February 3, 2015
INTRIGUING STUDY REVEALS THE SECRETS OF SUCCESSFUL INFOGRAPHICS
What makes an infographic successful? As designers, we want it to achieve a balance of two main things:
- Did the reader get the message we wanted them to get?
- Was the message memorable?
CAVEATMemorability is very important, but still just half the recipe. The researches did not look at how well viewers understood the images, just how well they remembered them. Borkin’s next steps are to measure comprehension: that new study is already in progress. This study represents the first step in their research, as they explore what makes an effective infographic, but it already raises questions about what designers have believed so far.
WHAT THEY DIDFirst, the team created a “visual taxonomy” of the images, identifying them by qualities like chart types, number of colors and presence of human-recognizable objects. They also classified attributes like the presence of non-essential decoration and “visual density” (a.k.a. clutter).
“Redesign Your Place” infographic designed for DMC Bologna, by Jacopo Ferretti Then they chose 410 images that evenly represented the range of their sources (like news, science and the infographics site, visual.ly) as well as the range of qualities they’d identified. Using that group, they ran an online experiment (using Amazon’s Mechanical Turk) in which participants watched a stream of images and clicked a button whenever they saw one they believed had been shown before.
WHAT THEY LEARNEDTo the surprise of the researchers, bar graphs and charts did poorly. It turns out (news flash) they all kinda look the same. The most memorable images contained “human recognizable objects.” Think mundane stuff like photos or illustrations of bottles, animals and shoes, not to mention people.
“Who is Occupy Wall Street” infographic created for Fast Company, by Jess3 Other important points:
- Color made a huge difference: the more, the better.
- Images with more clutter were highly memorable. How much more memorable? A lot.
- Images with lots of circles and rounded corner graphics also ranked high.