Over the past month or so, there have been a few high-trafficked articles out there saying infographics are done (well, at least one type of infographic), and its time to move on to something else.
These posts have sparked an interesting debate about infographics, which includes questions like: what makes a good infographic, do infographics still provide a good ROI, and what is the future of infographics?
These posts all seem to come to one conclusion: the infographic being produced today is a trend that is finished. To all the naysayers out there, I have one simple response: the evolving infographic trend has just begun.
A Case For Infographics
Infographics (IGs) arent new; in fact theyve been around forever and even constitute the first visual form of communication, before the written word:
- When cave men painted on walls, they used images to tell stories and display information.
- Later, maps were created to display new territories to explore.
- Beginning in the 1600s, visual information design was used in books and to showcase various scientific findings and data.
- In 1972, an infographic was launched into space as a way to communicate with other lifeforms via imagery.
- Fast forward to the creation of Microsoft Excel, a tool to (among other things) create quick charts and graphs for presentations.
- A few years later, presentations get amped up with PowerPoint, making the charts and graphs prettier and easier to take in.
- And here we are today, with powerful tools to design compelling visualizations in a world driven by data. This (extremely rough) timeline showcases that there has always been a need for infographics, which include, but are not limited to data visualization, and that need isnt going away anytime soon.
The Internet has exploded with different versions of IGs, making it somewhat daunting to parse through all of the designs, especially since a portion are pretty hard to look at.
The naysayers argue that there are just too many ugly designs out there, making the IG itself less appealing.
Of course, you could make the same argument for websites, online videos, banner ads, and more.
Think about it: YouTube gets approximately 360,000 hours of video uploaded each week! Lets be honest; the majority of that video is total crap. Despite all this, a good video will get found, go viral, and provide a great ROI for the company that produced it. The same is true for infographics.
What The Naysayers Should Be Asking
Those who argue that the IG is getting ruined by todays eye candy that Mashable and other noteworthy sites are pushing, shouldnt be asking if the traditional IG is getting ruined by the newest trends; they should be asking if the IG audience is changing. The short answer is, yes. The long answer, on the other hand, is that the audience is splitting just as IGs are evolving, but there is room to cater to all audiences and a good online marketer should focus on the audience that impacts their bottom line, above anyone else.
Over the past few years, the word infographic has come to mean any form of data visualization, but there is a clear divide in the design world regarding what good data visualization actually is. Many are offended that todays chart porn would constitute an infographic, and since most of those people helped bring IGs into the limelight, they have a right to be offended. Because of this, rather than confuse things, its probably best to segment infographics into different categories. Some of these categories could include the following:
- Flow Charts
- Data Visualizations
- Viral Visualizations (other terms here can be Info Candy, Data Posters, Infotainment, Chart Porn, etc).
The majority of the IGs hitting the Internet these days are really viral visualizations (or at least attempts at viral visualizations). These are sharable designs that take the traditional infographic and turn it into a comprehensive story filled with a lot of eye candy (with a focus on eye candy as a core requirement). These are what most clients want, if they are looking to grow traffic and inbound links, because the viral visualization audience is the one doing the sharing. In a sense, viral visualizations are to data visualization as viral videos are to film: they utilize the same tools and methodologies, but are on completely different ends of a vast spectrum. The right infographic design team should be able to provide designs at either end of the spectrum and everything in between.
Just as film buffs werent too happy with the growth of viral videos, pure data viz fans arent too happy with the growth of viral visualizations. These different categories of IG speak to different audiences, but just because some dont like this growing design trend doesnt mean the majority feels the same way. The fact that viral visualizations continue to grow and good ones continue to get shared online is more than enough to show that they arent even close to dead.
The Roi Of Infographics Is Growing, Not Shrinking
There are many uses of online video, but any good marketer knows that a well-produced viral video could make a brand, grow traffic exponentially, and build inbound links by leaps and bounds. This is why video is often a part of any good content marketing strategy… if your client can afford it. Infographic viral visualizations have the same punch for a fraction of the cost, making them a far better option for any budget. A well produced IG will get shared on hundreds of blogs, bring backlinks for months, reach hundreds of thousands of viewers, and catapult a brand to the front of consumer attention. Sometimes this is in the form of pure data viz, other times the viral eye candy route is the one to take.
Yes, there are a large amount of viral visualizations inundating the Internet, but that doesnt mean the space is overly saturated. It just sets the bar higher for great design and amazing ideas. With every trend comes sub par copy cats, but this just makes it more important for the best of the best to differentiate themselves and carve out their niche. Everyday consumers appreciate a good viral video when done right. This is because it stands out from the crowd and earns that appreciation with its quality and creativity. I say, let the world of viral visualizations get crowded too. Then a great design will be appreciated even more, giving an online marketer with the right design team a powerful advantage over the competition.
Amy Balliett is the co-Founder of Killer Infographics, a globally leading infographic design agency located in Seattle, Washington. Killer Infographics has produced thousands of viral infographics, motion graphics and interactive infographics for a global clientele including Microsoft, Starbucks, the BBC, Adobe, and more.