Tuesday, September 18, 2018

The structure delivers the story

In chapter 8 of A. Cairo's The Functional Art, he provides a framework for the design process of infographics. The design of an effective infographic goes beyond putting numbers, comments and graphics on paper, and it goes beyond prettying these with typefaces and color palettes. An effective infographic is built around a framework which directs the reader's eye and understanding.

 The design of the infographic begins with the identification of the story to tell. What is the subject? What ideas are being related? How are two trends interrelated? What point or points do you want your reader to take away? Answering these questions helps the designer construct the bones of the graphic. Do trends A and B develop in parallel to paint a bigger picture? If so, perhaps the elements of the visualization should be laid out next to each other in a way that directs the reader toward the overarching theme. Is the graphic made to illustrate a dichotomy between points A and B? Perhaps the graphic should be constructed with hard lines and sharp divisions to give the reader the impression of this contrast without them needing to read this explicitly.

The elements within the graphic itself make up its content and its appearance. Laying out these elements as rectangular blocks, it is not difficult to arrange these in a visually appealing way that inevitably directs your reader towards the statement you are making. Of course, these blocks don't need to be rectangles themselves, but the information fits inside the rectangle. Aligning the information in one block with the information in an adjacent block will naturally lead the reader from one piece of information to the next, along a single line of thought. Flipping the formatting of adjacent block will create a visual divide, across which the reader will understand a new line of thought. Other tools to direct the reader's attention include but are not limited to use of color, breaking the rectangular element boundaries, and directional indicators.

A well developed graphic can communicate the main idea through its structure even before the words and numbers are read.


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