It’s been a decade since the rise of the infographic in digital marketing. Coinciding with the advent of data-driven methods, was the infographic’s refinement into a tool that could disseminate large amounts of complex data and insights into concise, easily digestible forms that anyone could understand at a glance.
Today, though, infographics are everywhere, saturating social media and digital marketing campaigns with similar designs and an increasing tendency to be purposed for even the tiniest piece of data, based on the flawed assumption that all it takes to make data memorable is to slap some color, a couple of pretty shapes, and typography and call it a day.
These and other details about the humble infographic have led to a measurable decline in its use after 2012.
Could this be the death knell of the infographic?
Are trends in data visualization moving away from the infographic onto greater things?
The answer isn’t quite as black and white as an indication of “dead or alive.”
Infographic design has evolved along with the medium and the times, but just like its real-life counterpart, design “evolution” isn’t always a good thing – it’s a neutral process that creates just as much garbage as it does masterpieces, and may often fail to respond to the times.
There are a lot of bad infographics out there
Many infographics are over-designed and confusing, a result of trying to stuff too much into too little space. They can be confusing and unwieldy, and the sheer volume of them have given infographics a bad rap. Simply look up examples of “ugly infographics” and you’ll get what we mean.
Many infographics exist just for the heck of it
In your digital marketing agency’s lifetime, you might have come across a client who said “Can we make an infographic?” and provided no clear explanation for why. The result is that some infographics have been created, complete with flowery design and brilliant colors, whose purpose could otherwise have been served with a table, chart, or other diagrams.
Many aren’t mobile-friendly
Over half of all traffic on the Internet comes from mobile devices, the vast majority of which are tiny and portrait-oriented – not the best platform for viewing a landscape infographic designed for a large screen, or one with big shapes and text. Yet so many infographics still don’t have mobile design in mind. And of course, a mobile infographic won’t look good on desktops either.
Oversaturation of the market
If you’re an agency, chances are, you’ve done infographic outreach for link building or you’ve had others reach out to you with infographic propositions. Unfortunately, I think link building articles from companies like Moz or Backlinko have created an inundation effect. Thousands of aspiring SEO pros seeking backlink glory have taken to the mean streets of Fiverr to create an infographic using tools like Visme or Canva. Sadly, the oversimplification of infographic creation has led to a diminishing return for the graphics.
Though the question of infographic relevance is up in the air, there’s no denying the continued – and growing – relevance of the greater subject of data visualization. In this regard, there are certain visualization tools that are challenging the dominance of infographics and displacing them in some fields.
Simpler graphs and charts
An infographic may contain a variety of types of content, icons, visuals, and graphs and charts, but with a big shift towards more minimalist design and mobile-friendly content, simple graphs and charts – which are much easier to read on mobile – are starting to gain ground with marketers.
Interactive data infographics
Static, image-based infographics have been all the rage for the past decade, but just don’t do well with mobile. One way to preserve the visual language of infographics while adapting them to mobile is to make them interactive and dynamic, written in responsive web code that changes in response to the user’s device and interaction. The evolution of web design and device performance makes these a better choice than ever!
The large, unwieldy nature of many infographics can be addressed by breaking up the design into multiple small ones that tell pieces of the story in bite-sized chunks, rather than trying to fit everything into a whole. Micrographics are fast, just as easily-shared and understandable, and can even serve as lead-ins to bigger, traditional infographics when used in social media.
TapClicks recently made its own graphic to help marketers to visualize their data more effectively, so we obviously believe that infographics still have a place in marketing. While infographics have certainly gone problematic in a variety of ways, there is no denying how powerful they can still be for marketers. Infographics grab attention much more quickly. With the fast-paced nature of the Web, especially with social media news feeds, you need to be able to grab your viewers’ attention in a matter of seconds, or else they’ll scroll past your content without giving it a second glance. An article with a catchy headline and an incredible point to make will never be able to compete with a snappy infographic that charms a viewer with a scene.
Visuals are more shareable
Visuals predictably produce almost twice as many views as text-based content, and this value extends to how infographics grow traffic faster and more reliably than other types of content – as much as 12% greater traffic generation, in fact. They’re also easy to share and go viral more easily, and don’t need extensive reading to enjoy, making them highly accessible to a wider audience. Other types of content, such as the aforementioned interactive infographics, might be visually more appealing, impressive, and adaptable to mobile, but they require opening up an external page if they are linked to via social media.
As they produce a wider reach and are shared more often, infographics are excellent for creating a greater backlink statistic, making them perfect for search engine optimization. Organic shares are also more common with infographics, another way that they are highly valuable in SEO.
They stay relevant for longer
Articles and news are great for initially generating buzz, but viewers rarely go back to them and share again for information recall. However, infographics are far more timeless, shared and shared again long past their intended lifespan.
They’re a component of branding
Your homegrown infographics will have your company’s branding proudly emblazoned all over it and instantly visible, in a way that’s hard to mirror with articles, other text content, and even videos. Any time an infographic is shared, not just the information you’re disseminating but also your branding will be shared with it.
Creating infographics means building reusable assets
It costs a lot to make great graphic design. The creation of an infographic doesn’t just provide all of the advantages of infographics themselves, but it allows you to build a library of themed assets that you may use for further infographic creation, marketing presentations and pitches, video content, and more.
Infographics are still reliable and viable in the modern age, there’s no doubt now. But they can’t stay stagnant as they have – they need to be adapted to current visualization trends and the users and devices that consume them.
Design your infographics with mobile in mind – again, small device and portrait orientation! While such mobile-focused infographics might not look very pleasant on desktop, social media feeds both on mobile and desktop are designed with a three-column mobile format in mind anyway, so what you see on your feed will always look somewhat vertically-oriented. This is definitely better than a desktop-class infographic being completely unreadable on a mobile device, requiring unwieldy panning and zooming just to read.
Focus on storytelling
Data visualization greatly benefits from a shift towards a narrative type of design, rather than showcasing disparate pieces of information and expecting viewers to correlate them into a story. Infographics, in turn, should demonstrate cause and effect, guiding viewers to the conclusion that you want them to form from the information that you display. Don’t just throw stats at your audience – tell them what it means, in sequence, and how it matters to them!
Create infographics that are themed and related to each other
Just as your individual infographics should tell a story, each infographic should be able to link into each other, acting as chapters that cover a component of a greater whole. That will make your overall infographic strategy more engaging, as users are compelled to search for the rest of the story, hopefully through your website or company!
Big data is bigger than ever, and data visualization is key to garnering insights and demonstrating value from it. Infographics, as a huge part of data visualization, will continue to be relevant as a means of reaching out to audiences with easily-understood imagery. Their ability to transform large amounts of complex data that would otherwise only be understood by data scientists into a timeless and accessible format is invaluable.
Companies like Fractl and Ferdio do great work and have lots of success with their infographics, so the art of infographic creation is still incredibly important and valuable.
The objective now is to make infographic design more in line with the times, taking trends in data visualization and preferences into account and making the most out of the space you’re given in viewers’ memory and attention span. Most infographics are created to generate linkable assets, and as technology companies make a lower barrier for entry into infographic creation, you’ll need to get much better at creating a good graphic by improving the aesthetics and by using powerful data insights.
If you’re interested in improving the way you visualize your data then continue your reading by moving into The Art of Color in Data Visualizations post.
Do you agree or disagree? We’d love to hear from you.