Information graphics, more commonly referred to as ‘infographics,’ are graphical representations of data and information. They are created to communicate a concept or tell a story in an easy to comprehend and memorable visual format. Infographics represent the end product of the previously discussed larger field of study known as data visualization, which leverages the brain’s natural ability to visually capture and neurally process images and patterns for better understanding of complex and/or disparate data sets.
Infographics have existed for hundreds of years in various forms or another. Early usage was typically limited to collections of statistical graphs and charts within publications such as an almanac, atlas or encyclopedic works. Infographics really caught on within the newspaper industry where they were (are) commonly used to show weather data, depict statistically-driven map displays known as cartograms, or publish polling results, along with more traditional visual representations of statistical data such as charts and graphs. A great example of newsprint usage of infographics is the daily ‘Snapshot’ that the USA Today™ uses to articulate current events or visually represent survey results.
With the explosion of data sources available on the internet, inexpensive graphical design software, low cost (or even free) mobile apps and vast audiences available via social media, infographics have experienced a sort of renaissance in the past few years. What used to be the sole domain of graphical designers in news rooms or design shops has now been made available to the general public. These days, anyone can be an infographic designer.
The use of infographics in project management practice is rapidly increasing as more and more project managers seek to communicate project status, performance metrics and complex information in a format that is quickly and easily digestible by their harried stakeholders, sponsors and oversight bodies. Some of the more traditional project management documents artifacts that are being re-designed into infographic-form include:
- Project Status Reports
- Project Process Checklists
- Project Deliverable/Key Milestone Checklists
- Project Marketing Materials
- Project Stakeholder Briefings
- External Stakeholder/General Public Communications
- Project Risk Mitigation Plans
- Project Scope Definition Awareness
As the concept of visual thinking and the use of infographics continue to build momentum among the greater project management practitioner community, an increasing amount of traditional document artifacts and communication methodologies will take on a more infographic look and feel. The frenetic pace of business and the changing model of project oversight place increased demands on the project manager to communicate in a more concise and efficient manner, and infographics certainly appear to meet those criteria.
The use of infographics in project management practice, along with over twenty-five other visual project management communication concepts, is explored in greater detail within Visual Project Management, a recently released publication by Paul R. Williams, and now available to interested readers!