With fewer than 10 days until Christmas, some of you may not have yet purchased your Secret Santa gift. In that case, I thought I’d recommend the perfect gift (under $15) for the communications practitioners and graphic designers in your life.

After reading my colleague Brenna Terry’s post, The Power of Visual Storytelling, I stumbled across a book that speaks to her post and should be part of every communicator’s repertoire – The Best American Infographics of 2013, edited by Pulitzer Prize Winning journalist and New Yorker contributor, Gareth Cook. Cook explores the very best infographics of the year spanning everything from happiness and art to politics, health and satirical humor. Next to each infographic, there is the artists’ perspective on the data, the choice of visuals and why it satisfies the viewer.

As you may have noticed, infographics, static and video, over the past three years have become a very popular visual storytelling technique in healthcare communications. In the age of Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and competing space to reach people with important messages about their health, the infographic has become a powerful tool to attract attention, but what makes a good infographic?

According to David Byrne, former lead singer of the American New Wave band Talking Heads and visual artist, who wrote the introduction to the book, “a good infographic allows us to grasp some relationship quickly and easily that otherwise would take many pages and illustrations and tables to convey… Insight seems to happen most often when data sets are crossed in the design of the piece — when we can quickly see the effects on something over time. What we can get in this medium is the instant revelation of a pattern that wasn’t noticeable before.

I shopped my question around to a few of my colleagues and here is what they had to say:

Matthew Bortz, Graphic Designer, inVentiv Creative Services:
“A great infographic usually begins with an engaging title, sometimes a question, to draw the viewer in. Strong visuals that interpret the data clearly and creatively are also essential. The point of infographics is to show rather than tell which is why copy should be used sparingly. Visual hierarchy and organization is crucial, so that one can glance at the graphic and understand key points within the data with minimal effort.”

Shalon Roth, Public Relations, Biosector 2
“The best video infographics are emotive, easily digestible, short in length and tell a story in an easy-to-understand way. The narrative arc of the story is the most important part and the typography, graphics and animation should further reinforce what the piece is supposed to communicate. Music is important to this medium because it can make or break the impact of the final video. You know you did well if everyone you show it to (including your mom!), wants to watch it again or share it even if it’s about an obscure disease they never heard of.”

Ben Atkins, Director, Chandler Chicco Digital:
“A good infographic is a simple visual story that your reader can interpret quickly and leaves a memorable experience to recall at a later point in time. An infographic without data or a story is just a pretty picture. When I am faced with communicating a page of numbers, to get creative I start by asking myself ‘How would Disney tell this story?’”

A fun, informative look at the exploding field of infographics, The Best American Infographics of 2013 will help communicators and graphic designers alike learn, through example from the best in the field, more compelling ways to convey information through infographics – as the 32,000 year old practice is here to stay.

Let this book serve as an invaluable resource to you and your communications loved ones. I assure you that they will appreciate the book design and it will look fabulous on their coffee table.

What is your favorite infographic and why?


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