So you have some facts and stats you wish to convey graphically to help your audience get the picture…now, how do you go about it? That was the dilemma facing an engineering organisation which approached me recently with a plea for help. They had a fairly complex report which they needed to ‘dumb down’ for the city authorities and they’d come across the term ‘infographic’ – would an infographic, then, be what they needed? As we explored their precise needs, goals and vision, it became apparent that what they were really looking for was data visualisation. But what exactly is the difference, anyway? Let’s take a look…

The Similarities

  • Infographics and data visualisations are both visual representations of data and other knowledge
  • They both convert raw data into easier-to-understand graphics
  • They both report data and reveal it (make it easier to analyse)
  • They’re both useful because the vast majority of people are visual learners.

The Differences

  • The term infographic is now used to refer to a specific type of graphic representation of data. Today’s much-loved infographic is generally an online communication platform and can accommodate dynamic or interactive content
  • Infographics are not technical drawings but feature strong design elements – they are ‘funky’ interpretations of dry data
  • Infographics weave in a narrative (have a strong editorial treatment) and so are good platforms for enlightening an uneducated audience about a specific subject (The Beginner's Guide to Wine or Everything You Need to Know About Electric Cars, for example) – data visualisations, on the other hand, are used to support a report or presentation, rather than tell a story
  • Infographics give an overall picture or a snapshot of a scenario or concept, whereas data visualisations – such as the pie chart, bar graph, line graphs, data maps, scatter plots and the such-like – are graphic representations of specific data sets
  • Infographics are stand-alone, self-contained visual representations of a subject whereas data visualisations need to be provided with a context, for example by an accompanying oral presentation or written report
  • Infographics can contain data visualisations but data visualisations can’t contain infographics.

Which is better for you application – an infographic or data visualisation?

This depends entirely on the purpose of your communication and your audience. Infographics are great for sharing on social media sites (and driving traffic to your website) and for mass consumption by an audience with no prior knowledge of the subject matter (i.e. they’re excellent marketing and education applications); data visualisations are perfect for enhancing medical, scientific or technical reports or presentations for knowledgeable niche audiences.

For infographics for your business or organisation, give us a shout!

To help you understand what exactly an infographic is, have a look at this infographic, below...

What Is An Infographic?
by infographiclabs.
Explore more visuals like this one on the web's largest information design community - Visually.