Infographs in survey reports and their components

Two more infographs appear below. Berwin Leighton Risk 2014 [pg. 4] on the left displays a wonderful infograph, immediately below.

Below, from in a press release about its 2017 survey regarding GDPR, Paul Hastings linked to an infograph.

Let us start our more analytic look by specifying some infograph components. We will compare this set of infographs on those components.

  1.  Words. The number of words in the infograph — whether in plots, summaries, headers or otherwise. The R program, used by this blogger, has several packages that can count the number of words on a PDF page, but those packages cannot isolate the infograph portion of a page nor count words in .png files, which are what this book uses.
  2. Numbers. Any figures in the plot [not digits, but figures].
  3. Plots. The number of plots in the infograph, such as bar and column plots or various forms of pie charts or donut charts.
  4. Decorations. Anything that is neither text, number, nor plot. Considered differently, if all the decorations were erased, the infograph would convey the same information. Perhaps to some eyes its attractiveness would diminish but not its information efficiency. The decorations in the HoganLovells infograph (above left) include the three (dark and light) vertical bars, the three light horizontal bars, the six borders above and below the three headers, and the three shadings of the headers.
  5. Concepts. A concept is a single, simple idea. We tallied the number of concepts addressed in each infograph’s substantive portions (excluding headers and introductory material). Here is the top left concept from each of the six, to give readers a sense of concepts: HoganLovells more deals; McDonald Hopkins business conditions improving; Berwin Leighton biggest concern is regulatory issues; Paul Hastings GDPR fines; Squire Sanders value of multi-channel customers; and Baker McKenzie UK leavers.
  6. Page Percentage. Three of the infographs each filled an entire page, but the other three filled only a portion of a page. We visually estimated the percentage of the page taken up, so these are approximations.
  7. Rows and Columns. The unit for rows was the smallest vertical segment of the infograph, which I deemed a row, and then estimated the number of rows from the top of the infograph to the bottom. For instance, Berwin Leighton has four rows while HoganLovells has eight because eight of the smallest segments measured verticall in the left column (not counting the header) would fill the page. Columns are easier to count.

Infographs in survey reports: advantages and disadvantages

Infographs push law-firm survey reports as far as they currently go in terms of data visualization. Only a handful of them have been located, but they are enough to start an analysis.

Baker McKenzie Brexit 2017 [pg. 1] put its entire report into a single page of an infograph, as shown above.

McDonald Hopkins Business 2017 summarized its survey in early 2017 on business confidence. A snippet of the infograph the law firm produced — but did not include in the report itself — appears immediately above.

The list that follows pulls together a number of the reasons a law firm might want to invest in an infograph, and a number of reasons why it might take a pass.

Advantages

  1. Links pieces of data collected by a survey.
  2. Tells a story.
  3. Helps readers understand a more complicated message than stand-alone plots.
  4. Attractive and eye-catching.
  5.  Trendy and exploits sophisticated software.
  6.  Produces a new asset for the firm to use in multiple ways.

Drawbacks

  1. Complicated and mentally fatiguing for readers.
  2. Requires specialists in layout, design and communication, possibly commercial software.
  3. Different than just assembling several plots on a page.
  4. Requires more sophisticated thinking and planning of the message.
  5. May not justify the investment of time and resources.