An image is an act of communication. Images play an important role in the presentation of ideas. Worth more than a thousand words, they encapsulate meaning by both simplifying and embodying conceptual theories.They make information more appealing, more persuasive. In the realm of art or activism, images reflect the underlying current of collective feeling by vocalizing both public consensus and private desires.
On the internet, you can see the same popular pictures in websites of every language. Russian, Chinese, French or English. Images transcend linguistic and cultural barriers faced by text. There is no need for machine or human translation. No need for mediation.
Like videos, images can spread very quickly online with little artificial push. Are they inherently more ‘viral‘ than textual content? It is difficult to say with certainty if it indeed has a higher potential for popularity. But images have undeniable value in spreading ideas. Especially when they are elegantly integrated with the use of text to present information.
Unique, original images can attract an audience. They are not only high quality content for an interested readership but they can be useful promotional tools for anyone interested in gaining more attention. A particular form of image is relevant to this purpose: the infographic.
Visual representations of information, data or knowledge. These graphics are used where complex information needs to be explained quickly and clearly, such as in signs, maps, journalism, technical writing, and education. They are also used extensively as tools by computer scientists, mathematicians, and statisticians to ease the process of developing and communicating conceptual information.You’ve seen infographics everywhere. In books, magazines, newspapers, instruction manuals, maps, public signs and business reports. Visually, they come in many forms as well: charts, graphs, emblems, cartoons, diagrams and illustrations. Any image is suitable as long as it effectively works to convey data in a way that fulfills a specific or general purpose.
These graphics seek to inform. They can be a supplement to existing textual content or a hermeutically sealed construct, a stand-alone presentation which covers a subject in full. A complete statement and explanation that everyone can cite as a reference.
Infographics are a form of concentrated nutrition for data consumers. They are multi-vitamins, fulfilling basic info requirements in a simple hassle-free way. Like a pill, knowledge is condensed into essential components, enough to satiate your basic informational needs. They give you a general overview, one you can convert into talking points and social currency.
The amount of information they convey and the style used will vary depending on its purpose. Who is the intended audience of this piece? What specific frame or idea angle do you want to emphasize? How much abstraction and simplification is necessary for data to make sense?
Here are some examples from Princeton University’s International Network Archives. These infographics each give you a brief overview on a topic. See this page for full images and more.
The finished infographic is often beautiful to behold. Swirling gradients of color form into tangible shapes, contextually arranged to demonstrate quantifiable meaning. It’s easy to take it all in at one glance. Your eye darts around the numbers and skirts between the illustrations. You interact with it. You are thoroughly absorbed in its display of coherence.
And after looking, you’ll often think of sharing it. Maybe save the image, attach it to an email and fire it to a friend. Maybe you’ll include it in your latest blog post or tweet it. Or you’ll log into your favorite forum, drop the link and see what everyone else thinks.
There are many ways to propagate these images once they are produced. Apart from the usual social media channels, you can provide link codes by hosting the images and providing the html which points back to your site. Or you can package it into PDF formats along with other similar infographics to make a mini-report.
Unlike textual content, these images often do not include much text: you can consider pre-emptively translating them into other major languages so they can be shared more widely among different audiences.
They can also be produced on a regular basis as feature content. As a pictorial representation of information, infographics are often considered to be unique even if the data shared as already been elaborated elsewhere in text articles. Therein lies its appeal to a readership that might be jaded by the repetition of ideas in the content of other media sources/websites.
Good Magazine is an excellent example of a site that recently started creating infographics (known as ‘Good Sheets’) as regular online content. The print editions of these images were also given out free of charge at Starbucks. The combination of online and offline distribution is something that is suited to the nature of one-page documents like infographics.
Next time when you’re planning on sharing specific ideas or data, consider using infographics. They are a terrific way of making information accessible and a useful primer that will pique the interest of your intended audience. When created and marketed effectively, they can be part of a powerful viral strategy to magnetize attention to your website or business.
P.S I intend to write more on the topic of information design specifically as it relates to marketing. This is something I’m recently interested in and hopefully you’ll find it entertaining and useful.