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How do you define an infographic?

Infographics are everywhere right now. But almost as commonplace as the infographics themselves seem to be arguments about what a ‘true’ infographic is. The debate is heating up. It’s time to define what an infographic is once and for all and to share ten of the best examples in B2B at the moment.

(Please click here to view these in the Tenbest gallery.)

Defining an infographic

I’d like to kick it off with my own overall definition. I believe an infographic can be defined as:
“a single-page vehicle for detailed information, where graphics have been used to enhance the interpretation or retention of the information within it.”

It’s a broad definition, but necessarily so given the range of (good and bad) material out there. But I don’t see why every infographic should contain certain elements or a certain volume of information in order to be deserving of the name: if graphics and information have been combined in a way that improves the experience for the downloader, it must be a good thing. There may be design purists or data geeks out there who disagree with my definition (and I welcome your counter-definition!) but surely we want content pieces that are useful to us, instead of allowing ourselves to be governed by arbitrary rules.

But within the world of infographics, there are also clearly different types, all of which do a job of conveying information with the help of graphics, and I think it would be useful to further categorise them. I would define these sub-genres as follows, and offer some of the Tenbest gallery as great examples of each.

Category 1: ‘Numbers in pictures’ infographics

This is the most typical kind of infographic, where a lot of numerical data is made more digestible by well designed and innovative graphics. For example, iStrategy’s Social Media in Business is a smartly designed depiction of how companies are using social media, using graphs to make numerical data more digestible, for example showing an at-a-glance comparison of Twitter v blogs v Facebook.

This is also the approach taken by other examples in our selection, namely the social media age chart from Marketo and the `UK private sector chart from SimplyBusiness.

Each of these takes complex information and displays it in graphical format – so the role of the ‘infographic’ is to allow the reader to interpret the data more meaningfully. Without the graphical element, each of these would be pretty impenetrable.

Category 2: ‘Enhanced list’ infographics

Yet I think it is unfair to insist that an infographic must include a certain amount of numerical data. A list of statistics, a timeline or simply a random collection of trivia can be enhanced by graphical treatment. This is why I included The History of Search in Pictures by Wordstream.

It would probably not count as a true infographic for many people, but I include it because of the simple timeline idea: we’re so used to using Google, I found it interesting and enlightening to seeing the history of search given a more graphical treatment. OK, so it’s not complex information, but it is something more than a list which makes it more useful for a reader and that’s the point.


Other examples of this include Aspen’s stylish ‘dashboard effect’ infographic on the automtive market, or the bright and sunny Social Media Facts & Figures by InsideView. “It’s not a bl***y infographic”, I hear someone from the design dept cry. It may be little more than a few stats against a cartoon background. But if those stats are important, and the process of treating them in this way helps to lift them and make them more appealing, it will work for some people, which makes it a worthwhile exercise.

Category 3: ‘Process & perspective’ infographics

A third sub-category is where a graphical treatment is used to show either a complex process, or a different perspective. An example of this category is the Noob Beginners’ Guide to Online Marketing.

Nothing if not comprehensive, the guide shows everything you can be doing with online marketing, from analytics to PPC to social media. Yet, although it crams a lot in, it does not contain much numerical data – which for some people is a defining characteristic of an infographic. I think they’re wrong and this is just as valid: for someone starting out in digital marketing, Noob’s guide is clearly useful.

Other examples in the Tenbest gallery include Base One’s B2B Social Media Landscape. Low on numbers, but it presents a unique perspective of all the areas of social media that a B2B marketer might use, therefore providing a useful overview of the world of B2B social media. A unique twist was also provided here by making it interactive. Each of the figures in the ‘cityscape’ represents a B2B blogger: click on them and it links you to their blog, where you can find more information about the latest thinking in B2B social media.

How do you define infographic?

This is simply my view on infographics. I’ve seen lots of them. I’ve found some useful, some not so useful. I’ve even made a few myself, so I feel qualified to offer a view.

But then you may feel that there is a stricter definition to infographics. Maybe you see many of my selections as nothing more than pretty pictures masquerading as something they are not, and in the process dragging down the noble art of infographic-making. If so, please share…