As a designer, tasks are often received in bundles: boring details, dense statistics, errant information, and another individual’s opinion on how the resulting infographic should look.
Sometimes, this is compounded by a company’s style guide, time restrictions, and gaps in credible, timely sources. In spite of the obstacles one faces, a designer’s end result must be a “Wow,” or the infographic will likely never surface in social media, let alone on Google.
The job of a viral editor is to disregard all of the complications designers are facing, and look at the infographic (“IG”) for its ability to go viral. Being able to diagnose issues as early on as the wireframe is pivotal in saving time, money, and a lot of yawns on the interwebs. For most IG fails, there are two categories: manic/over-done designs, and depressive/lazy ones.
COMMONLY AFFLICTED: N00bs; Color Blind
INDICATIONS: Nausea, vomiting, quick click-aways, bad buzz, or sudden *faceplam*
• Complex Color Schemes
• More Than 3 Font Faces, Colors, and Sizes
• Inconsistent Images
There isn’t an infographic published that was 100% bad or good, especially when personal preference and style are considered. However, in the example of Mania, there are many issues a viral editor would have to address.
Just a few of the issues include spelling, punctuation, color choices, image contrast levels, line spacing, readability, skimmability, the inconsistency of drop shadows, and the inability to discern easily who is in each photo. The list could go on and on, which is surprising, since this is a final draft of an IG.
Once you recognize mania, it’s unmistakable. The best solution is prevention, in this case: an over-done IG is often more time consuming, and more difficult to correct, than to re-design. Learning when to toss the baby out with the bathwater will save everyone involved energy.
COMMONLY AFFLICTED: The Overly-Comfortable; Boors
INDICATIONS: Yawns, “So what?” comments, no buzz, or quick click-aways
• Neutral color palettes, especially taupe
• One, invariable, font
• No images (which may be a cross-indication of “Pretty Article Syndrome”)
Click Graphic to Expand
As you can see, the designer fell asleep before reaching 2011 on his own infographic. Sadly, this graphic has probably been recycled countless times by the same designer, adjusting numbers for ‘new’ infographics. In the example of Depression seen above, there are many issues a viral editor would have to address.
Just a few of the issues include limited information, static colors, inconsistent capitalization in the subheader, incomplete data, and an overall ‘snooze’ effect. This example, too, is from a final draft.
It’s clear to readers that this infographic was uninspired, and contains many errors that would not exist if the designer had shown any interest in the topic. For example, by clicking the light box, you can see that the header image is blurry; an oversight first-year graphic design majors would notice.
The best solution for depression, from a designer’s perspective, is innovation. Trying new things can breathe fresh life into tired schema and too-often used templates. However, for viral analysts and editors, the answer is often to shake a designer out of a comfort zone by implementing additional review stages, overseeing work more closely, and looking for fresh faces. The only type of designer depression that cannot be fixed is the incurable boor.
THE CURE for INFOGRAPHIC BIPOLARITY
As an elementary teacher, I would spend countless hours trying to teach creativity. Unfortunately, it does seem to be an inherent ability; something as deeply rooted as personality traits and bad habits.
When hiring managers see this ability online in graphic designers, the urge to cherry-pick is undeniable. Talented graphic designers will always be in-demand, even as infographics are re-shaped to re-inspire casual internet browsers.
To be a talented designer, and avoid both the mania and depressive sides of infographic bipolarity, a designer needs to embrace the urge to be artistic and abstract, carefully implementing some of the mania that is wonderful in small doses, while also building a framework that is constant, and easy to flow through (a depressed background lets the radical elements stand-out).
In the examples above, the designer chose to ‘over-design’ the backgrounds, making them loud centerpieces in otherwise text-heavy series of infographics. This is a great example of fusion between mania and depression. Although these would be still more successful if the text were pithy, as they are, they make neat thumbnails that people want to click.
In the example below, information is presented in such a straightforward and intuitive manner that readers often believe they already knew this. The combination of depressed, simplistic background design and typography, coupled with the loud color palette, make for a beautiful infographic that could just as easily be used as a menu in cafés. For more information on the use of colors in design, check out Patrick’s blog, Color and Inspiration With …Yellow.
For the final example, I’m going to use one that could have been even better. In spite of the gorgeous layout, the original art, and the charming palette (which observes Patrick’s ‘yellow’ love), this one fails to explain its purpose. Without a conclusion, even a “Wow” can leave viewers feeling cheated.
Great infographics require planning and careful execution. A great idea can get ignored if its implementation is manic or depressive, rather than cohesive. Conjoining simple elements with loud, original concepts is a recipe for success in most cases.
By keeping a list of designs you love, and one of those you hate, you will avoid pitfalls and develop a knack for designing infographics that wax and wane like novel plots, offering complexities and calm in turn.