12 Most Intriguing Uses of Infographics

12 Most Intriguing Uses of Infographics

Infographics are everywhere. It seems as if they stormed out of the very recent Internet-connected past.

But if you think about it, the illustrated flow charts cavemen must have drawn on stone walls to demonstrate how to track and kill a wooly mammoth were really just infographics. They just weren’t called that back then. What the latest technology and design allow, however, are many wonderful new uses for these handy, attractive conveyors of data.

Here are 12 that I really love.

1. Annual report

Adding graphics to annual reports is, of course, not new. But making the annual report into one big infographic. Now, that’s new! What a concept: an annual report people will read, from start to finish. Another bonus is that the presentation forces just the most important details to be included. Check out this example by Warby Parker Eyewear. Did your company’s annual report get Tweeted more than 1,500 times?

2. Marriage proposal

Maybe this one isn’t for everyone. But for two digital hipsters in love, it’s perfect. Drake Martinet, associate editor at D: All Things Digital, popped the question with this infographic just in time for Valentine’s Day this year. And the lucky lady, Stacy Green, who’s a senior vice president of marketing and communications for Mashable, said yes.

3. A resume

When done well, a summary of professional skills and experiences spiffed up with graphics and other design hallmarks of infographics, can be very powerful. Some sites can even take data from another source, such as your LinkedIn profile, to make a visual resume. If you’re doing it yourself, plan to spend hours adjusting and improving. If you’re not particularly arty, creative or persistent, it’s probably worthwhile to find a good designer who turns out slick customized versions. Here’s a Pinterest page of ideas.

4. Research report

Usually, when a report is turned into an infographic, it’s just an executive summary. And a link is presented at the bottom of the graphic where users can download the full report. Some of the infographic summaries, however, present an impressive amount of data — the format’s flexibility and visual excitement can communicate much more, in a much more interesting way, than a traditional executive summary. This one by Cisco is a great example.

5. “White paper” that offers opinion or advocacy

So, would you read a white paper on a disorder called Convergence Insufficiency? Nope, me neither. But check out this wonderful advocacy infographic. It’s actually a traditional white paper in disguise: It explains, advocates and establishes credibility and authority. The difference is that, as an infographic, it is sure to reach, and interest, a far wider audience than if it had looked like a white paper.

6. Decision tree

A decision tree can help people sort through the best plan of action in a logical way, even when sketched out with just pencil and paper. But when a decision tree is dressed up and visually engaging, it becomes a viewer magnet. Businesses that aren’t necessarily even interested in Pinterest would be drawn to this one. And the ones that are interested would find this especially relevant and helpful.

7. Map

The amount of information presented in this infographic is stunning. And, yet, it’s easy to read. Wonderful.

8. Flow chart

Picture this elegant, crisp example pinned to an office wall — far more powerful than a text-heavy manual.

9. How-to

A how-to infographic trifecta: fun, creative and yummy.

10. List or ranking

Infographics can also make simple lists less ho hum. Here is a list of free or low-priced tools and apps that can be used to create infographics or visualizations that can be used on iPads and iPhones.

11. Brand message or advertorial

Infographics can make promotional data about a brand more alluring than with a more traditional presentation. It’s useful for consumers. But also very powerful for the brand. Here’s one StumbleUpon had designed from its data.

12. Take rocket-science stuff and make the rest of us understand it

Go ahead and try to explain why we haven’t cured cancer in one page — without an infographic.

These examples are executed well. Many infographics aren’t. Here’s one of the botched jobs I’ve come across.

Do you think most of the infographics you’ve seen work well, or are they just design gone wrong?

Featured image courtesy of GDS Infographics licensed via Creative Commons.

Becky Gaylord


Becky worked as a reporter for more than 15 years in Washington, D.C.; Sydney, Australia; and Cleveland, Ohio for major publications including the New York Times, Salon.com, Business Week, the Wall Street Journal, and was Associate Editor of the Plain Dealer's Editorial Page before she launched the consulting practice, Gaylord LLC. The company helps clients improve their external relations and communication and increase their influence and impact. Becky blogs about that (a few other things) at Framing What Works.

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