Infographics seem to be the up-and-coming new thing in the communications, marketing and PR world. In my media and communications classes, many of which deal with a lot of theory, we’ve discussed how communications and learning began in the world as a visual process, with cave paintings and hieroglyphs derived from pictographs. Then, the alphabet came into being and writing and language became more widespread. With the advent of the Gutenberg printing press in the fifteenth century and the rise in the use of the vernacular with the help of Martin Luther during the Protestant Reformation, literacy became increasingly prevalent. Subsequently, the storage of information shifted from the visual to the written.
The written storage of information and knowledge went undisputed for centuries, but in the nineteenth century, photography as we know it was invented, quickly followed by the film. Then came TV and the Internet, which have almost entirely obliterated the written/printed forms of communication and information storage. Newspapers have been replaced by news broadcasts and online sources, even by Facebook statuses and Tweets. Watching a television screen is now a far more common source of entertainment than reading. So it is that the visual, the image on the screen, evocative of the painting on a cave wall, has risen up again and subsumed the written.
The infographic makes sense in this world of 140-character communications and visual storage of information. Composed of eye-catching colors, icons, and graphics, it condenses a wealth of information into bite-sized morsels of knowledge.
Today, I decided to explore this new communications device, hoping that doing so wouldn’t require me to use Illustrator, which I do not yet have on my home computer. A simple Google search quelled my worries, since apparently a number of websites have been developed to make the process accessible to those with no training in graphic design software. The first of these, visual.ly, looked promising and would most likely be the best bet for professionals, but it costs $1,500 to get started, so I passed that one over. An article on CMSwire.com recommended easel.ly, which is currently in beta and is free. That’s the one I decided to try.
Easel.ly makes the process of creating an infographic quite simple, a matter of selecting from a number of graphics and design elements and then simply inputting your desired text. While the selection of graphic elements and backgrounds left something to be desired, it was free and beggars can’t be choosers. Over the course of about an hour and a half of experimentation, I created the infographic on this page, choosing to make a graphic about union organizations because I am currently employed in the communications department of a labor union.
All in all, it went well enough and I think if I tried again, I could come up with something even better. If I was better-versed in Illustrator, I might try that instead, but I assume that using this software cuts out a great deal of time, as easel.ly makes creating an infographic a matter of simply choosing, sizing and arranging a number of graphic elements and pieces of text rather than having to individually create every element you wish to use.
Overall, it was a much easier process than I was expecting and one I feel confident I could use in a professional setting, especially after I take a closer look at the infographics that are already out there and see what methods they use to make the information at hand visually appealing.