When it comes to creating visual content to convey results, most of us think about using charts or graphs. This can sometimes include more words than necessary. However, why not consider infographics? This is what we are looking at this week.
Whilst there are many ways of generating infographics, here we use PowerPoint to make them more personal to our presentation. This can be in terms of graphic / icon type, colour and more. Once you have a template set up, it can be amended to suit your needs at a later date.
What are infographics?
Infographics are groups of images such as pie charts and other graphics with some text. It creates an easy-to-understand summary of a theme. It’s not just a matter of mashing a number of visuals together.
Like poster design or essay writing, planning is important. Storytelling is important. What is the theme of the infographic? How are you telling the story? Where is the information coming from? How will you display it?
Think about the topic and the start planning out the story on paper. Think about how you can make the information more succinct using graphics and minimal text. Infographics can be any size and shape. We’ve all seen long and skinny graphics. Below, you can see an example for Email Self-Defense:
Looking at the sequence of information on this infographic, it tells a story. Now, check out the layout! Yes it’s tall. Some sections have one column, other sections have two, three or four columns. This can be seen below:
You may not create such a large infographic, and that’s OK. Why not consider the layout of a PowerPoint slide? Make this into different sections to create an infographic, i.e., a shorter story.
In the newest PowerPoint format, we recommend using the 16:9 (or widescreen) slide dimensions. When this is displayed on your audience devices, it will use all of their screen real-estate. This is because most devices (i.e., mobiles, computers or laptops) are typically widescreen.
For example, this might be for a timeline, a story, a game theme.
Visual Information using charts and graphs
We’ll start off with some basic information about pets in the UK. This is from the Statista website on the household ownership of pets in the UK. You can find all the information about pets and ownership on their website, we’re using figures purely for illustrative purposes.
In PowerPoint, we can create a chart to display information. The question is, is this the best way to communicate the information? Below you will find the information using a number of different charts / graphs. They can look quite different and some are quicker to interpret than others.
Which set of visual information was easier for you to interpret and why?
The bar chart was clearly laid out. At a quick glance, you can see 33% of households have a dog. And 27% of households have a cat. These are the most popular pets. Whilst you can see this information on all the charts, the donut chart misleads us. The percentages look as though it out of 100% which leads to the percentages for cats / dogs looking more like 40 and 45% of households rather than 27 and 33%.
Another issue in the donut chart is the use of colour. For audience members with colour deficiency, they may have trouble reading information because of some of the colours used. This can render the presentation of information useless. It’s best to never use colour alone to show information! Try using patterns for each section.
Evidently, patterns for so many animal types leads to other issues. Moiré lines can appear (i.e., visual disturbance). This is more noticeable when watching video or viewing photographs where items with fine line detail can exceed the screen resolution. And when these objects move around the screen, the effect is more pronounced.
Solid blocks of colour could have coloured patterns overlaid. The benefit here means the colour is still there for aesthetics but the patterned content can still be read. If the donut chart was rendered to black and white, the pattern would still communicate the information. Everyone benefits.
Was the radar chart even helpful in this instance? It definitely communicated cats and dogs. Much of the other information was too close to clearly interpret.
Creating other visual content using icons
So how can this information be presented in a more fun and equal way? What about using animal icons?
Above, we have laid out different icons between lines, like a 100m race (100m could equal 100%). Although this is fun, it may not convey precise percentages and some icons may be similar to others, i.e., domesticated and indoor birds for example. It’s also prudent to mention each animal icon equals 10%.
However, these icons are available in PowerPoint. They can be coloured / cropped. The icons come as solid graphics as well as graphic outlines. Where you see a part-coloured icon, this is two stacked icons with the solid one being cropped.
Creating your own graphics in PowerPoint
Remember. PowerPoint is not a graphics creating package, but with a bit of imagination and experimenting with shapes, colours, gradients and other features, it is possible to create content.
The use of basic shapes can be sequenced to create padlocks, keys, buildings, etc.:
Once the padlock is created, it can be selected (i.e., all the components which created the padlock) and saved out as a PNG graphic. This allows it to be used as an image by itself on any colour background. Below, we created a Key out of simple shapes also.
To save your creations, select all the components, right-click the selection and click Save As Picture:
This allows you to use the item as an image in many other places AND you only have to apply ALT Text to a single item, not multiple components! Another benefit, you created it, you own the copyright!
Displaying country or map information
What if you want to create a geographical item? PowerPoint can do that too with help from Bing!
Again, this can use colour to suit your presentation colour palette.
More advanced graphics
We do realise at times more complicated looking graphics are needed. You might be able to source these from Creative Commons sites, ask and pay for someone to create them or make them yourself using various free online graphics / infographics services such as Canva, Piktochart and AvatarMaker (.com).
So back to the benefits of infographics
As humans, we are visual animals and can interpret images quickly. This saves time and effort over reading huge amounts of text. Images communicate between different languages too. And if you’re wanting to communicate lots of information quickly, visual communications is the way to go.
We feel it’s time the DigiKnow blog took a break for time to reflect and prep towards the exam period. Thanks for stopping by and supporting us.
Our blogs will be back at the start of the next academic year!
Good luck in your studies and digital content creation.