How to Effectively Incorporate Data Into Your Next Graphic Design Project

Graphic designers take a concept and make it more absorbable by breaking complex ideas into digestible images. Complicated topics become easier to understand when you put them into an infographic, table or chart. 

Information design considers the end user and how well they can process the content. If you’ve ever read an article and the designer includes a pie chart, you’ve experienced a visual way of incorporating data. 

What Is the Difference Between Information Design and Data Visualization?

The two concepts are similar and often work in conjunction with one another. Information design embraces incorporating information into a story. It can include graphics, but not always. On the other hand, data visualization takes the data and turns it into a picture. The goal with data visualization is to make something easier to understand at a glance. 

Here are some ways to incorporate data in your next visual project. 

1. Expand on Points

What are the main ideas you want to cover in your presentation? Outline your infographic and what fits with the theme. Once you have a loose idea of the concepts, seek out the data to back up your points. Finally, create visualizations that enhance the data and make it easier to visualize.

For example, you might add a graph showing the percentages of something over time. Perhaps you can illustrate a complex operation and the steps to complete it. Use the data you have to make images enhancing the info. 

2. Be Upfront

People are well aware data can be manipulated to make almost any point you desire. However, using data in incorrect ways also means you lose your credibility as a brand. The crime rates in New York City might be fairly high and prove a point that everyone needs home security, but those rates don’t apply to a small town in the midwest.

Think about who your average customer is, create buyer personas and utilize info that encompasses all the facts and not just the ones you wish to highlight. 

One example of misrepresenting the facts might be via little white lies. Graphic designers and content creators want to make a point, so they round data up or down when sharing statistics. It isn’t fully accurate and can make something sound slightly worse or better than it actually is. 

3. Know Your Audience

Understanding the target audience for a design makes a difference in the data you choose to incorporate. A parent is going to care about different things than a single person. Choose your data wisely based on what you know about the audience.

At the same time, your design should mesh well with the demographics of the audience. If you’re promoting to younger people, you may use brighter colors or different accents than if reaching an older one. 

4. Solve a Problem

Data visualizations should have a clear purpose and solve some sort of problem. Think about the biggest pain points the audience faces and how your infographic might help them. 

Lay out the points needed to solve the issue from Point A to Point B and walk the user through them in an order that makes sense. Outline the infographic before you start working on it. 

Some designers do an outline first, fill in the headings, add in text and finally create the graphics. It doesn’t matter which order you complete the illustration in as long as you hit all the points. 

5. Cut the Clutter

In a recent report by Seagate, researchers predicted the global datasphere could hit 175 zettabytes by 2025. The more data at your fingertips, the more tempting it is to add more and more to your visualizations. 

However, when it comes to infographics, less is sometimes more. You want enough negative space to highlight the most important points. Remember most people skim over your designs, so make them easy to absorb. 

6. Select the Right Chart

There are numerous charts you can use to showcase data. Figuring out which one highlights your points best can be challenging.

For comparisons, graphs and pie charts often work well. For hard percentages, you may just highlight an illustration of the number. For how-tos, showcasing the actions the person needs to take helps.

More popular chart types include:

  • Line charts
  • Bar charts
  • Pie charts
  • Scatter Points

Take a step back and think through what type of data visualization might work best for the data at hand. Try different ones and get feedback on what’s most clear to others. 

7. Avoid Gradients

Gradients are visually appealing and many designers turn to them for a beautiful and unique color palette. However, a recent study by fast company shows people prefer non gradual palette colors when it comes to visual cues. 

8. Add Photographs

Don’t feel like you have to draw out every concept from scratch. There are 1,000s of stock photos available as well as images your client may have of their products or process. Incorporate photographs to highlight some of your points.

Make sure all the photos you use have a similar size and look to them for consistency. Does the photo add value

Test and Get Feedback

Don’t forget to test how your data visualizations look on different screens. You might also want to do some A/B testing with different colors and combinations until you find what your users respond to best. If you have a passion for design and possess the necessary skills and abilities, you can apply for a graphic design job to reveal your potential further.

Eleanor is the founder and managing editor of Designerly Magazine. She’s also a web design consultant with a focus on customer experience and user interface. She lives in Philadelphia with her husband and dogs, Bear and Lucy. Connect with her about marketing, design and/or tea on LinkedIn or Twitter!