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The Future of Visual Content: 6 Predictions About Infographics

visual contentNot a day goes by where I do not see a new infographic being tweeted, shared on Facebook, or posted on LinkedIn. The topics range from data visualization to education to humor — and everything in between.

It’s obvious that infographics have become a popular vehicle for content marketing, as visual content can often get shared more than links or text. But, due to the rapid growth of infographic-style content, will the allure of infographics last? I’ve asked six experts to share their perspectives on what may be in store for infographics in the future.

Here is what they had to say:

The UX design perspective: Alberto Cairo

Alberto Cairo teaches infographics and visualization at the University of Miami’s School of Communication, and is the author of “The Functional Art: An Introduction to Information Graphics and Visualization.

visual content-Cairo“Infographics will have a bright future if the people who design them embrace accuracy, clarity, depth, and service to the public, rather than mere promotion. Infographics are not just means to make information ‘sexier,’ or to ‘get more eyeballs,’ or to help your message ‘go viral’ (I’m using marketing and PR jargon here). Infographics are tools for understanding. They need to be functional, beautiful, and insightful, they must help audiences discover deep and useful truths that lie hidden behind the world’s complexity.”

The content integration perspective: Brian Wallace

Brian Wallace is the founder of NowSourcing, an infographic design and social media marketing company.

visual content-Brian Wallace“As with any type of marketing tool, infographics have been well on the rise over the last few years. While we saw only certain verticals and companies start using them online at the start, many different companies have joined the fray lately. This also includes some pretty subpar efforts, which has saturated (at least on the low end) the marketplace. Because of the influx of subpar infographics, many editors and viewers will throw out infographics altogether.

“To this, I say that being tired of infographics is a lazy argument.

“Quality will always prevail — if you’re careful at what you’re doing. That being said, infographics are (and already have been) getting more complex. No longer solely flat images on the web, they are becoming a mainstay in product packaging, trade show materials, and even annual reports.

“The future of the web, along with its underlying infrastructure, mobile devices, and connection speeds, will really fuel the new wave of what infographics can do. Interactive infographics are the latest hot new thing, and video infographics will compel audiences for some time to come.”

The brand storytelling perspective: Cole Nussbaumer

Cole Nussbaumer has always had a penchant for turning data into pictures and into stories. In addition to her day job speaking and giving presentations about communicating effectively with data, she also teaches a class on the subject.

visual content-Nussbaumer“Infographics run the gamut, from fluffy to informative. On the former side, we are presented with elements like oversized numbers and portions of filled-in little man-shapes. The graphics appear glamorous and have a sort of sex appeal that draws you in. Unfortunately, upon further evaluation, these visual displays are often shallow and leave me dissatisfied. On the other end of the spectrum are infographics that actually inform; many of the good examples I’ve seen here are in the area of data journalism (e.g., Alberto Cairo’s work).

“There are critical questions an information designer must be able to answer before they begin the design process: Who is your audience? And what do you need them to know or do? It’s only after the answers to these questions can be succinctly expressed that an effective method of display that will best aid the message can be chosen. Good data visualization (infographic or otherwise) tells a story.

“While I’m not certain what the future will bring when it comes to the landscape of infographics, my hope is that the trend will be [to move] away from the fluffy data-dump and towards visualizations that are thoughtfully designed to impart information and tell a story.”

The creative strategy perspective: David Gould

David Gould is the Creative Services Director at Vertical Measures, where he oversees written, visual, and video content production, as well as social media and promotion.

visual content-Gould“Over the past few years, infographics have exploded in popularity. But almost as quickly as they rose as a favorite content medium, naysayers wrote them off; they claim “infographics are dead” and point to a saturation in the content market.

“While the proliferation of infographics is considerable, I think all that has died is the idea of cranking out infographics for the novelty of the format. As a content medium, they are still a fantastic way to present ideas and data in an easily digestible way. Brands that can do so with a relevant story, beautiful visuals, and salient ideas will have no problem rising above the din of shoddy, ineffectual graphics.

“And as technology progresses, there will be an increased focus on pushing the format further [using] interactive infographics, live data visualizations, and mixed-medium presentations that incorporate video, motion graphics, HTML5 elements, and more. These evolving options create new possibilities for the infographic format, which continues to be a highly effective tool for content marketing.”

The innovation perspective: David Wallace

David Wallace is the CEO and founder of SearchRank, a search and social media marketing company.

visual content-David Wallace“I feel infographics will continue to gain popularity and momentum. Currently there is a very small sector of businesses that are actually utilizing them. In fact, many business/ website owners still do not even know what an infographic is. As more publishers become aware of what they are, and how powerful they can be as a content marketing tool, I believe we will see an increase in their use.

“As for the infographics themselves, I think we will see more interactive and even video infographics down the road, at least from those who have the budgets and/or talent to create them. I am already seeing an increase in ‘animated’ infographics, which are simply animated GIF images. Done right, these are really cool, as people love stuff that moves!

“And finally, I hope the future brings more quality. Currently there is an ‘infographic gold rush’ taking place. Sadly however, a large percentage of infographics currently being produced are of very low quality. Hopefully those who are cutting corners will learn that putting the effort and money into quality, will pay off big in the long run.”

The data perspective: Stephanie Evergreen

Stephanie D. H. Evergreen is a sought-after speaker, designer, and evaluator who brings a research-based approach to helping clients shine their work as the Principal Consultant at Evergreen Evaluation.

visual content-Evergreen“I hope against hope that the future of infographics includes more people who know data very well. Many infographics these days are produced by graphic designers. They are pretty and slick and color-coordinated. But often there is little actual data to support the infographic’s main claims. What data I do see is often misrepresented, where the graph’s cuteness outweighed its true and accurate representation of actual numbers. This means we need designers who know more about data visualization, and statisticians and researchers who know more about design, talking together through the infographic production process. Less gimmick, more clear data.”

The collective perspective

In summary, we can safely assume that infographics will be a part of content marketing plans for years to come. However, in order for infographics to be successful, the content needs to be high quality and data driven. Instead of focusing on how attractive the infographic is (though design is important to a degree), first and foremost, marketers need to do a better job at representing data effectively and honestly. Also, as technology continues to progress, we can expect to see more interactive infographics and other types of visual content across the web, bringing an additional layer of engagement to the content, which also makes the future of infographics look really bright.

What do you think the future holds for infographics? Let me know in the comments!

Need help creating unique, impactful infographics, or other visual content? Check out our list of 27+ Handy Tools.

Cover image credit: Andrew Moir