Published by Abby Spung, October 16th, 2014
Infographic: an invented term that smashes together the words information and graphic that is thrown about these days like overused slang.
Incidentally, my computer is red lining this word, because even it doesn’t identify it as a real word in our language.
Nonetheless, everybody seems to want an infographic, whether they need one or not. They are so popular that knockoffs have become rampant, diluting the value and reputation of this visual tool – which makes the need to better define them all the more important.
Defining an Infographic
The meaning of the word is a bit elusive. After all, it’s natural to treat it like a compound word whereby you combine the meaning of two separate words to arrive at a new meaning, like campground (a ground or area in which you camp) or blackboard (a board or surface that is black). Hence, it seems the definition would be information that is expressed graphically. But wait, isn’t that what graphic design is—communicating information using a strategic collective and application of graphical elements such as type, color, image, and so on? Well yes. So what’s an infographic then?
Perhaps it would be best to suggest to you that infographic is a noun, a thing whose purpose is data visualization—communicating complex information in a readily digestible way. The operative word here being readily. We all know people process visual information or images quicker than words. If that wasn’t the case, the cliché “a picture is worth a thousand words” would have never caught on. The point at which the picture takes too much effort to process, or understand, is when it’s surpassed its value as a visual aid.
Why Defining Infographics Matters
Clarifying what infographics, or data visualizations, are accomplishes two things.
- It helps those of you who, as of the last decade, have been repeatedly asking for an infographic from your creative team, art department or resident graphic guru understand what one is and decide if you really need one.
- It offers some insight and reassurance to those of you who often find yourself cocking your head and furrowing a brow while trying to decode what looks like a cross between the women’s restroom sign and the nutritional panel of a cereal box—which, by the way, is an infographic.
Why do I care? I believe you should get what you ask for, understand what you’re looking at, and be able to appreciate the intellectual effort and creative discipline it takes to turn an abundance of typically boring statistical data into a succinct, stealthy and very valuable visual. When done correctly, infographics are beautiful components and tools for reaching your audience, and delivering your value proposition.
Is your infographic providing clarity or adding noise? Asking yourself these questions is a good way to find out.
- Does it communicate complex data in a simple and easy-to-read manner?
- Is it primarily graphical / visual or are you doing more reading? (Bar and pie charts don’t count.)
- Is the information of value to your intended audience – does it captivate them?
- Is the imagery, color, and treatment relative to your message or brand?
Here are three articles that I like and find to be additionally insightful on this highly overused term and its application that you may also enjoy.
What has your experience with infographics been like? Add your comments below or contact Abby Spung to discuss infographics further.
Published by Abby Spung, September 11th, 2014
Have you ever said something like this before?
“I’m starting a new company and we need a website. Our customers just don’t understand what it is we do.”
Stop right there. A communication channel is not going to solve your branding problem.
Where Does Branding Start?
A small handful of things bring about the need to start looking at your brand. The most obvious but not necessarily the most common reason is the much anticipated launch of a new company or product. Incidentally for us designers, while this is the most appealing project scenario, it has potential to be deceptively challenging, because getting the opportunity to work from a truly “blank sheet of paper” is rare.
Other situations that tend to prompt some brand introspection are a change in name, the need to revitalize the brand, or a desire to establish a more integrated image or message, and finally – and perhaps the most prevalent in business today – a company merger and the need to preserve the equity of both brands while creating something new.
Make no mistake; resolving any of these objectives properly will be a lengthy and very involved process. And no matter which one is the cause for initializing this process, there is one thing you can do that will help ensure a successful outcome for your branding efforts – involve the right people at the right time.
The strongest brands are built from the inside out. From the very beginning, your top level management must champion the effort, passing their enthusiasm and support on to your staff. You will also need to recognize the strengths and weaknesses of your company, seeking outside counsel for support where required.
In-House May Be Too "Inside the Box"
After evaluating the structure of many B2B companies in the life sciences and technology industry, a rising trend toward in-house marketing is apparent. Some factors that may be driving this trend are the desire to maintain control—after all, who doesn’t want to be in control— and the belief that the product is so technical that only someone who has been directly involved in its development or who has worked intimately in the field would be able to sell it or market it to such an intelligent niche audience.
The drawback to relying soley on in-house marketing is that while those charged with the responsibility for developing or managing the brand have extensive insight and understanding of the market and product, they too often have little to no experience in brand identity development.
Two Heads Are Better Than One
The best way to compensate for this is to supplement the branding process with some outside expertise. It’s not a new idea. Many successful companies are doing it; and, frankly, it’s likely to be one of the differentiating factors in their success.
Because branding is truly about seizing every opportunity to express why people should choose your brand over another, you would be wise to consider at the onset of building a brand identity just how many opportunities there are to account for. Each touch point, be it a website, blog, business card, speech or even the way you answer the phone calls, is a unique opportunity to reach your audience. Thinking about this and planning for it early in the process is critical. Building this collective toolbox takes time, managing it takes discipline, and knowing when to deploy the tools requires a top-down perspective of the overall goals for the brand.
Consulting with creative agencies who are rich with expertise in building and managing brands should be a part of your planning process. By sharing your business goals and objectives with them early you can better anticipate the costs and timelines for going to market with a tangible brand message.
Agencies are populated with talented individuals who have spent their entire careers mastering ways to take a message and package it for multiple mediums and audiences, capitalizing on each variance in the medium, leveraging everything from sound, color, space, image, and typography to touch your audience and appeal to them on a visceral level. That, combined with intimate knowledge of the product or company and its stakeholders, is what it takes to be found in a sea of images, brands and competitors across our global market.
Is your brand identity sinking or setting sail?
Published by Bobby Schehl, July 31st, 2014
The life science industry is built on structured and often complex messaging. Explaining the latest biotech innovation or cancer research technique can be complicated and exposes the desperate need for creative talent with an analytical mindset.
A Different Type of Designer
As a an early design student at Marietta College, I had no way of knowing I would end up working at OffWhite, yet it seemed destined to happen. During my education, I found that my design talent included two opposing aptitudes: one of structure and organization, the other more abstract and creative. Prior to my internship with OffWhite, I had no idea that these two skill sets could be married together so perfectly to meet the needs of a very specific clientele.
Laroland is a project I completed while studying at Marietta College and is a good example of abstract explanation of complex concepts through design. Laroland is also a project indicative of the work we do here at OffWhite. The goal of this project was to provide fourth grade students at the local elementary school a set of materials that would help demonstrate one of their school subjects in a way that was visually compelling and more exciting than a traditional textbook. Based on my interests, it comes as no surprise that I chose science as the subject. I created a board game named "Laroland" where students would take turns spinning a wheel to determine a question category they would then answer. A whimsical character and color scheme were chosen that visually represented the subject matter for each of the four categories, along with a set of science trivia cards complete with instructional graphics.
Little did I realize how closely this project would serve as a parallel for the type of work I do today at OffWhite. Although the target audience is no longer fourth graders, the goal is the same: represent tangible content in a way that is both abstract and visually appealing. In both cases the subject matter is categorized, calculable, and analytical, yet still requires a special sense of creativity and imagination to engage the intended audience.
Designing and writing for biotech marketing takes a different type of creative mentality, and since our inception, OffWhite has always stood out as a different type of marketing firm. We specialize in organizing complex information into manageable bits that anyone can understand, but we do it with a clean, concise style.
Our goal is to visually express technical content in a way that encompasses the idea of the content without explaining it in an obvious way. We are able to achieve this by utilizing a more creative, abstract understanding of the subject matter. This type of representation, although once removed from the actual content, holds equal importance to the concrete representation.
At OffWhite, our team delivers targeted messages through creative expression across a variety of media. Contact us today to learn how we can help you explain your business.
Published by Abby Spung, June 12th, 2014
From very early on in my graphic design career, one of my sweet spots has been identity design, commonly referred to as logo design — often mistaken for brand design. So, what’s the difference? Hire a designer if you want a new logo. Hire a highly skilled multi-disciplined team if you are building a brand.
Your brand isn’t your logo.
Your logo is exactly that – a logo. It gets attached to your company’s name or other visually consumable collateral material. Your identity is an astute, multi-channeled summation of what your company stands for, telling an in-depth story with many intricate details and triangulations. Your identity and logo work together to form the foothold of your brand. This foothold grows to represent your promise to consumers, creating an expectation. But, this by no means is all there is to your brand.
Your brand isn’t what you think it is.
Your brand occupies the space where your promise of technology, simplicity, sustainability (or whatever you’re selling) and consumer expectation meet. Your brand is what your customers think it is. The ability to consistently deliver your promise to meet your consumers’ expectations is what will ensure the positive equity of your brand.
Brand Science: Our approach to building your brand
The first step in any branding project is to explore the territory beneath the surface. We don’t even start at ground level. We go deeper, to the very core. We call it “Brand Science.”
Hiring someone to “overhaul” or “create” your logo won’t fix a poorly managed company, or hide a weak product. It won’t cure poor customer reviews, or even step up your market positioning. It may make you look better, though — if that’s all you want. Keep in mind there are many really great looking identities out there that suffer monumentally from poor discipline and a lack of properly managing the brand behind the mark. Conversely, there are some really unappealing or unattractive identities out there that are somehow able to rise to the top.
How can this be? Newsflash – it’s not all about the design, which is precisely why a “design shop” can’t deliver what OffWhite can. We aren’t interested in the surface quality or short term benefits (ours or yours). We’re looking for clients with character, with good bones, with a promise that will deliver and a drive that will take them to the top. We thrive on this kind of motivation.
Our process isn’t so much about “what” you do, but “why” you do it. What’s your passion? What drives your company? Revealing the story that lies at the core of who you are takes trust. Discovering how to position that story takes talent. Growing your market share takes discipline. When you ask our clients why they like working with us, they’ll tell you they trust us; they’ll tell you we’re talented; and they’ll tell you we hold them accountable. They’ll tell you we’re a part of them.
We are the “what’s missing” in the “What are we missing here?” question you may be asking about your company’s image. Contact us and we’ll be happy to discuss Brand Science with you. Once we understand the problem, we’ll work with you to deliver a solution.
Published by Abby Spung, April 3rd, 2014
Responsive design is everywhere and comes up almost daily in our environment here at OffWhite. Nearly every one of our clients is asking about it, or for it, and we just applied it to our own website. We all interface with it daily on one of our multiple devices, but what exactly is the "responsive" in responsive design?
Responsive design is broadly defined as a programming technique which allows optimal display of a website on all types and sizes of device, be it a 21” iMac or the latest smart phone, from a single URL. In other words, the site responds to the device, not the user.
Responding to Audience
Responding to Audience
While from a technical standpoint, responding to a device is accurate, it is more important for your site to respond to accommodate your brand. The brand is not a logo, or a mark, it’s the opinion formed by your audience based on the collective of elements like the logo, collateral pieces, and language that make up your identity. Knowing what your audience prefers and uses most under what conditions and for what purpose should define how the site needs to respond in terms of brand presence.
Most developers focus on getting their site to scale down or up to fit either of two extreme viewing areas, sacrificing the integrity of the brand. As a result, there are a number of responsive design templates that do "cool" tricks to adapt to the device, with little consideration for truly adapting the content or message to the experience that brought about the need for responsive design to start with. By focusing on the one site fits all, the temptation is to target the least common denominator or in this case the device with the smallest view space. Currently, accommodating the smaller viewing platform is meeting the needs of the few and not the majority.
The user experience at a desktop is exponentially different than the experience on a phone. Many sites that are responsive work really well on one platform but deliver only a mediocre experience on another. The mindset of the user when at their desktop computer is not the same as it is when they surf or search from their phone, so the desktop interface experience of your site should not feel or act like the interface for the mobile site. In other words, developers and designers need to do a better job of accommodating the users, not just the device.
At OffWhite designing responsively means responding to our audience's desired experiences, not just their devices. It is important for sites to function properly on multiple devices from a single URL, but it is equally if not more important to deliver the experience that is optimized to the user and their mindset.
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Offenberger & White, Inc. (OffWhite) is an integrated marketing solutions company based in Marietta, Ohio, USA.
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