The Byrne Blog

John Byrne Communicating About Communications

During the years I toiled at newspapers, I remember the constant need for “art” to help break up the gray pages of type.  For journalists, “art” usually meant photos, not Picassos, but sometimes we could use a map or graph or chart instead.  Something that conveyed information in a different way than mere words was special, even a treat (especially if it was in color!).  But, frankly, it was a huge hassle to create these “graphics” in the days before sophisticated GUI and even desktop publishing.  And back in the stone ages of the 1980s and 1990s, newspapers didn’t have a ton of resources to produce good content when it came to these graphics, a situation that has gone from bad to worse in the intervening years.  At the time, USA Today was one of the only newspapers to publish them regularly (which didn’t mean they were always of high quality).

Fast forward 20 years and we have entered the age of the “infographic.”  And it has leaped off the news pages and onto our screens — with a vengeance.  The smart folks at the online version of the OED define an infographic thusly:  “A visual image such as a chart or diagram used to represent information or data.”  Used in a sentence, they can’t help but further illustrate its power:  “A good infographic is worth a thousand words.

Of course, as a writer, such a sweeping supposition might, by definition (pun intended), seem offensive.  My words should always be good enough, standing alone, to paint the perfect picture in a reader’s mind.  We writers don’t need no stinkin’ “art” or infographics if we do our jobs well.

Except, maybe we do.

Check out this absolutely terrific infographic on why infographics resonate with people.  One of the most interesting tidbits was that 80 percent of people recall something that they “see and do” as opposed to only 20 percent recalling something they’ve read and a mere 10 percent recalling what they’ve heard.  Is it any wonder why the social media networks have made huge leaps in reconfiguring their designs (even on mobile) to include more pictures and graphic images?

In my chosen marketplace, lawyers tend to react the same way writers do when presented with the idea of using an infographic to help market themselves or their firm:  with doubt, disbelief and/or dismissal.  That’s a shame.  In the right circumstances and with the right context, using an infographic on a website page with a description of a service offered or to illustrate a particular aspect of a case study could not only be distinctive but also memorable.  And that’s one of the brass rings of professional services marketing:  to be memorable or “top of mind.”  Why wouldn’t lawyers want to use such a tool to achieve such a result?

I’ve heard of some law firms experimenting with infographics.  If you have an example to share, please post in the comments or email me.  I will do another post shortly with some of the best out there so far.

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