Visually Communicating Complex Data

The California map infographic ties together geographic, quantitative, and comparative data regarding wetlands.

Effective infographics combine appeal, comprehension, and retention. Appeal engages the viewer with compelling graphics; comprehension means information is easily grasped; and retention results from appeal and comprehension.

The following are keys to consider when designing infographics:

Data Type: Infographics are particularly useful for hierarchies; flow diagrams; maps to show geographic, time and space relationships; time-series; statistical distribution; and networks.

Content: Data – statistics, cost figures, time frames, and references – are the foundation. Viewer demographics need to be considered when compiling and condensing data into what is most relevant to them.

Visual Considerations: Design principles such as spatial relationships, connections, proximity, similarity and color coding represent relationships between data. Graphics and icons create reference points and connections between different data. Design, placement, hierarchy and context in which information is presented will impact the deductions viewers make about the data.

The recyclables infographic uses colors, shapes, hierarchy, and icons to simplify a complex process.

Media: Interactive media – whether on the Web or with presentation tools like Prezi – open up more avenues for data visualization than the traditional poster. Interactive programs are simply tools, however. Effective data visualization requires knowing how to apply the tools’ functions to achieve appeal, comprehension, and retention.For information about using infographics for public outreach, please contact Todd Anderson at or 760.479.4261.