We’re big fans of Column Five Media for their style, content, and consistency (and we often share their graphics on the FJP Pinterest). Here are their tips for sourcing infographics:
1. Make Sure the Source(s) Tell a Story.
If you’re not ‘telling a story’ with your infographic (read: explaining a narrative or allowing a narrative to be explored), then you’re doing it wrong. Essentially that story will be derived from the sources that you decide to use. People are going to want to engage an infographic that tells a story that they care to know. See my previous article on ways to identify story-worthiness for more on this subject specifically. In short, there is no shortage of data out there, but not all data is all that interesting, even if it’s visualized in a very interesting way.
2. Make Sure Your Sources are Reliable.
Not all data producers are created equal. Always use data sets from as unbiased a producer as possible. Good sources include data collected or produced by government agencies, such as the statistics compiled by the U.S. Census Bureau or the Department of Labor. Other top-tier data sources can include industry white papers, surveys conducted by reputable think tanks/research organizations or findings published in academic publications. (Read on to learn how to judge sources.)
3. Make Sure Your Sources are Relevant.
The world changes quickly, and the pace of change is accelerating. To ensure you’re on the right track for sourcing your infographics, use the most recently published version of the data you’ve decided to use… As a rule of thumb, try not to use data that’s more than a year old. Two years is acceptable in some cases, if that’s the best you can get. Beyond this, use discretion. In all cases, be up front about the age of the data set you are using; you would expect the same from others. Always list the age within the sources or in the graphic’s copy. This provides context and clarity, and is a practice no different than writing a college research paper.
4. Limit Your Sources for Consistency.
Finding multiple data sets from multiple sources on one subject can be exciting, but don’t get ahead of yourself… A good rule of thumb is to use only one data set, if this is an option. Two or three are acceptable. But the more you add, the more variance you get from different methods, different contexts, and different priorities of the data producers.
5. Cite Your Sources Appropriately.
When it comes to structuring the content, make sure that a proper context is provided for your readers. While we’ve already established that data should be recent, reliable and credible and consistent, when you’re creating an infographic from multiple sources it is important to provide as much context to the reader as possible about what information came from what source.
FJP: Those were excerpts. Click-through to read the full piece. Solid tips.
Sort of Related: You can make your own (um…really simple) infographic at GOOD labs.