"If you haven't heard, a recent study … said that we now, as humans, have a shorter attention span than goldfish."
That's a humbling assessment that John Meyer, co-founder and CEO at Lemonly, shared in a session called "How to create infographics that are worth a thousand words" at Ragan's Visual Communications and Infographics Summit in Denver.
Humans may be at the top of the food chain, but they lose interest in something in the amount of time it takes your pet goldfish to lose interest in that ceramic deep-sea diver resting on the gravel.
How can organizations have any hope at keeping employees' and customers' attention?
Meyer's solution is infographics.
"It's a noisy world out there," Meyer says. "Infographics are interesting. They're colorful, they have interesting pictures and headers. They cut through the noise, they grab the attention—but we also know that you retain the information. We're wired to be visual creatures and remember this stuff."
Here is Meyer's nine-step process to creating infographics that captivate:
1. Decide which type of infographic to make.
There are two types of infographics, Meyer says: brand and editorial. Brand infographics are like visual press releases. They introduce a new product or service, celebrate a milestone or announce an acquisition. Brand infographics feature the organization's font, colors and general design guidelines, making it clear who produced the infographic.
Editorial infographics are story-driven. They share new research, compare and contrast elements, or illustrate a topic's history. The organization's name doesn't usually appear until the bottom of the infographic, because the goal is to provide value, not trumpet a brand.
Both brand and editorial infographics are powerful, Meyer says: "You just have to decide which one you want to be, because when you try to be both, it falls a little flat."
2. Lay the groundwork.
Once you know whether you'll create a brand or editorial infographic, you must establish the infographic's message and audience, as well as size, format and platform.
"When you're in high school and your English teacher says you're going to write a research paper, you start with an outline. Follow that same model," Meyer recommends. "What's the thesis of your infographic? What's the main point? What's the goal? ... Outline your three main points, your three high-level themes. … Then, is there a summary or conclusion?"
3. Gather data.
Amass all the information you want to include in your infographic. Collect any data that could help tell your story.
4. Uncover the story.
Once you've gathered all the relevant information, examine it for possible stories. "We're starting to look for trends," Meyer explains. "Are we seeing growth? Are we seeing decline? These are all good things to look for, and you're going to discover the story that you're going to want to tell."
When you identify your story and can support it with relevant data, condense the information into a one- to two-page brief. Don't make it any longer, Meyer warns, or your infographic will be too long and lose your audience's attention.
Editing is crucial to good infographic design, Meyer says. If certain data don't fit with your story or you feel that you're stretching to include something, you must be able to cut it.
5. Build a wireframe.
A wireframe is a graphic designer's version of a blueprint. Draft your infographic without worrying about colors or stylistic details. Focus only on the layout and ensuring all your data fit. This step provides an additional opportunity to filter out any unnecessary or irrelevant information you've missed.
6. Create a mood board.
If you've ever redecorated a room, you might have created a board with paint swatches, tile samples, photos of furniture, etc., to get a feel for what the room would look like before you begin redecorating. A mood board fulfills this same purpose for infographics.
Compile all the colors, fonts and graphics you'd like to use to see whether they work well together before you create the final product.
"It's hard to get into a designer's brain, but this is the closest way we can do this," Meyer says.
Meyer says he likes to note that design doesn't come until the end of the infographic-creation process. "There's a lot of foundational work to a good infographic," he explains.
If you don't feel comfortable designing the infographic yourself, hire a designer. To choose the right person for the job, Meyer recommends looking for someone with good typography, iconography (the ability to use icons and symbols to represent things), spatial layout and a sense of grid and format.
8. Launch the infographic.
9. Spread the word.
Once your infographic has a home, you can share it with the world. Still be conscious of infographics' format, however.
"Don't ignore the platform … Infographics look and feel different depending on where you put them," Meyer explains. For example, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest require images to be different sizes to appear correctly. Depending on what size images these networks allow, infographics could get squished and stretched.
To solve this problem, Meyer recommends taking a screenshot of the most interesting part of the infographic, sizing it appropriately, and posting that image to drive viewers to the full infographic on a more appropriate platform.