Find some examples of information graphics. For example bus timetables, city maps, diagrams or representations of statistical data. Look at the way they are designed and try and work out the decisions the designer made. What can you learn from them and when would it be appropriate to use a similar design solution?
I started the exercise by researching on line, looking for different types of infographic.
My research suggested that there were about six quite common style of infographic depending on the type of information being shared:
A Process or Sequence of Steps
Information describing a process or a defined sequence of steps is often shown against a timeline or has some sort of visual ‘path’ that leads the viewer through the information in the right order.
The sequence can also be defined using numbered points.
General Information Sheet
Where multiple pieces of information are being shared but there is so specific order to the points, the points can be arranged on a single sheet.
The points are still most likely to be read from top to bottom and left to right but it is not so important for them to be read in a specific order.
A Map or Diagram
Information where location or placement of items is important is often shown as a map or diagram showing how something is structured or laid out.
Where there is a number of related or similar pieces of information, these are often displayed as a list.
Where information is being compared (such as pros and cons or showing how things differ from each other, for example), the information is often displayed as a list but with related information shown side-by-side for comparison.
Visual Representation of Numerical Information (e.g. a Chart)
Where numerical information is displayed, such as how a data set is segmented, is often displayed as a chart or graph.
Other decisions that the designer would consider are:
- How much information needs to be displayed? Is it just one point, for example how the unemployment rate has changed in the UK last 6 months, or multiple points such as ‘Things to do in Tokyo’.
- How is the data related? Are they points with no specific order, a list, a timeline etc.
- Does the information need to be read in a specific order?
- Is some information more important, and therefore needs to stand out more, than other data?
- What is the purpose of the infographic and who is it for? What is its objective? Where will it be read, e.g. in a magazine or a poster in a train station?
- What should the tone of the infographic be, e.g. fun and frivolous, professional and business-like?
- How much of the infographic could / should be communicated using text compared to images.
- What might dictate the colours used? e.g. branding.
For this exercise you are going to describe your immediate surroundings using
I chose to create an infographic of my kitchen worktop. This was inspired by a frustrating evening trying to prepare dinner in the 2 foot square of clear space on my very cluttered kitchen worktop. To help clarify my design decisions, I defined my own brief for this exercise, as follows:
Create an infographic which shows the objects that might be permanently located on, and take up space on, a typical kitchen worktop. The infographic will help to support training of interior and kitchen designers in helping them to understand how the space of a kitchen worktop is used in reality and just how much space is given over to items that reside permanently on the worktop.
The infographic style should be fun and playful with the emphasis on the visual impact of just how many objects live on a typical kitchen worktop.
Step 1 – Gather the Information
I started by drawing a quick sketch of my kitchen worktop and catalogued all the items that live on it:
Step 2 – Decide on the Style and Colours
Because the infographic is intended to be a training tool for designers and creatives, I wanted to use quite a graphic and contemporary style. As the graphic needs to be quite playful, I decided on a graphic-style illustration. I really like the ‘flat’ design style of these illustrated maps and decided to try a similar style for my worktop graphic.
I also like the colour palette of the Shanghai map and decided to try this for my worktop infographic.
Step 3 – Design the Visual Elements
I decided that I would use simple ‘flat’ icons to represent the items on my worktop, so I started by sketching them and then drawing out simpler, more abstracted versions. My intention was for my icons to be a two-dimensional, front on, simplified view of the object. Interestingly one thing I struggled with here was the idea of ‘how flat is flat?’ Some objects, such as the toaster, needed information from other ‘planes’ such as the top or side-on view in order to make it obvious what it was. I opted for any object that could be recognised from a front-on 2D view would be drawn in two dimensions but others would be drawn in 3D where this was essential to help identify what the object was.
Step 4 – Work Out Scale
I measured the objects so that I could draw them in proportion to each other. I also measured my kitchen worktop so that I could draw it to scale.
Step 5 – Create the Graphic
I started by creating all of the icons for the objects using Adobe Illustrator.
Next I created the graphic background, drew a top-down view of my kitchen worktop and added the fixed objects including the hob, draining boards and sink. I chose dark colours for these as I did not want them to particularly stand out as they were not the most important elements of the graphic.
I then copied the object icons into this document and positioned them on the worktop roughly where they were ‘in real life’. Because the icons are all drawn ‘face-on’ I was only able to indicate roughly where they were located rather than exactly how they were positioned on the worktop. Also, because of this, I didn’t feel that the ‘to-scale’ version of the worktop was working, so I changed the size of it to give it a more ‘illustrative’ feel which I felt worked better with the look of the graphic.
Next I added in the objects labels. The objects and labels were the most important elements of this graphic, so I made them light, bright colours to attract attention.
I added the graphic title and the pie chart, summarising how the worktop space is used. Finally, I added the human and cat footprints for a little bit of fun.
Thoughts on this Exercise
I enjoyed this exercise and particularly enjoyed the challenge of creating the icon representations of all the objects on my kitchen worktop. Using basic shapes to build up the objects was good fun once I got the hang of it – a bit like doing a jigsaw puzzle. I enjoyed the challenge although some objects were much harder than others to create – I particularly found the 3D objects hard to construct.
I am not very confident with using colours and even though I copied the colour scheme from another image I had found on-line, I was pleased with how the colours worked together in my infographic. The worktop and fixed appliances were deliberately coloured dark so that they did not stand out and the objects and labels were brightly coloured as these were the most important elements of the graphic.
One lesson learnt from this exercise is that it would be better to plan out more of the entire graphic on paper before starting to create it digitally. I have a tendency to focus on the ‘difficult bits’ which in this case was how to draw the icons, and I forget that how the elements all fit together is equally important. It would be better to consider the whole graphic at the design stage and how parts of it work together for the overall effect.
Another lesson learnt is that creating something like this in Illustrator takes A LOT of time and patience!