Trend spotting: pitching data through infographics
No doubt infographics are taking all the left sides of our brains by storm, offering truths, stories and even a great deal of entertainment in surprisingly new and innovative ways. It’s a medium that has been around since the dawn of publishing but seems to be getting a contemporary breath, with embedded pdfs, videos and some highly sophisticated interactive features surfacing like wildflowers all over the internet. It seems like just yesterday I was watching Hans Rosling give his TED talks, and now look where we are.
Like Rosling, much of the best visualizations so far have had to do with huge, public issues. The New York Times, for instance, produced an incredible interactive feature last November that allows readers to take their own stab at balancing the federal budget (not to mention a great budget game by American Public Media we will be covering over at the Navigator later this week). Visualizations examining the social media sphere have also been huge, showcasing and comparing hashtag trends, likes, followers, and so forth (Mashable has a good roundup). In either case, however, we are talking about features that display broad data, data that jumps across or attempts to compare a multitude of demographics. Enter: opportunity.
Individual companies sit on their own data that could, with a little courage, produce some great graphical content. I see pitches all the time that make use of percentages, graphs, charts, timelines and all the rest, but almost always the figures reference an external market trend that is meant to justify that company’s product, something like: recent studies have shown 59% of women have more than 5 e-mail accounts, and product X is here to etc etc.
This is not the sort of data I am talking about. The point is to use data only your company or client has access to. If the traditional data pitch brings the details of the world down into a product, the pitch I am suggesting brings the details of a product up into the world. This is a scary prospect for some—no one wants to share their secrets—so it is worth thinking through, but the one thing to keep in mind is that your exclusive data should be used to tell a larger story.
One great possibility is sharing spikes in product sales. Let’s say you sell shoes and notice a spike in work boots in the Midwest—is this saying anything about development there? You can bring the details of those sales into an economic story, providing valuable content that showcases your company or brand’s own involvement.
Companies like visual.ly are promising exciting services, and with the hotness of the trend it seems more and more designers are making themselves available for infographic work. The jump from raw data to an attractive infographic seems inexpensive, relatively quick and, as we are seeing, worth it.
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