SMS Research Advisors

Data Visualization: What Makes a Great Infographic?

data visualization_newsletter imageCorporate America is facing a challenge: Data is becoming more readily accessible while executives are becoming less so. Data Visualization is engaging and it helps us understand the data’s significance. That’s why infographics are an increasingly popular way to quickly share critical information.

Most of us (65%) are visual learners1. An infographic efficiently communicates large amounts of data in a universal manner. Transforming raw numbers into visual elements also enables analysts to approach the data creatively. They can build a story that ultimately leads to true insights.

Why aren’t more companies, especially research firms which frequently deal with large amounts of data, using more infographics? Many are. They’re just not doing it very well.

Data Visualization is deceptively intuitive; because it is graphical, it is often dismissed as easy or common. In reality, a good infographic requires knowledge-base in both data analysis and basic design concepts. Companies without design expertise are often tempted to simply use clipart next to a chart or text. Worse, some companies create graphics so cluttered that the messages of the data are lost.

Infographic 101

To make an infographic successful, start with your message:

  • What do you want to say with the data?
  • Can you tie in other data to support the overall implication?

Then start thinking about the design. Some helpful tips:

Play by the Rule of Three: Limit your data sets to three or fewer. Never use more than five. If you need more to support the story, “chunk” the data into smaller visual elements and tie them together using proximity, color or connecting lines.

Proximity, Color, Lines

Less is more: Infographics are appealing because of their simplicity. Start with basic graphs, and then add elements to complete the visual messaging.

Simplicity of design

Pay attention to what’s around you: You don’t need an art degree to know what looks good. Watch for color palettes or groups of shapes that catch your eye in your environment. Use these inspirations to boost your creativity.

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Big data will only continue to grow. As people become accustomed to consuming information in succinct, highly visual ways, the market research industry will increase investments in data visualization technology and expertise, to the ultimate gain of its clients.

To learn more about how SMS uses Data Visualization in executive reporting, contact us today at jmeola@smsresearch.com or (952) 939-4310.

1Bradford, William C., Reaching the Visual Learner: Teaching Property Through Art (September 1, 2011). The Law Teacher Vol. 11, 2004. Available at SSRN.

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