Ten advices for editors and writers when they ask for an infographic

Infographics journalists complaint by their own nature. And I will go against nature if I'd say that this characterists has no reasons. At the newspaper I work for, Publico, as it was born less than a year ago we started from nothing, and with people coming form many different places. So we made a little 'Handbook' for writers and editors with some advices or rules for when they come to ask for a graphic. With these conclusions, and those that I got on my works as Innovation's consultant, I dare to offer this ten advices. Many of them are extensible to the general journalism, but sometimes we must make visible that infographics are journalistic products. At least, those on newspapers.

1. Infographics are information, not decoration
The mother of all rules. Graphics are not to make pages more beautiful. One may ask for a graphic when we need a visual explanation better than a text one. If you don't know if the information would be wll explained visually, ask the infographic journalist.

2. Information in the graphic gives the size of it
We must not make the layout and then ask for the graphic. Oversizing graphic because we don't have more to say on the text is not the solution. It just mean that the information didn't need such a big space. Anyway, is always easier to have more space for text than for graphic, where size is so important. And the same with the very small ones.

3. If you wouldn't do it with the text, you can't do it with the graphic
Data on graphics can't be less rigourous than in the text. The newspaper is the same, the reader is the same, the afcts are the same. Graphics are not a minor genre, is a different language. And use the orgiginal sources, don't take information from other media. And if you dio it, it must be said on the sources.

4.Graphics are not made for those who don't want to read
If someone buy a newspaper it means that he (or she) likes to read and get informed. Graphci are not explanations for fools, and must not understimate our reader's intelligence. We don't have smart readers who read the texts and fools who looks at the graphics. The same reader look texts and graphics, and we use these two kinds of language because teh things we want to say are better said on the chosen language. Graphics and texts are complements, not exclusive.

5. Do not repeat the data on graphic and text
Graphic is not for summarizing the text. If you have nothing to tell apart form the data on the graphic maybe you don't need a text. What's the problem? So, we also must avoid sentences like "Don't put this on teh graphic or I would have nothing to say on the text". Give the information in teh best way for the reader, not in teh best way for you.

6. Quality of the infographics depends on information and time
Information for graphics is like the screenplay for a film. Maybe we can make a bad graphic with good information, but it's almost impossible to make a good graphic with bad information.

7. Say no to the big reports culture
It's not unusual to have big mountains of papers with reports of some enterprise or institution. and they are usually full of little graphics. The solution is not to think "How many of this one I need to fullfill the expectad space for a graphic'". maybe none of these graphic are relevant. Or maybe you have to 'cook' (on the best meaning) them to obtain new answers.

8. Graphics must be visual
Graphics are not not texts + photos. Texts and photos are texts and photos. Tables, lists, commented photos, key facts... all those could be better explained with layout solutions. Having them made by the infographics department won0't make them more attractive, the information si attractive by itself.And if you have doubts, ask the infographic journalist.

9. Go for the good ones
Infographics departments, as all departments, has it resources limited. But, in our case, we cannot ask for people from other departments on teh bad days, we can't use wire graphics on many small papers, we don't have a catalog of pre-designed graphics we can use as pre-designed pages. And, when the big things happens, infographics use to be always there: with sports in the Olympics, with Policts on teh elections, with Local when there's an accident or a disaster, with World when there's a war... there's no rest for graphics. So, many times, we can't go for ALL the graphic and we have to bet for have less graphics (but good ones) instead of a lot of poor graphics. And, the graphic we must have is not always that of the big topic of the day, but that one that really needs a graphic to be explained. Maybe the big topic of the day doesn't need a graphic.

10. Trust the infographic journalist
On most of the cases I know, infographic journalist are very enthusiastic with their job (Ok, tehre are exceptions). Usualley, when an infographic journalist tell you to have the infographic smaller or even not making a graphic is not because he doesn't want to work. It's because he really think that this is the best for the information. On the same way, you must hear the infographic journalist when they advice you to have a graphic with your information. The fact of asking for a graphic must be a billateral task.

And a final advice for both writers and infographic journalists... we must avoid all those graphics that, when we want to describe them we say "the typical graphic showing...". Avoid the typical. rethink all from the beggining each time, and so you can have original ways to explain things. That way you can erally know if the 'common places' of the infographics are so because it's the best way to explain things or because no one has think it well.

All kind of suggestions are accepted!


Parka said...

Great and useful information. I've just emailed my fellow colleagues the link.

REEM said...

a bit late this comment ;) but
Whenever an editor comes at my desk wanting a graphic because he wants the article nicer or more fun, my response is: write the headline and intro in rhyme that makes it fun and nice! :)

REEM said...
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