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Infographics for Info Pros
By
Volume 42, Number 1 - January/February 2018

Infographics blend text and simple graphical elements (though some certainly make use of more elaborate designs). They can describe and show complex relationships in less space and time, as well as be easier to comprehend. They marry colorful images, succinct text, and a sense of movement to lead a reader through a concept and to a point. Practically any topic under the sun can be turned into, or enhanced with, an infographic. Infographics can rescue any librarian or information professional who needs help turning boring numbers into compelling stories. There are options for nearly every library budget level.

Info pros are already working data visualization into their presentations of research and search results, so we understand the power of visuals. We are also constantly battling to prove our worth to stakeholders, funding sources, and others who think the need for the library or information center is diminished in the age of, “But it’s all online!” Infographics can help on both fronts.

Numbers and statistics are dry and boring—readers often skip right over them. But a visual story told through numbers and facts that relates to your audience? That’s powerful. We humans are visual creatures. Even if we aren’t all primarily visual learners, we do retain info presented in visual format better than text alone. If you add a picture to information, readers will retain 65% of it up to 3 days later versus only 10% for something they heard (brainrules.net/vision). We also love narratives and stories. Infographics unite these compelling shortcuts with getting information remembered and shared.

One of the most cited explanations of the power of info graphics comes from research by Barbara Miller and Brooke Barnett: “[O]n their own, text and graphics are both useful yet imperfect methods for communication. … Combining text and graphics allows communicators to take advantage of each medium’s strengths and diminish each medium’s weaknesses” (“Understanding of Health Risks Aided by Graphics With Text,” Newspaper Research Journal, Winter 2010, pp. 52–63; journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/073953291003100105).

Experts and articles have been discussing the power of infographics to tell narrative stories and contribute to better communications in all sorts of publications since at least 2010. The use of infographics goes back much further: Think of those popular, colorful little graphics in the lower corner of the front page of every section of USA Today. Infographics seem to have taken over the internet in the last 6-plus years.

The templates offered by cloud-based graphics tools mean you don’t have to be a graphic designer to get good-looking graphics. You won’t be starting from scratch every time if you don’t want to. You can implement a contemporary look while easily hewing to good design standards.

The Tools

You don’t need great graphic design skills to take advan tage of the many infographic creation tools on the market. Several tools stand out for creating impactful infographics:

Canva (canva.com) makes design easy and affordable. This is my personal favorite graphics tool—I upgraded to a paid Canva for my work account and don’t regret it! You can use the templates and infographic elements in its library, as well as nearly every other design project you could imagine; many are available under the free version.

Adobe Spark (spark.adobe.com) is an alternative to Canva. Spark is like a combo of Photoshop and InDesign, but slight ly easier to use than either of those. Its free graphics app is good for social graphics, presentation images, and web stories. Plus, it has additional tools for video and improving webpages and is available for the web and as a mobile app. (If you already subscribe to monthly Creative Cloud, you have premium Spark access.)

Easel.ly (easel.ly) has the most affordable pro plan if you want to upgrade from its free offering for creating attractive infographics, charts, timelines, and process charts. You can start from templates or from scratch. Discounts are available to educators and nonprofits.

Piktochart (piktochart.com) requires little effort and foregoes the search for a graphic designer. I like its drag-and-drop editor and the templates for infographics, presentations, and printed collateral (better flyers!). To download as print-quality or PDFs, you’ll need the pricier, $29/month plan. However, educational and nonprofit discounts plans are available.

Infogr.am (infogr.am) is another option for creating in fographics, charts, and maps. It might handle charts better than some of the other options, but it’s frustrating you can’t get rid of its watermark to add your own logo until you subscribe to the $67/month plans or higher.

Visme (visme.co) lets you create infographics, visual resumes, and presentations, as well as graphics that are interactive for websites. Its free plan has limited access to “data widgets,” which easily turn stats to gorgeous graphs. Discounts are available for nonprofits and educators.

Venngage (venngage.com) has easily configurable, pre made templates for simple visual elements such as bubble charts, tree maps, and other simple shapes to add to a blog post, social graphic, or flyer.


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Jennifer E. Burke is the president of IntelliCraft Research LLC, a strategic marketing consultancy for libraries; a columnist for Marketing Library Services; a member of the editorial/advisory board for Marketing Libraries Journal; and president of The Library Marketing Conference Group.

 

Comments? Email the editor-in-chief: marydee@xmission.com

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