What is it?
A graphical representation of information that combines text, data visualizations, and images designed to convey the key message in a clear, concise, and enjoyable way.
Why is it important?
In the era of information overload, people want to learn things quickly and effortlessly. Since communicating through pictures is hardwired into our brains, infographics fulfill both conditions.
Why does a technical communicator need to know this?
The forgetting curve shows that we forget over 50% of newly-acquired information during the first 24 hours, 80% after a week, and almost everything after a year. The percentages differ from person to person, but the message is clear: we are not particularly efficient at remembering things (Randy Krum, Cool Infographics: Effective Communication with Data Visualization and Design).
However, because about 60% of our brain is involved in visual functioning, we are good at recognizing patterns. We are also more likely to better remember information, especially over longer periods of time, if it is accompanied by relevant images. This phenomenon is called the picture superiority effect. Infographics engage this effect to increase the retention of information.
An infographic is like a story. It consists of an introduction, a body, and a conclusion. The introduction must be short enough to be read at one glance and long enough to explain the key message and engage the reader. The body contains most of the information and combines three elements:
Images that reinforce the message
A good infographic focuses on one key message. The majority of information is presented as data visualizations and images that reduce the amount of time necessary to grasp the key message. Infographics provide technical writers with a visually compelling way of communicating educational or entertaining information in a concise, convenient, easy-to-consume-and-understand package.