Tuesday, November 24, 2009

How to Make the Right Graphic and Avoid the Wrong Graphic

Recently, I was asked, “I need to show an ‘XYZ’ process (note: this could be any specific action, concept, or thing) but cannot find an example. What should I do?”

I offered them the following two steps to resolve their challenge, which you can apply when faced with developing a new graphic concept.


Step 1


Determine your ultimate goal for showing an “XYZ” process. (Uncovering your graphic's goal is essential when creating any type of graphic—process, organization, overview, quantitative, etc.). For example, is your goal to simply communicate the steps in the process or is it to show how your “XYZ” process is the superior solution? I call this step determining the primary objective. In my experience, most proposal graphics—more than 80%—fail because the author of the graphic has not determined the correct primary objective.


Recently, I supported an IT bid. My client (we’ll call them ABC Company) needed to show that their solution achieved their potential client’s goals, which we later determined were lower cost, increased network speed, and greater uptime. Unfortunately, the engineer tasked had not formalized his primary objective. His approach was to develop a network diagram. Below is an example of a generic network diagram similar to the graphic used. (The graphics in this article contain none of the original information, but the concept is similar enough for this explanation.)



The engineer was very familiar with the current network used by his potential client. He noted, “By restructuring their network, they would lower costs, reduce risk of down time, and increase overall speed.”

He was on the right track but knew it was unlikely that their potential client would link his graphic with their specific goals. Upon further discussion, we determined that ABC Company was offering to do more than a restructuring of their potential client’s network architecture to achieve these goals.
Uncovering the primary objective usually results in a completely different graphic. Let’s take a look at an example of the resulting superior graphic approach. (Here’s a secret: Your primary objective is most likely your caption. For example, the following would be this graphic’s caption: Our three-step XYZ process ensures lower cost, increased network speed, and greater uptime.)




Step 2


When faced with developing a graphic with specific content, your next step is to find examples of graphics that show the same concept. There are several resources I recommend for graphic ideas:


  1. Google Images —Type in your concept to see how others have used visuals for similar concepts. A great source to find ideas for how to develop your graphic.
  2. iStockPhoto—Type in a concept and you'll be given images that relate to your concept. You can download and purchase these images for immediate use.
  3. Visual Literacy Periodic Table—A great place to look for graphic ideas.

Also, through Billion Dollar Graphics you can use the following resources for graphic ideas:
  • BizGraphics On Demand—Type in a concept and see how many ways you can show your idea. (You can also purchase these PowerPoint graphics to use as a starting point for your graphic.)
  • Business Graphics Library—Search through our graphic samples for inspiration.
Your goal is not to find an example of a “XYZ” process but rather to find similar concepts like flow charts, cyclic processes, and step-by-step graphics. The concept is key. Next, tailor the graphic concept to meet your needs by adding your information. I recommend that you start with graphics that share the same concept. This step eliminates the “blank page syndrome.” Leverage a graphic with a similar primary objective and tailor the content and graphic elements to meet your needs.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

I've read this book from cover to cover and I use it constantly as a creative reference to bridge the void between creative expression and management vision. This book is as valuable to my work as my computer. I recommend this book for anybody that makes a living as a designer or marketing manager. You should have a copy of this book somewhere on your desk at all times. It’s too many great ideas packed in one source not to.

Kevin Bush
Creative Design Manager
Catalyst Rx, Rockville MD.

Mike said...

Thank you for your kind words.

We greatly appreciate you sharing your experience and recommending our product to others. It is wonderful to hear how our book has helped you.

Thank you again! We wish you the best in all your graphic endeavors.