Choosing Information Graphics for Case Studies and White Papers

Case studies and white papers—particularly in the tech world—increasingly rely on well-designed information graphics. When looking to articulate your data visually in a paper, there are a few things to keep in mind.

What’s the point?
White papers and case studies exist to explain and persuade. How will the infographics you include contribute to that goal? Which concepts will benefit most by visual representation and what data points will have the most impact when expressed visually?

How will you source the graphics?
Effectively expressing complicated concepts with information graphics may require the help of a graphic designer, who can help identify the data that will best lend itself to visualization. Remember, even the best designer needs quality content to work with—for a persuasive infographic, the data itself must be compelling. Make sure that the data you focus on deserves the spotlight.

Choose graphics that are clear, concise and maintain a reading hierarchy
Will the information graphics maintain their legibility across platforms—on paper, on screen and on mobile devices? Think about levels of reading. If a reader opts to bypass the paper’s body copy, will the graphics alone be enough to communicate your ideas?

Less is sometimes more
In his influential book Envisioning Information, Edward Tufte asserts that “clutter and confusion are failures of design, not attributes of information.”

Each information graphic in your paper should have a purpose. Don’t use infographics as decorative elements or space fillers; keep their numbers to a minimum. Too many graphics in a paper will diminish their individual impact. Information graphics that successfully combine multiple data points can be even more effective. When thoughtfully expressed, the whole of an infographic may very well be greater than the sum of its parts.

Keep it honest
Your information graphics should be accurate and supported by the copy—any hint of exaggeration can be enough to disengage your viewer. Infographics are only successful when they are honest.

Maintain brand compliance
Do the information graphics’ typefaces and colors meet your brand standards? Is the style of illustration thematically aligned with the topic at hand? How will the infographics integrate with the paper’s narrative? Nothing will take the reader out of the moment quicker than a graphic that seems like an afterthought.

Look to industry leaders for inspiration
Some of the best information graphics are created by emerging-technology firms, where complex concepts are distilled into simple, effective visuals. Look to them for inspiration.

Information graphics, when smartly designed and appropriately used, will elevate your case study or white paper. Make them relevant, keep them simple and ensure that they’re accurate. As Tufte says, “above all else, show your data.” Your message will come through loud and clear.

ABOUT Ryan Bahrke

One of Wordsmithie's senior designers, Ryan has more than 15 years of experience in creative direction and management, working with companies like Google, Quantcast, RSM, Navigant, Starbucks, and Ace Hotel. Ryan is the principal of Auslander Creative in Denver.