For years we’ve been telling stories about our data. But over the last year, we’ve been letting our data tell stories. We now have infographics for three of our five surveys: Your First College Year and Diverse Learning Environments surveys, and most recently, our HERI Faculty Survey, coinciding with the recent release of our HERI Faculty Survey report.

While we haven’t done away with the oral tradition of data dissemination, we realize we can’t be everywhere we’d like to be—on all the campuses of the colleges and universities that use our surveys and at every higher ed conference. So, the advent of the infographic gives us another way to communicate our data, and some might say it’s a more effective way. It’s convenient, consistent, always accessible and worth a thousand words, according to the old saying.

We are grateful for modern data visualization tools; for the wonderful designers with whom we work; for the mountains of data that our schools provide; and for our staff’s expertise to dig through the data and find the gems of information we highlight in our infographics.

Many people have asked us how we do it. While we are still learning, here are a few tips that have helped us along the way:

• Make sure your content is clear, smart and engaging
• Visualizing or illustrating does not make boring information interesting
• Clearly define your objective for the infographic—
what you want accomplished and why
• Develop a content outline for your information/data and
• Understand how users will use the graphic
• Involve users in the design

Regarding the last bullet point, we will now be creating a customizable version of Your First College Year infographic. Users will be able to input their own institution’s data next to the national figures.
We’re also about to get started on an infographic for the upcoming 2012 Freshman Survey, which we’ll release at the end of January, 2013. Stay tuned!