BRIEF: To concept and create a series of graphics for an animated “explainer” video for airline in-flight entertainment company, Paxlife to promote Cloud 10.

This was a collaboration with filmaker / animator Liz Smith (Entertaining TV). who generated the animations and project-managed. Together we planned out the graphics based on the client script and developed a seamless workflow.

 

29 Mar

BestByWM: report infographic and footers

#bestbywm is a white paper investigating social media best practice in the West Midlands, UK.

Find full report here:

Following a survey of local authority communications teams I was invited to generate a series of infographics for the report. This included:

* a full page results infographic
* a series of footer infographics showing social media stats
* a simple infographic showing the cost of communcation channels

 

Bestbywm A Bestbywm B Bestbywm C Bestbywm D Bestbywm E

10 Nov

Need a Tableau dashboard? Here’s the information I need

This post discussed my use of Tableau Software. For more information on Tableau visit the official website

Tableau logo
I’ve always used Tableau to quickly get to grips with a new data set and play with different chart types until I come across something effective. I’ve also created several ‘personal’ projects using this tool.

More recently, I’ve been talking to several clients about creating Tableau dashboards or interactive infographics for them.

These are the questions I ask myself / them at the start of any new Tableau project, on top of the usual design questions (which may form another blog post at some point)

Feedback / thoughts welcome via Twitter.

 

CURRENT USE

  • Do you currently use Tableau?
  • Do you use dashboards and / or storyboards?
  • What version of Tableau do you use – Public, Desktop, Server etc
  • Is Tableau part of your usual workflow, or something you use for standalone projects
  • Is there one person who uses Tableau in your organisation, or are most people skilled in Tableau?
  • Do you use Tableau to generate your calculations, or is the bulk of the statistical work done in the original dataset?
  • Can you share files, links or screenshots of how you currently use Tableau?

 

THIS PROJECT (what we are creating)

  • What are your aims for this project? (i.e. “to create a dashboard to let our staff see our monthly statistics”)
  • Is there a particular challenge/problem your are looking to solve?
  • Who is your intended audience?
  • is the dashboard just for internal use?
  • What do you envisage to be the final outcome of this project? – i.e. a single dashboard, multiple dashboards (story), a single visualisation, an interactive infographic

 

VIEWING THE PROJECT

  • do you want the project to be viewable online by anyone?
  • will the project need some explanation/wider context?
  • will the project need some instructions or will all your users be familiar with Tableau?

 

THE DATA

  • is the data for this project part of a larger data set already existing in Tableau or are we starting from scratch?
  • is the data ready to go, or does it need more work to get it into shape?
  • is the data already public?
  • is it ok for the data to be accessible/downloaded by anyone who accesses the project?

 

THE DESIGN

  • is it important for this project to meet corporate branding guidelines?
  • does this need to be suitable for mobile use?
30 Aug

Museums, tube lines and handwritten notes – Marches network infographic

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.

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The Layout

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:

  • volunteers
  • paid staff
  • economic
  • governance
  • visitors
  • collections

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.

The Lines

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. 

Flow diagram showing the structure of information for a museum infographic

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.

screenshot

 


Design Considerations

Colours

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.

Colours for Marches network infographics

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.

screenshotscreenshot

 

Ephemera

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:

http://e-vint.com/free.html

https://www.flickr.com/photos/chrysti/sets/72057594064002193/

Typeface

The typeface I used was Anodyne, purchased as part of a vintage pack from Design Cuts. It’s really effective, with strong definition but a weathered feel.

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The Finished Infographic

Marches Network infographic

 

 

 

 

 

 

03 Jul

Brand Guidelines and Infographics

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:

  1. client wants the infographic to strictly adhere to their brand guidelines
  2. client would like fonts and colours used correctly, but is open about design style
  3. 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?

01 Jul

Infographics for Housing Associations

brighton tidy street houses

It’s been all about housing associations recently!

I’m currently working on an annual report infographic for Thames Valley Housing (covering their key statistics) but was also recently invited to speak to a network group of National Housing Federation communications professionals in the West Midlands.

I delivered a 45 minute talk on infographics including:

  • why infographics
  • the process of developing them
  • some key tools.

What I find interesting at these events is hearing about what the individuals are doing, and thinking how infographics / information design could fit into their communication plans.

[toc]

Newsletters

There was an interesting discussion about newsletters. It seems many of the HA’s still post out a physical newsletter as opposed to email, as some residents don’t have internet access. These newsletters seem to cover the main events and news since the last issue was released.

Infographics would be a great way to engage readers in the developments of the HA, and the changes in their environment. Each issue could include a really simple diagram or chart giving a snapshot of the demographics of other residents, for example, or the number of new homes acquired.

Using a similar style in each issue, and having the infographic on the same page, could become a really interesting destination for readers.

Annual Reports

As I mentioned above, I’m currently working on an annual report infographic for Thames Valley Housing. This will sit within their full report, but will also work as a standalone graphic.

Annual reports are chock-full of standalone statistics – i.e. customer demographics, number of homes, moves . new lets, size of homes etc. This is perfect for the infographic layout style.

Leaflets / Flyers

Leaflets are a great way to distribute information, especially to a less digitally-active audience. If you’re trying to drum up interest in a subject, for example – a change in rent, a new development or to highlight a particular problem area (i.e. anti-social behaviour) you could turn the leaflet into a fold-out infographic, or use small diagrams to back up the text/argument.

Process Documents

The housing process can be a stressful time for new residents. The paperwork and process can be confusing so HA’s could head off any tension by creating a series of documents with infographics to explain what, when and how things will happen.

For example, a timeline of the application process will allow people to understand how long it will take, whilst a chart could explain what the rent covers and how often it needs to be paid.

Residents could also learn about the various housing options with infographics showing demographic breakdown (i.e. are there other children nearby for mine to play with? or is it a particularly young area).

Environmental

Take a look at the image above! There’s no reason to keep infographics on the page or screen. Tidy Street in Brighton plotted their electricity use on the road itself for a few months back in 2011. Read more about this here

It could be about recycling, fundraising or any other group challenge! Why not?

 


 Caroline Beavon is a freelance information and infographics designer – get in touch for more details

 

29 Jun

Sunday Mirror – Justice on Trial supplement

Last weekend I was incredibly proud to see a series of my infographics appear in the Sunday Mirror newspaper.

I had been commissioned to work on the graphics, in collaboration with the Ampp3d data journalism team and the editorial staff at the newspaper.

I think it’s fair to say it’s my most high-profile piece of work to date, and the staff at the paper were incredibly pleased with the results!

You can see a few of the pages below:

Sunday Mirror  - Justice on Trial page 2 and 3

Sunday Mirror - Justice on Trial supplement page 12 and 13

Sunday Mirror - Justice on Trial page 14 and 15

Sunday Mirror - Justice on Trial page 22 and 23

 

20 May

CB Ltd infographic used in winning business award entry

Congratulations to Engineers Mate, a West Midlands engineering supply company, who recently approached Caroline Beavon Ltd to boost their entry for the Express and Star Business Awards 2014.

On the night they picked up the Young Business Award.

The company wanted a one page infographic (below) to explain the growth of the company over the past 12 months, as well as a series of slide images to use during their presentations to the judges.

It was great working with Engineers Mate as their industry was a far cry from the local government and arts organisations I normally work with

 

 Caroline Beavon is a freelance information and infographics designer – get in touch for more details

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Engineers Mate - infographic-01

09 May

My Week – 5-9 May 2014 / big screens, walls and audiences


 Caroline Beavon is a freelance information and infographics designer – get in touch for more details

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It’s been another one of those funny short bank Holiday weeks – but here’s a quick summary of what I’ve been working on in the infographics design world, and training!

SCIENCE CAPITAL

On Tuesday night I spoke at the Science Capital “Doing Business With Data event at Millennium Point in Birmingham.

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!

MYSTERY CLIENT X

(image The Happy Show at Design Exchange, Toronto)

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.

tumblr_mh54gyjDGa1r9ewdgo1_1280This 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.

This will be a much-condensed version of a half-day infographics workshop I held at Coventry City Council a few weeks ago.

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!

OTHER PROJECTS

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
  • icons for the Noun Project
  • 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

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21 Feb

Information Designer for Hire: what to expect

Whilst organisations may have had experience working with graphics or branding designers in the past, the process to develop an infographic is very different.

screenshot

 

Ask any graphics designer who’s been asked to convert a 20 page report into an image, and chances are they’ll tell you that designing an infographic requires a whole new set of skills. I think of myself as a designer-meets-journalist-meets-number cruncher – as the content needs editing, selecting and crafting, and *then* designing.

Your input is vital to the success of the project – you know what you want and you know your industry – it’s up to you to point out the important information and decide on your message.

Here is a run down of the process structure I use:

[toc]

Initial Decision

So you’ve decided your company needs an infographic.

You may have a strong idea of what needs communicating (ie you’re end of year finances, a new process or a summary of your work) or you may have simply heard the word, and feel you should get on board.

Knowing what you want communicating (the concept as opposed to the specific content) is important and will save you time . It’s also worth thinking about a few key things, as they will be useful to know at the start of the process:

  • what are you trying to communicate? You can read more about this here
  • who is your audience? age, knowledge, gender, nationality
  • is this for online, print or both?
  • what is your deadline?
  • what is your budget?
  • do you have the information, or do you want me to source it?

You will be asked more questions as the process goes on but these are a good starting point.

Initial Contact

Normally via email or social media asking about prices and timescale

Much of my work comes in via email, Twitter or Linkedin – with a client contacting me with a tentative query about costings. It’s such a new area of design that the pricing structure is an unknown – and few designers (including myself) put prices on their websites. (This is because every job is different. Pricing is based on final output, amount of research required and how quickly you need it).

I’m usually happy to give a ballpark figure but always ask for more information before giving an official quote.

Many designers quote by the hour – I quote per job. I find this puts everyone at ease (including myself). Of course, I have contingency plans in place if the project spirals out of control through changes by the client – but these are explained fully with my initial quote.

I’ll give a full and detailed price quote once we have completed the next stage, the initial discussion.

First Discussion

An opportunity for us to set out initial ideas, and discuss the project in great depth

Your initial conversation with your infographic designer is key. It may be held face to face (my preference) or over the telephone. It’s your time to explain what you want, or be honest and say you don’t really know *what* you want. Make sure you have as much information as possible to hand.

Treat it like a first date – find out as much as you can about each other, the process and how each other works. From this you can decide if working together is right for you.

I may do some rough sketching (on an iPad) whilst we are talking, so we can make sure we understand each other.

Full Quote

 

Once I have a better understanding of the job, and we have worked out the basic aims and objectives, I will send over a final quote, before starting any work. You will be asked to sign a New Job Agreement form, which quotes the price and details of what the quote does (and doesn’t) include.

Depending on the size of the job/length of time it will take, I sometimes ask for 30% or 50% upfront.

First Drafts

A series of draft ideas to show you some options of layout and theme/styling

One we’ve had the initial discussions I’ll spend up to a week (depending on the amount of work you want) developing a series of options. Here I’ll be exploring 2 areas:

  • content layout
  • styling  / theme / concept

I will usually send 2/3 very different images (by PDF or image file), each one showing a different layout and theme, but you can mix and match if you prefer. Of course, you also have the option to scrap all 3 options, and offer feedback or guidance as to why you don’t feel they’re right.

These will not be fully completed images (the themes often develop over time) so I’d ask you to be prepared for some changes in the future and any temporary placeholder content in the image.

One you’ve selected a content layout and theme I will start work on the final image.

Work In Progress

An opportunity for you to see a part-completed image, and make sure you’re happy with the direction

As I said above, this is a collaboration, so I will be checking in with you as I design the final image. This could be for several reasons:

  • if I shift dramatically from the original image
  • if I want to confirm you are still happy with image
  • to avoid the disappointment of you not liking the final image

I may send whole images, or part of images to make sure you’re happy.

Final Proof Image

The final image – before spell-check and final tweaks, for you to approve

Once I’ve worked up a final image I sent it over for you to review. This image may still have typos, spelling errors and require more precise tweaking, but I always leave these until you are is 100% happy with the image (no point pixel-checking content that may change!)

You will then be asked to confirm the content, make any final changes (if major changes it will lead to further charges) and run it past their team (if necessary).

Proof-reading / final tweaks

I employ a proof reader to check final images in terms of spelling mistakes, statistics and grammar issues. If you stare at an image for so long, it’s easy for errors to slip through the net. I also ask you/your team to check the final information as well – the more eyes the better.

Once I’ve made any changes I will tidy the image up, make sure everything is aligned etc and prepare a final files for you (depending on their requirements)

Final Image

Final image is sent over and once you have given it the final OK, I will invoice for the full/balance amount.

 


18 May

10 Rules for Using Icons on Infographics

Icons, pictograms, smileys, dingbats – call them what you like – visual language is a fascinating area of design.

Yes, varieties of visual language has been used for years, with varying degrees of success, and it’s likely that icons will one day be relegated to the “naf bin”.

For now, thought, there are a range of icons out there that can really spice up your website, infographic or presentation

But use with care – here are my 10 tips:

  1. Don’t use them for the sake of it
  2. Use logical icons – don’t make the reader work out what you’re trying to say
  3. Do use them to break up lots of text
  4. Don’t use them to fill up space – get more content or make your infographic smaller
  5. Avoid using icons from radically different sets – try to keep the same theme throughout
  6. Use them if your audience may not understand the text (ie young, international)
  7. Consider using an icon OR a word, not both  – i.e. avoid EMAIL word and an EMAIL logo
  8. Use an icon to illustrate a long header/paragraph
  9. Try to use icons appropriate to the audience – classy for business, cute for children. Why do we still use the traditional “telephone” symbol for phone, when no phones look like that any more?
  10. Don’t be naf/cliche – bored of “toilet man”? Try using a different style character

If you want to find some good handy icons, give these font based ones a go (by sharing these links I’m not vouching for safety of anything you download – virus scan folks!)

The Noun Project

http://www.dafont.com/

http://www.fontspace.com/category/dingbats

http://cooltext.com/Fonts-Dingbats

17 May

Off-the-peg infographics – Easel.ly V Piktochart


 Caroline Beavon is a freelance information and infographics designer – get in touch for more details

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Technically, as an infographics/data visualisations designer, I really shouldn’t even be promoting these but they’re big news at the moment and you may be tempted to give them a go.

Choosing one of these tools is the equivalent of using a template CV  – it does the job, most people won’t mind and it’s cheaper /easier than doing something else.

The downside is, they can look “off the peg”, you still need a certain amount of creativity to get something original and you’ll end up changing your content to fit into the theme you’re using.

But they’re free/cheap and great if you can’t afford someone like me (If you can, feel free to get in touch … see some of my hand drawn work here)

———–

The 2 infographics designer tools I’ll be comparing are Easel.ly and Piktochart. Scroll down to SUMMARY if you’re short of time!

Both are free services (with pro versions available with more theme options etc.) I’ll be looking at the free versions today.

The principle is that you pick a theme, and remove/change/add graphics and text to illustrate your information.

 

Piktochart

PIktochart

The 6 themes available with the free version of Piktochart

Piktochart allows you to choose from a selection (seven) themes, which can then be further modified within the editing window i.e. background and images.

The choice of themes is pretty limited (and look a bit dated now) and some of the graphics do verge on the “clipart” but there are some useful items in there if you dig around the “Entertainment” category (would be easier to have broken down a bit!).

You can add or remove entire sections (blocks) within the editing window which is handy for moving chunks of information around the graphic. However, I’ve found this to be more of a hindrance than a help as it’s quick glitchy to use (maybe it needs getting used to!)

Sadly, you cannot accurately use the graphics to denote scale (ie larger circles for larger values)  – yes you can manually drag the size of the icons, but not input a specific size – so your I would suggest avoiding “size” as a visual tool altogether.

There is the function to upload and add your own graphics, useful for photos or corporate logos.

Piktochart comes into it’s own, however, with the function to add charts. Dragging the “chart” tool onto the desktop opens a spreadsheet style window that you simply paste your data into (you can also upload a CSV). Don’t expect miracles if you upload huge swathes of data, however – as the charting tool is about as smart as the one in Excel. I suggest uploading a few select statistics and selecting the chart that suits. You can easily modify colours and style, so it’s a great tool for inserting small snappy charts into your infographic.

Easel.ly

easely screengrab

Just a few of the many themes available with the free version of Easel.ly

Where Piktochart fell down on overall style of themes and graphics, Easel.ly wins hands down. It’s a smooth clean interface, with some great graphics and icons to choose from. It’s very simple to use and there are some very smart themes to give you a head start.

Plus, and this is a big plus for me, you can  open a “clear window“, essentially start from scratch. With Piktochart you have to manually delete all the elements, and as the themes are quick complex, with some “locked” content, this can be a big hassle.

The 2 downsides of Easel.ly are biggies, however.

1. You cannot introduce data or charts. This is a real shame as this would put Easel.ly ahead of Piktochart.

2. As with Piktochart, you cannot specify the size of graphics – so could not use this for visually showing scale.

 

SUMMARY

If you need to introduce accurate charts to your infographics, I suggest using Piktochart. If not, Easel.ly wins hands down on style, ease of use and creativity.

GOOD BAD
EASE.LY nice choice of iconsuseful and stylish layoutseasy to use (not over complicated)simple to use no charts facilitycannot accurately specify size of objectscan’t specify size of image
PIKTOCHART allows you add data/chartsability to add “blocks” of content to change size of imageability to move blocks of content around limited themesno “blank” themetricky to delete current content

cannot accurately specify size of objects
poor choice of icons
icons cheezy/cliche
bit clunky

 

 


 Caroline Beavon is a freelance information and infographics designer – get in touch for more details

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20 Dec

PROJECT: Sampad Annual Report

You can see more of my infographic and data visualization work here

 

A few months ago I was invited to create an infographic for the charity, Sampad.

The challenge was this: to show some of the key statistics from their year of activity, in a small area on a single or series of small infographics.

(They were keen to reduce their annual report in both page-size and page-numbers, but didn’t want to reduce the amount of information on display).

The statistics included the number of events held, audience statistics and educational ventures  -as well as a series of geographical locations showing their relationships across the world.

 

You can view the Annual Report PDF here

 

Interested in the design process? A few notes/thoughts here

 

 

infogrph

 

 

 

All content (c) Caroline Beavon 2020