24.9 Infographics workshop with Julia Reeve

Julia Reeve, from the Centre for Enhancing Learning through Technology (CELT), De Montfort University, kicked-off the conference by leading a thoroughly engaging workshop which proved a great ice-breaker. She began with a brainstorm around Infographics, visual representations of information intended to either ‘immerse or ignite’. The former being a bit heavier on text whereas the latter is focused on exciting instant interest in a topic. Either way, infographics are intended to tell a story or explain a process, in a quick, easy to understand and above all engaging way.

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What are they particularly good for?

  • Expressing scale/quantities
  • Making comparisons
  • Exploring abstract concepts e.g. Ikigai
  • Maps and more!

In addition, infographics can be very useful for researchers to explain their research topics to non-specialists. Creating module guides in the form of an infographic also demonstrated a very practical usage in HE.

It was great to have a look at some inspirational books before we got started on our task of designing an infographic. Julia provided a good spread of titles on a table, including ‘Information is Beautiful’.  We were also shown some entertaining examples on a slideshow, such as a taxonomy of London’s hipster coffee shop names – including some real gems, from sinister Dark Fluid to homely Caravan. A few other classic infographic examples also popped up too, such as the once-ubiquitous Wordle. As librarians we all know how much fun we had dumping reams of text into this and seeing what it generated.

Before making our own infographic we had to consider:

  • Fundamentally, what is the purpose, the core message?
  • Who is the audience you are designing it for? It needs to be easily understood by non-librarians!
  • Where is it going to go? Eg. On the web, a poster, magazine, etc, and therefore:
  • What is going to be the balance of text to image? What size and style of font is appropriate?

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I was pleased that we would be foregoing the use of software. There is quite a lot out there that you can try with a free account, then pay to upgrade for more features, ready-made themes, clipart and more. From my own experience I can say that some are better than others e.g. Piktochart, but you can still get a lot of mileage from PowerPoint. I’m also particularly enamoured of Canva at the moment, not least for its range of free to use imagery.

We got to work with coloured paper, pens, scissors, glue, some pre-printed sheets of clipart cleverly compiled by Julia. Whilst I hit a lot of dead ends in my design process and it took a while to settle on a good concept, it did not matter that I did not quite finish my infographic in the time we had. It also demonstrated that jumping straight into a piece of software could mean you might miss some of the best bits of planning; perhaps it is too easy to over-rely on existing templates and imagery, imitating off-the-peg options rather than starting from scratch. The various half-formed scribblings I have in my notepad will be something I can return to and develop into something useful in the future and I will aim to finish these before I try to make a digital version, if I use software again at all.

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For me most valuable part of the workshop proved to be the sharing of our drafts with each other, using a digital projector. What might have proven daunting was instead really fun and gave an insight into the different approaches that can be taken, the different creative talents and insights of all the participants.  There was also a sort of cut-and-paste charm to these half or mostly-finished designs – a nice counterbalance to the slick productions in ‘Information is Beautiful’ and on Pinterest. It also transpires that architecture librarians love to do a bit of colouring-in, and what better way to mentally warm up for a conference?

Report by David Stacey | University of Bath

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