Bethan Turner argues the importance of having clear and stated “communications objectives” before embarking on designing infographics.

Infographics in market research








Data visualisation (whether you spell it with a z or an s) remains the biggest buzz wAs a pragmatist, for me it’s a different story. I think before we all get covered in a gooey, sticky, cakey mess, we need to sit down, take stock, and decide what is our aim with these data visualisations, or infographics. Why are we spending hours designing them?ord in our industry, and I would suggest that most people have heard this term floating around their office by now. And it’s not just agency and client-side market researchers… the term is front-of-mind across marketing disciplines and elsewhere – everyone wants a slice of the data visualisation cake.

I have always been described as “inquisitive” and “curious”, “not afraid to express her opinion” – all those words that people use when they are politely trying to tell you they think you talk too much, and like nothing more than challenging status quo. Infographics really brings out that side of me. I have recently spent time sifting through the 2013 winners of Kantar’s “Information is Beautiful” Awards, and have, in many instances, found myself disagreeing with the judgements.

Fundamentally, it appears to me that a large proportion of infographics are designed without a clear “communication objective”. In my opinion, the role of infographics should be to provide a simple, easy to access, easy to understand summary of key research insights. If the data can look pretty at the same time, then it’s a job well done. But the main aim, the over-arching objective, is to help readers understand data, and make it more accessible.

With several of the data visualisations promoted through Kantar’s awards, I ended up in at least one of the follow situations:

  • Needing to read the “how to read” box more than once. (I know how to read, thank you. And yet I still can’t understand your infographic.)
  • Needing to invest significant time to understand what the infographic is about. (I shouldn’t have to spend time working out what it is I’m working out.)
  • Struggling with the volume of information to process. (Pass me a biscuit; this one will take a while.)

If any of the infographics you have seen recently (or have been responsible for) initiates responses similar to this, then it has not been designed with a clear communications objective. Without this, it will not be easily understood. If it isn’t easily understood, it falls into what my Nana likes to refer to as the “chocolate teapot” category. It all comes back to what Mean Girls tries to teach every hormonal teenage girl – looking pretty just isn’t enough.

Bethan Turner is a senior research executive at Mustard, and would love nothing more than to debate and discuss these issues with you further – on Twitter @MustardBethan.