As the name entails, infographics combine information and graphics. They’re often used to display information/data in a super concise and clear format for audiences. It used to be the case that if you wanted an infographic, you went to a graphic designer or a design agency. But with so many new applications online, you can create an infographic on just about anything – with very little or no cost.
We linked up with Mike Parkinson, founder of Billion Dollar Graphics, to discuss contemporary infographic design.
Mike Parkinson is the graphics guru responsible for the creation of Billion Dollar Graphics, an organisation focused on effective visual communication. He is one of 34 Microsoft PowerPoint MVPs in the world. Mike is an internationally recognized visual communication expert, professional speaker, and a #1 bestselling Amazon author. He regularly conducts workshops and creates graphics, presentations, proposals, and learning materials for companies like Microsoft, FedEx, Xerox, Dell, Pfizer, and Boeing as well as at learning institutions and organizations around the world.
He’s the genius behind Build-a-Graphic, a PowerPoint add-in promising:
- to make professional graphics quickly
- a visual learning system
Since more and more people are interested in creating their own infographics, and subsequently, have more choice in terms of program or application, it’s important that designers and non-designers alike choose the best platform for their visual communications.
As tools empower designers and nondesigners alike to make better infographics faster, the do-it-yourself trend will continue to grow.
When did you start noticing the trend or demand for people wanting to design infographics themselves?
People have always wanted to make infographics themselves. As with most creative activities, people seek ways to do it themselves. It’s fun… until it isn’t. When the actual output doesn’t match the desired output, folks get discouraged. They give up or settle. Now, it’s more realistic to expect to make professional infographics with new DIY tools available. As tools empower designers and nondesigners alike to make better infographics faster, the do-it-yourself trend will continue to grow. To be clear, I am not saying that DIY tools replace a designer. What I’m saying is that DIY tools augment the designer. They help everyone use infographic best practices to reach their goals even when resources (time, money and skills) are scarce.
What was the decision behind releasing Build-a-Graphic as a PowerPoint Add-In? Did you consider other programs or was PowerPoint the program of choice?
PowerPoint’s ubiquity is the number 1 reason I chose it. My goal is to empower as many people as possible to achieve their goals using infographics. To do so, I need to remove as many barriers as possible. Almost everyone has Microsoft Office so there is no expensive software to buy. If you know how to move objects, type, change colours, and group/ungroup in PowerPoint, then you can start using the Build-a-Graphic add-in effectively. I want it to be easy to make content the right way.
How long did it take you to create Build A Graphic and what inspired you to create it?
It may sound ridiculous, and it’s true when I say, it took 46 years to make Build-a-Graphic. A lifetime of learning what works and what doesn’t poured into the add-in—and not just from me. In the last three years, with the help of other amazing PowerPoint thought leaders like Jamie Garroch, Shyam Pillai, Steve Rindsburg, Glenna Shaw, and Microsoft PowerPoint MVPs who have generously shared their expertise and skills, the tool was born.
I believe that the best solutions are often the simplest partly because intuitive solutions get adopted; they are often deceptively simple. So I made sure that Build-a-Graphic was really easy to use. I have found the simple solutions that actually work take more time to make. And it is SO worth it. I’m so proud of Build-a-Graphic and I am delighted by the feedback. I’m seeing AMAZING infographics being used for presentations, learning materials, sales, proposals, and more. As a direct result, users are changing the world around them with better PowerPoint. That excites and motivates me to keep growing the tool.
DIY – Design it Yourself
A quick search online will lead you to a comprehensive list of infographic apps and websites. Designing it yourself ensures that your message is conveyed in the exact way that you want. And just like Mike suggests, people have always wanted the power to create infographics themselves.
DIY is a more personalised experience…and you don’t have to worry about waiting for someone else to finish designing it for you, which is definitely a bonus. Most infographic makers let you choose from a variety of different templates but you can design it from scratch if you feel so inclined.
So let’s weigh up using custom infographics.
- There are beginner friendly design apps like Easel.ly offering a simple and easy platform to create basic infographics.
- Pre-made templates let you focus on the information. This is awesome for people who don’t really know much about design.
- It’s quick, easy, and simple. If you need to add an infographic on a deadline, an online infographic app would be much more convenient and a faster process than waiting for a designer or agency to get back to you.
- Pricing! Some infographics makers are 100% free.
- User-friendly interfaces and intuitive functions.
- Suitable for everyone – from non-professionals to professional designers.
- An infographic creator may put too much information into one template, making it difficult to understand data.
- Anyone can use your template – your infographic isn’t unique.
- You’re limited to the templates and the icon library the app offers. This means you don’t have the range of design tools to create something meaningful or tailored to your audience (see point above).
Is DIY taking over?
Well…not really. It really depends on the purpose of your infographic. Doing it yourself would be great for a university assessment, but probably not the best for your business – especially in terms of branding. Cost efficiency is important for people and using a program will definitely get you from point A to point B. But in terms of a personalised, branded, and design perspective – employing a graphic designer could be a better investment, especially if you have the budget.
When Would You Employ a Designer?
If you’re thinking of going big – an important Ad, video, poster, campaign – any situation where there are high stakes for audience engagement and business branding; then employ a trusted designer or a design agency. Visual impact is crucial, especially when complex data is involved. A template maker will appear amateurish and cheap if it’s not tailored to the right campaign or audience.
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