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Jun 6 / King Kaufman

A must-see video introduction to creating great visual content

Sometimes the most compelling way to present information is through an infographic—a data visualization, if you’re looking for the buzzword.

As Bleacher Report’s product team redesigns the publishing tool, one thing slated to roll out soon will be an infographics feature, something to help writers create those data visualizations.

As NFL Lead Writer Ty Schalter showed recently, you don’t have to wait for the tool to start making graphics. But whether you’re ready to begin today or you need some time to get up to speed, you’d be wise to spend seven minutes watching “The Art of Visualization,” a PBS Off Book video featuring four leaders in the field talking about the thinking behind the craft.

If you’re not a seasoned graphic artist, it’s like the head-swimming first day of school.

“Every single pixel should testify directly to content,” says Edward Tufte of Yale, a pioneer in and scholar of information design. “Style and aesthetics cannot rescue failed content.”

Julie Steele, a designer at O’Reilly Media, notes that there are three things that should inform your design. I’d say they should similarly inform your writing. They are:

You: What you have to say.

The reader, who is most decidedly not you and his their own biases and assumptions that you have to account for.

The data itself, and what it has to say. If it’s helpful, you can change the word “data” here to “truth.”

Steele also talks about how our brains are wired to process visual information quickly, the better, as she points out, to tell us if those dark shades in the tall grass are just shadows or the stripes of a tiger that would like to eat us. We also respond emotionally, she says, to aesthetics and design. That makes for fertile fields for designers:

So if you want to change someone’s mind, if you want to change someone’s behavior, sometimes putting the information in a visual format is the fastest way to get them to engage with that information.

The way your grandma put that was “A picture’s worth a thousand words.”

“Anybody can visualize data in Excel and see some bar charts” says software artist Jer Thorp in the video. “For me, it’s about showing them something in this kind of loose narrative frame that they can interpret.”

Check it out. I predict that in seven minutes you’re going to want to go make an infographic.