If you’re feeling curious about how data can be more creatively presented, you could do worse than taking a few minutes to browse through this set of the best infographics of the year from Co.Design (an offshoot of Fast Company). It’s fascinating to look at these in the abstract – not being involved in the projects directly but just thinking about them as ways of representing data in general.
Marketers need to report various types of statistics (revenue, website traffic, segmentation analysis) and that requires mastery of large datasets, even in quite small companies. And often, in B2B marketing, the value proposition is expressed in terms of data – dollars saved, energy conserved, resources reclaimed, efficiencies gained, total cost of ownership reduced. In our practice, also, we deal with large amounts of data. It is frequently qualitative data which we distil into meaningful nuggets for clients to assess, internalize, and act upon, as well as survey data and secondary research which can derive from a wide range of data sources. We are always thinking about how to order the information, how to tell the story, how to bring all the information together in a coherent way.
Not all of these infographics work for me, and often it’s necessary to slice them in a few ways to get at what you are really interested in. It’s also worth noting that the infographics that have been exploding online in the last year or two are not practical for the average marketer or consultant to use on an ongoing basis quite yet, since they require custom graphic design at the very least. However, this process is democratizing, as is shown by an application which is touted as having the potential to be the PowerPoint of infographics was recently unveiled by Visual.ly at the SXSW festival, although for now its power is limited to depicting Facebook and Twitter data.
Of course, there can also be some atrocious infographics that really don’t work – here’s an example, and there are many more online. But there was a time when even a fairly basic graph was pretty groundbreaking – for instance, did you realize that Florence Nightingale as an early infographics pioneer? (Neither did I.)
The key, as always with conveying data in a meaningful way, will always be figuring out what questions you’re asking of the data, and how you can tell that story. It’s inspiring to me to see these examples of how some people take data – often staggering amounts of it – and turn it into a picture that means something.
Are you experimenting with new ways to unite data and design? Any tools or ideas that you’d recommend? Any favourite (or not-so-favourite) infographics example of your own? Where do you see the applications?
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