Let’s Get Visual: Infographics of the Twittersphere
Hello World! My name is Kate Guy and I’m a Creative Industries student at QUT. I became involved in this project through the VRES (Vacation Research Experience Scholarship) program at QUT. I am a passionate graphic designer and have cherished the opportunity and time that I have spent so far working on the Telemetrics project. My job within the team is to communicate to the general public. It’s a balancing act between data, design and communication. This is my first opportunity working with infographics and I feel I have risen to the challenge – in fact revelled in it.
Essentially, an infographic combines key text, imagery and design to tell a story. It is visual shorthand with the ability to communicate in-depth information. Infographics allow information to be viewed and understood by a wide audience, not just by academics. The most crucial and interesting information is singled out from a pool of data, making it more relatable and compelling to the general public.
When it comes to mapping the Twittersphere, the amount of information is overwhelming. Infographics will play a crucial role in the success of this project within the media and general public. The main goal of the infographics I have created is to compare the US and Australian data, highlighting the difference in relationships between Twitter and reality television. My approach to designing infographics for this project has revolved around picking the most crucial data and displaying it in a simplified and uniform manner. The font and colour choice creates a contemporary aesthetic that appeals to a wide audience. Currently, the end goal for this series of infographics is to create a completed publication for both print and online viewing.
My approach to the design process of an infographic
The most important step is to select the story you want the infographic to tell. For this particular infographic, I wanted to compare the number of viewers to the number of tweets to show that there is a dramatic difference between US and AU tweet habits in regards to reality television. The first obstacle is the raw data as it compares oranges to apples. It has to be transformed to be comparable and relevant to one another. The conversion of reams of data into a single number needs to be systematic and fair to be a true representation.
I originally wanted to show the number of tweeters to the number of viewers as a percentage, however the numbers just weren’t there. Percentages below 1 aren’t powerful, so a ratio was used in their place. The final infographic read 1 viewer tweets for every 57 who watch The X Factor (US). The viewer numbers are averaged from the season, excluding the premiere and finale episodes. The premiere and finale episodes had to be excluded as they were skewing the averages for both the viewers and tweets.
Initially the tweet numbers used in design iteration 1 were all-inclusive, altering the story of the infographic. The gap between the US and AU tweet habits had been marginalised and subsequently the point was lost. In design iteration 2 the tweet numbers were substituted with unique authors, realigning the infographic with the initial story. Once the data is communicating the correct story, the primary aim is to assist the communication by presenting it as clearly and engagingly as possible.
In my first semester of university I was introduced to a term called ‘Chartjunk.’ It refers to the presence of any element that is not essential to the overall design. Anything that does not have a purpose or assist in the communication of the message needs to be removed. Design iteration 3 is all about refining and the eradication of said Chartjunk. The information is complex and it takes time to digest, so the design must be as streamlined as visually possible.
From Design iteration 2 to Design iteration 3 these are the significant changes that occurred:
- The amount of white space was increased so the eye is able to separate the information more easily and create a pathway for viewing.
- The number of font sizes was reduced and spacing between was altered to distinguish the headings from the body and in turn communicating more clearly.
- The individual numbers from each bar were removed and replaced by a simplistic scale. By adding a scale the viewer instinctively processes the information visually without the need of text.
- The blue column not only guides the eye through the infographic, but it also clearly shows that there is a relationship between the numbers contained within it. The key became obsolete with the addition of the blue column and was removed.
The design for this research project needs to be intelligent, simple and appealing. Through the iterative design process, the final solution for this infographic is the most powerful and successfully meets the design needs for this project. The infographics as part of this research project are an invaluable method of communication. With new data being added everyday to the growing Twittersphere, these infographics are just the beginning. I look forward to sharing the series of infographics I’ve been busy working on with you in the near future.