The Making of an Infographic. (And why—or why not—to do one yourself.)

Reader Species-- click for full sizeThe other day I stumbled upon a fun 2011 blog post called “7 Types of Book Lovers” by Rick Morton, a young Australian journalist. It was quite amusing and I found myself laughing out loud at his descriptions of his reader friends. That piece somehow led me to a related piece by Jen Doll at AtlanticWire called “The Atlantic Diagnostic Guide to Types of Book Readers” which listed many more types of readers, with the commenters chiming in with even more.

I had been wanting to make an infographic for a while, a) because I love design boondoggles like that, and b) so I could test out the efficacy of this format for grabbing eyeballs and attention, and decide if it’s something that could work for certain clients of mine who have something to sell. Inspired by the aforementioned blog posts, I thought maybe a list of reader types could make a fun first try at an infographic. (Yes, I know I’m about 3 years late to the infographic party.)

So my next step was putting together a full list of all the reader types I’d seen on those various blogs. With some of my own additions, it came to 50 items! Far too many for an infographic, I suspected. I set to work condensing the descriptions for each one down to bare minimum—which lost some of the humor, but, hey, you can’t have everything. (For those who are infographic averse, here’s the full list in PDF format » Text from Infographic)

A Method to the Madness

Now, how to organize this crazy list as an infographic? I sat and stared at it for a while. Gradually some patterns and clusters began to form. I came up with 6 or 7 groupings and then quickly cut and pasted items into each group (I’ll admit I was working quickly and logic didn’t always prevail). Some groups were huge (“Compulsive”); some were small (“Haters).

I stared at the grouped list some more. Suddenly the word “species” jumped into my head and then the whole idea of a Linneaen classification chart appeared (like the ones I vaguely remembered with a hierarchy of plants or groups of apes and humans). At first I thought I could organize it like a genealogical chart, such as the sample Plant Kingdom chart on the left.

Plant Kingdom              Just one branch of the Reader Species chart

But I quickly realized that it would be unreadable with 50 items in a narrow vertical hierarchy, which seems to be de rigueur for an infographic. Then by Googling for other examples of Linneaen charts I found one format I thought I could adapt as a model. And I was off to the races.

chart

Releasing My Species Chart Out into the Wild

Classification of Book Readers GraphicWell, “off to the races” if races lasted two weeks. That’s how long it took me to create the “Classification Chart of Book Lovers and Other Readers: What Species of Book Reader Are You?” graphic (using Powerpoint, my go-to graphics tool, and some free book vector art I downloaded online), working around all my other regularly scheduled projects. It was a feat putting the whole thing together in a way that would be legible—and I didn’t wholly succeed on that. But eventually I wrangled it into final shape.

Then, I had to figure out the mechanics of the main point of doing this exercise: How do you release an infographic out there into the world so that people are led back to your home base to find out about you and your wonderful products? (I’m not promoting anything on my site, but presumably my clients would be.) I read a lot of helpful online articles about best practices and learned some new coding (who knew about html “copy me” boxes?), and then, with some trial and error, placed the infographic on a dedicated page on my website.

The reason I’m telling you all this is because it worked. The analytics showed that visits to my site went from 308 the day before to 2,073 the day of posting. My rudimentary math skills say that’s a nearly 700% increase!

All I had done that first day was tweet the infographics title & link a few times, put it up on Pinterest, post it to my modest amount of Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn connections, and told a few friends about it via email. (By the way, my #1 tip is to give your infographic a good name to make people want to click through to it. #2 tip is to not make it nearly as text-heavy as my graphic is. I just couldn’t resist getting in all 50 species.)

Somehow, the Zite magazine app got a hold of it and the Book Riot blog tweeted it, then some other book blogs also mentioned it, and I guess it drove those few thousand visits to my site. I’ve been too busy to do much more with the project since I posted it, but I did list it on a few of the many infographic directories where possibly it’ll be seen and spread more. (Not likely. It looks like those directories get dozens—hundreds—of submissions a day.)

So should you make one of these things?

My infographic, text-heavy as it is, is one of the more basic, simple infographics out there—nowadays infographics have animation, interactivity, video, and, for all I know, banjo-playing leprechauns. (Here’s an amazing assortment on Pinterest, if you’re interested.) And mine isn’t even a true infographic, since they’re usually based on data or stats—you know: info. But, with the traffic results I experienced, if you have a book or product and a website, it seems worth spending an hour or two brainstorming some ways to capture aspects of its themes in a visual manner that could make a fun graphic that travels around the ’net like a little ambassador for you and your products, much the way a book trailer does. (Cautionary note: The fact is, just as with book trailers, there are millions of infographics out there already so be realistic about the odds of  it “going viral.”)

If you’re a storyteller, you already have half the battle won on the infographic—since the best of them tell a story. And if you can do it without spending a lot of money, what’s to lose? Below are some resources for the design part of it:

  • Make your own infographic at Visual.ly, Chartsbin or using these other free tools. I got my pointers on assembling my infographic via my old Powerpoint program here at Hubspot.com. (But have a good layout idea sketched out before you get to the design stage.) Some technical tips:  http://siegemedia.com/infographic-embed-codes
  • How to promote an infographic: http://socialmediatoday.com/node/1466921  (Also Google this topic—tons of info out there.)
  • Get help making/placing your infographic: I’m guessing pretty much any graphic designer you know could make your infographic for you, if you provide the text or numbers and if they can follow the specs of the format, but you can also find experienced people to hire at Elance, Fiverr, Visual.ly, or by Googling “infographic designer.”

You never know what can happen to something once it’s released into the wilds of the internet; I’ll let you know if anything interesting happens with my graphic.


For many years, Laura E. Kelly (@LectriceUSA) was VP, Global Editor-in-Chief of Reader’s Digest books and now helps creative artists (such as authors, actors, photographers, and print designers) with all things digital—from setting up their social media profiles and building websites to writing copy that articulates their brand and creating POD/ebooks for them. The Marmaduke Writing Factory is one of her clients.

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6 Responses
  1. Irene says:

    What a wonderful post! I’ll be back here when I have the time to do one.
    Thanks for the step-by-step tips and the links.

    Irene

  2. […] We’ve embedded the complete infographic below. You can click to enlarge. At the same time, Kelly also offered a number of tips and tools for making your own infographic. Check it out: […]

  3. I’d promised in my article that I’d let you know if anything happened with my infographic. Turns out readers like to read about themselves! (-: My infographic went viral worldwide in the publishing and library communities, getting mentioned by numerous places like @GalleyCat, @RandomHouse, @HuffPostBooks, @TheAtlanticWire, @PublishersWeekly, @Paris Review, @HarvardBooks, @BookRiot, @Doubleday, @PenguinBooks, @Hachette Books, @Scholastic, @ShelfAwareness, @TheBookClubABC, and so many other reader havens.

    I’m still trying to distill lessons from this experiment–the biggest thing I learned retroactively is don’t neglect to put your social media handles on your infographic (as I did)! Of course, in famous last words: “Who knew??!”

  4. […] Kelly has also written a fascinating story about her process in the development of the graphic that’s well worth a read here. […]

  5. […] Here’s an article I wrote for The Marmaduke Writing Factory about the “Reader Species” infographic I recently made. Why should you care? Well, it increased traffic to this site by, well, a lot*, so there’s something going on with these infographics! Read more about the making of the Reading Species infographic at http://www.marmadukewritingfactory.com/2013/07/15/the-making-of-an-infographic/ […]

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