Make Your Point, Fast! — Designing Infographics with the 10 Second Rule
It’s no secret that in today’s information age, where everything we need to know isliterally at our fingertips, there’s an accompanying problem. With so much to take in, we’re forced to throw on our blinders.
Imagine if you took the time to read every word of every email — even spam and junk — that arrives in your inbox. That’s a full time job. Instead, we’ve learned to filter, at lightning speed. In less than one second, we can identify emails that deserve the ‘delete’ button before they’re even opened.
That same principle carries over into every facet of our lives, from media to advertising to thumbing through a magazine. Enter the infographic — in a world where we value aesthetics and the quick digestion of information, there’s no better way to tell a story (especially one with numbers) than in a picture. With attention spans at their lowest point in history (I’m just observing – there’s no science behind that claim), those pictures need to convey their primary message in ten seconds or less.
Let’s start with a recent infographic from CertaPro Painters in Louisville, Kentucky. Give it a ten second gander and then check back with me here.
There’s a lot going on there, but it’s very simple at the top. Where the roof awning peaks, we’re told ‘What colors to paint your home and why.’ That leaves six more seconds to notice that we’re being given reasons to paint each room a certain color — blue equals productivity, red encourages appetite.
You can click away from that without ever examining the rest of the infographic below the house, and you know the basic point: different colors have an effect on the mood and purpose of a room.
“Someone can look at it and go, ‘That’s neat,’ and then move on, but still get the message,” says Randy Krum, president of infographic design firm InfoNewt and the founder of CoolInfographics.com.
Of course, there’s a lot more to this ‘Psychology of Color’ graphic than can be conveyed in ten seconds. If we dig deeper, we first learn that the primary colors red, blue, and yellow have strong meanings, growing more subtle as they overlap into hues of purple, green, and orange. Continue on and we learn how to utilize this color knowledge to market products. Finally, the sources for the information are listed at the bottom, allowing us to fact check and confirm the authenticity of the claims.
The 10 Second Rule
Bingo! In ten seconds, we’ve learned that color matters in our home. In three minutes, we’ve learned not only that color makes a difference in advertising, but specifically which colors we should use for whatever type of product we’re selling.
Look at the detail and imagine having to write all the information in that infographic into paragraph form. You’d lose your reader immediately.
Let’s look at another infographic, this time examining the effectiveness of online degrees. Designed by Krum at InfoNewt, this one couldn’t be any faster in getting its message across that the value of online degree programs is growing. In ten seconds, we’re presented with strong evidence that taking classes online is now viewed favorably in the business world.
Without even taking time to read past the first thumbs up and pie chart, we can scroll down to the green and red people graphic, seeing immediate visual evidence that people with online degrees are finding jobs. In ten seconds or less, we’re left with a strong indicator that online degrees are valuable and comparable to traditional higher education.
Of course, if you want to dig deeper, individual graphs can apply their own ten second rule. Under ‘What type of companies answered?’ we immediately see that the survey covered a broad range of businesses, giving it credibility and accuracy. Continue on for simple visual breakdowns about the size and scope of the companies, information that would be highly tedious in text form.
If you’re faced with a mountain of data you need to convey, either to customers, clients, or employees, consider an infographic. As you can see in the two examples here, they don’t have to be especially concise. Tell your primary story at the top, and allow readers to trickle down into the details at their leisure. Just make sure they get the point of the overall message in ten seconds or less.
“Cut out data that’s not supporting the story,” says Krum. “You want to imply ‘fun.'”