Studies show that the average professional receives 304 emails every week, checks his or her smartphone 150 times per day, and may or may not be among the 32 percent who tune out long-winded co-workers after 15 seconds. Stay with me here…the average attention span has decreased from 12 seconds in 2000 to 8 seconds in 2013.
With so much information to process, who has time for anything anymore?!? While I wrote the previous paragraph, for example, I watched three hours of “Breaking Bad,” unlocked my phone more than 40 times, read a few emails, took the dog out, watched another hour of TV, read three articles on attention spans, and then one on boredom (thanks NPR). Because people lose interest almost instantly today, as designers in a client-based industry, we must drive home our messages as simply, effectively, and quickly as we can. Enter a positive development in our time-scarce world: the infographic!
A large part of the work that we do is research and data collection. Oftentimes we present that information in the form of a spreadsheet filled with numbers and labels that go on for days. The benefit of these spreadsheets, however, is that they provide the ingredients for creating strong, accurate, and intriguing infographics.
In this example, we wanted to demonstrate that SWA’s Social Impact Design Initiative (SIDI) is contributing to our communities by showing the total number of socially impactful projects firm-wide as well as by office. We took it a few steps further to illustrate the services we provide, where these projects are located, and finally the total hours spent working on these efforts.
1) The first step in creating this series of graphics was deciding what data we needed to collect. You can gather an endless amount of information and find that you won’t use it all in the end but that it was useful in understanding the breadth of work that we do.
2) Second, stay organized and have patience. Knowing a thing or two about formulas and creating charts, etc. in Excel will come in handy and make your life easier. Once the data is collected, make sure it all adds up correctly and accurately. This is key. Once that is complete, you can move onto creating a graphic.
3) Using software like MS PowerPoint, Adobe Illustrator, InDesign, and After Effects will allow the creative freedom you need to customize the graphics however you see fit. In this example, I used MS PowerPoint to create a base graphic. PowerPoint will easily create a graph by inserting the numbers you have collected and generating accurate diagrams. The great thing about that is that once you have the base graph you can copy and paste it into Adobe Illustrator and break it up by releasing the clipping mask and ungrouping the objects. Now you are ready to play with color, fonts, text size, line widths, overall size, and appearance.
4) E-mail me for help…
The truth is that there is an endless amount of infographic variations and more than likely it will take more than four steps. The graphics above were a combined effort between all the offices. Collecting the data took well over two weeks: Hunting down numbers we were missing, accounting for hours never tracked…you get the picture. Infographics are tools that we can use to deliver our messages and ideas in unique visual ways. The end result is a graphic that is easy to read, graphically appealing, and only took 8 seconds to read.