An image says more than a thousand words
There is a first time for everything. Yes you read this right, this is the very first infographic I have ever created. Don't get me wrong, I have created many schematic illustrations over the years, but infographics weren't really around yet. These days, they are hot. I lost count on how many emails I receive these days asking me if I could share an infographic on my blog… After all, they are the perfect way to translate data into something comprehensible and visually attractive.
The briefing for this was fairly straightforward: transform the data gathered from the questionnaire into something visually attractive and fun to look at, and readable on a spread. The result of the questionnaire was a 6 pages PDF file with 14 questions and their multiple choice answers. These were all I needed to get started. I was given carte blanche, but right from the start I already knew exactly which direction I should take in terms of design style.
The first thing I tried to figure out was the general layout of the page. I was thinking of dividing the spread up into boxes, using a box for each item. So I tried out a few different compositions. By combining different sizes of blocks I was able to create a more attractive layout. This way I give some results a bit more attention than others, and for some of the items more room was needed as well.
I was also thinking about adding a big title, somewhere in the centre of the page, covering the total width of the spread seemed like a perfect spot. So I made sure to leave enough room for this. I decided to go with the last version, using 4 big boxes at the top, then the title below, and a combination of 5 boxes below on each side, including 3 small ones and 2 big ones. I thought it would be interesting to have the 5 boxes in mirrored version on the other side of the page. At this stage this was of course a bit of guessing work, but it was a good foundation.
Next was trying to figure out which data item goes into which box, by starting to add the ones that had a lot info to show into the big boxes, and the ones that had "yes/no" answers into the smaller ones. At this moment I just added a few keywords into the box, just to keep an overview of things. This was a fun exercise as it almost felt like I was finishing a puzzle.
The concept and illustrations
Once I got this figured out, I started thinking about the illustration and visualisation of each item. First I did some short brainstorming, writing down cycling related keywords, also gathering images from Google search results. Then I tried linking an idea to each data item. At this point I didn't cover all items, I figured I would also get fresh ideas while working on this, item per item. You see…
A design process is never like a straight line going from point A to point B.
There are a lot of curves along the way as you constantly experiment and change things. Sometimes I change so much that there is almost nothing left of the initial concept that I had in my head. There is a certain order in place of the mayor steps you take during this process, but there is a big part that isn't very logical, even chaotic. I guess it's part of the creative brain. It's like trying to explain how inspiration works, there is always a certain unexplainable mystery.
It usually happens that a lot of ideas come during the process itself. While working on one item, an new idea arises for the next item. This is something that happens a lot to me. Besides, I was also just so eager to get started on the first illustration. Just like a kid that is excited to play with his new toy :)
Choosing the color palette
While I was creating the first illustrations, I also tried to pick a suitable color palette. I wanted this vintage look, but I didn't want to use muted colors. So I thought of a combination of bright colors on a beige background.
While the infographic was getting shape, I realised that the colors I chose weren't 100% to my liking. I wondered if the palette I chose was too narrow, or just not narrow enough. Something just felt wrong to me. Maybe it was in the way I apply the colors to my design. So I tried to figure out some sort of a system to fix this.
First I decided to give the titles and all other text the same color, going for the dark grey. Secondly, I thought it would be a good idea to use red for the highest result, blue for the second highest result and yellow for the other results. It was better already, but it still didn't feel quite right. So I explored other color options and decided to go for a new color palette using this same system of applying the colors. I ended up with the colors shown in the image below:
The graphs and graphics
Creating these illustrations was the most fun part of it all, but also the most challenging. There was this item that had a list of answers and since there was so much text to process these, I tried to find a way to present these in an attractive way by creating an icon for each one of them (see item 'Problemen met' witch is Dutch for 'Problems with'). Some where obvious to translate, others weren't, such as 'the position on the bike', 'riding with cleats' or 'riding on cobbles'.
Since each answer was given in percentages, it was easy to enter this data into a chart using Illustrator's Graph Tool. Some questions were answered with yes or no. For these data items I thought a pie graph would be perfect, maybe turning them into rings…
Then I ungrouped the pie so it becomes an editable drawing. This way I could transform them into a ring, then copy mirroring and re-coloring the 2nd ring for the other answer.
The end result
Hope you enjoyed reading my process. This infographic was created for a special 'girls' edition of the Grinta! magazine. 180 pages with some very good articles like the girl reporters asking questions to Tom Boonen and Louis Talpe. A ride with World Champion Marianne Vos and practical stuff like woman's geometry or not. It's available at news stands from today. See the Grinta web site for more info.