Government agencies and businesses rapidly change. Organizations need to encapsulate their vision in an easily understood way to enhance external communications and promote internal consistency. An effective and efficient way to meet this demand is by harnessing the power of creative and storytelling infographics.
A visual component helps an organization quickly share its mission and vision with a variety of audiences. It increases awareness of the organization with stakeholders and establishes a shared vision within the organization. With this in mind, the Office of Information, Integrity, and Access (I2A), under the General Service Administration’s Office of Government-wide Policy (OGP), wanted a way to quickly explain how I2A can help chief information officers (CIOs) with their information technology policies and programs government-wide.
"When I show people the graphic, they immediately engage and want to dive in and explore it. The visual helps explain to new leadership what we do and lets our stakeholders know that we are a team that wants to connect with them," says Deputy Associate Administrator of I2A Dominic Sale.
Working with I2A for two months, LMI identified ten top techniques to create an infographic and leverage the vision of any organization.
1. Document facts, names, and structures
Examine how the organization approaches the challenges of all groups within the organization.
For example, LMI examined how I2A’s approach to CIO challenges differs from those of other groups. In this documentation phase, we were able to describe and identify I2A’s structures, values, and customer problems and how it solves them. In the first stage of developing an infographic, we defined each element in a shared document, creating a common language for the I2A team.
2. Seek language patterns
Research language patterns that help connect context, tone, and messaging across the organization.
In this step, LMI interviewed the leadership team and used the interview transcripts to find patterns in messaging. The interviews revealed that the concept of a bridge might resonate with leadership and across the organization. This insight helped inform the next draft of the infographic to include an image of a bridge and incorporate a transportation theme that all groups could follow and understand.
3. Tell a story that flows
The human brain is wired for stories. Facts in story format resonate more with a viewer than a series of individual details.
For instance, LMI asked the I2A leaders to imagine they were using the infographic to tell a story to a CIO. If the leader could not immediately think of what to say next while walking a CIO through the infographic, it indicated the content needed to be changed or reorganized to make the story flow better.
The story that developed ultimately explains the CIOs’ complete journey from challenges to solutions, while following the transportation theme and using language that all groups within the organization understand.
4. Add powerful details
Details bring the infographic to life. Keeping with the transportation theme, CIOs are shown as cars driving down a road. A side road going off into the distance represents how agencies can research technology on their own, but the process will be longer and more inefficient.
The bridge connects CIOs to key benefits. Each lane represents a line of business that I2A supports to address the most important challenges that CIOs face.
The right side of the infographic shows the benefits of working with I2A: the CIOs are out of their cars, interacting, and working in a collaborative community.
5. These visual details communicate a message without words
One building has a sign that says “OGP Arena,” a nod to OGP and its mission to use policies, information, and ideas to drive efficiency and savings across agencies. Details that connect people to the organization help foster buy-in.
6. Share team feedback with leadership anonymously
Confirm leadership has a shared vision to ensure the infographic will be useful for everyone. When sharing draft infographics, LMI listened for disconnects in how each leadership team member perceived the vision. Disconnects often stem from non-communication rather than miscommunication. LMI shared these disconnects in a non-attributed way—making participants feel safe and ensuring they would be honest.
7. Keep strategy conversations moving using concrete deliverables
Leadership is always evaluating an organization’s strategy. Delivering an infographic encapsulates that vision in the moment, aligning team efforts. Setting a deadline helps prioritize the process on people’s calendars.
Abstract strategy conversations can make team members uncomfortable or cause the conversation to wander. No matter how well an organization’s leadership team has written its vision, translating it into visuals will open discussions. Trained strategy development facilitators ensure the team focuses on the infographic and not on larger strategic discussions.
8. Get client buy-in on the design direction
LMI’s designers have a library of infographics with various design styles—cartoonish, block format, or more realistic. By sharing the library, they can quickly grasp what resonates with the client.
Designers are aware of the latest infographic design trends, but they must balance these trends with what appeals to the client organization.
During the design process, client organizations often focus on colors or fonts rather than on the information architecture. One way to keep them on task is to furnish drafts that are clearly rough sketches only.
9. Use sidebars for supplemental content
While the main infographic may have a coherent story, other helpful information that can substantiate the message of the main visual can appear in a sidebar.
For instance, the I2A infographic includes creative illustrations along with supplemental content that further explains I2A’s key accomplishments and outlines what makes it different. Having callout boxes and verbiage in side or bottom panels can add more details that support the main message of the infographic.
10. Test with external audiences
It is important to test content and images with external audiences to ensure that the correct messages and corresponding images are being relayed effectively.
With this in mind, we shared the designs with trusted people outside the I2A organization who were not particularly familiar with its work or vision. The organizational leader was in the room to hear their comments directly. Testing early enabled the project team to respond if external audiences did not understand the messaging or design.
11. Provide the infographic in multiple useable formats
Because people learn in different ways, it is essential to provide the final infographic in different and adaptable formats.
LMI delivered the final I2A infographic as a poster, a laminated placemat-sized card, and as a PowerPoint presentation showing sections of the infographic in a storytelling flow. Working with designers at this final stage is crucial to help ensure the infographic, format, and font-type make sense in various sizes.
The less text, the more likely the infographic will flex to multiple uses, allowing readers to get the message more quickly before seeking more detail about each component. The reader will be able to understand the high-level concept and then explore other parts of the graphic or reach out to I2A directly for more details.
Joseph Norton is a member of LMI’s Information Management group. He helps federal agencies develop and communicate their IT strategy, develop enterprise architectures, and modernize complex information management systems. He has a BS in chemistry and computer science from the University of Miami and a PhD in chemistry from the University of California, Los Angeles.