One of the most satisfying parts of any successful infographic is the data visualization. The charts, graphs, maps, and other graphic elements can turn cold, hard data into something exciting and enlightening. The only problem is that people tend to use the same kinds of data visualization techniques over and over again. While pie charts, line charts, and bar charts have their place, there’s a whole world of less common visualization techniques you can use.
If you want to give your next infographic some data visualization flourish, here are four cool options.
1) Word Cloud
A list of words all by itself isn’t very interesting. But when those words are grouped together and differently sized, it suddenly communicates a lot more information. And it’s nicer to look at to boot.
For example, look at these word clouds on an infographic about identity theft.
What might have been just a list of words looks a whole lot more dynamic.
When To Use It: When you want to compare the frequency of word usage, or just want a more visually appealing way to show a list words.
2) Pictogram Chart
People are generally bad at comparing amounts. For example, many people think “one million dollars” and “one billion dollars” are both just “a lot of money,” when in reality one is literally one thousand times bigger than the other. But a pictogram chart can show stark differences between amounts.
A pictogram chart illustrates different amounts through icons that represents quantities. For example, check out this infographic on counterfeit electronic components.
Each circuit board represents one illegal market. So it’s easy to see that China has a huge black market electronic industry, while Vietnam and South Korea have much smaller ones.
When To Use It: When you want to help the reader compare several different amounts, but you want something more clear and more creative than a typical bar chart.
3) 3D Donut Chart
The pie chart has its place. It’s an easy simple way to see how different amounts relate to each other. But the problem is that it’s used so frequently, there’s a risk that readers will glaze over it.
The solution? The 3D donut chart. This communicates data in a similar way to a pie chart, but the added dimension and more pleasing “donut” shape makes it nicer to look at. Take a look at this donut chart from an infographic on what SEOs are working on.
What might have been a dull pie chart is instead visually interesting. That means readers are more likely to linger on it, and absorb the information.
When To Use It: When you want to use a pie chart, but would prefer to use something different and engaging instead.
4) Concept Map
Maps aren’t always about geography. Sometimes they’re also about ideas, and how those ideas are related. And since ideas are so abstract, a visual “concept map” can help readers better understand the relationship between concepts in a way that simple writing just can’t.
For example, check out this infographic on marketing concepts. It breaks down important pillars of sales marketing, such as strategy, media, and creative execution, plus shows how they interact with each other.
Showing these relationships in a graphical format helps people understand these difficult to grasp ideas much faster than a typical marketing blog post can.
When To Use It: When you want to show how different techniques, concepts, or ideas relate to each other.
Making Data Clear
Most data, by itself, is neither interesting nor boring. But through data visualization a skilled graphic designer can take a normally dull data set and turn it into something enlightening and even fun. The next time you create an infographic, think about outside of the box ways you can graphically present your data in new, interesting ways.