Case Study by Michael Zavacky RGD, Art Director, McMillan
Smart Enterprise Exchange is an online and print publication for the IT community, covering changes in technology and business and where the two intersect. McMillan had been engaged by CA Technologies, the publisher of Smart Enterprise Exchange, for various video, design, web and trade-show work which had been well regarded. The client, seeing this work, reached out to McMillan for infographics that would enrich Smart Enterprise Exchange.
The budget needed to be flexible, ranging from $10,000-20,000 and needed to be delivered every quarter.
Our ultimate goal was to create something visually appealing, so that a person might want to take the poster out of the magazine and put in on their office wall.
The audience is well-educated and very well-informed about technology and business issues. It is a group that is also very busy, who don’t have time for complicated, long-form content.
Concept / Design Process
An infographic is a compelling way to distill technical information - particularly information related to processes that have many elements or steps. The complexity of the information usually means that close collaboration between the client and the designer is necessary at every step of development to ensure that the content is not only visually interesting, but correct.
The expertise of the audience meant that there could be no mistakes—credibility was essential for these pieces to work, contributing to the overall effort of Smart Enterprise Exchange. Also, an infographic only needs a small team on it to be created well. Designer, illustrator, writer. Keep it small!
On this project, our process was as follows.
- Meet with client team to get briefed on assignment.
- Brainstorm ideas to present to client, prepare sketches of our ideas.
- Show sketches and get feedback from client; choose one idea to proceed with.
- Writer thins down all written material to its simplest form for the infographic.
- Designer/illustrator creates the final piece, showing client versions along the way.
- Production artist prepares files for printer.
The infographics were distributed with new issues of Smart Enterprise Exchange and were featured on the homepage of the website. In a few cases, they were also animated to enhance visual interest. The posters were often placed on CA.com to help explain more complex IT concepts.
The success of the project was measured by how many visitors to the online magazine viewed each infographic and the length of time they spent on the page. Not only were the infographics one of the most popular features on the site immediately after being published online, the length of time spent on each page (5-15 minutes) meant that they were also engaging for viewers, who took time to examine the content rather than simply scan it.
Over time, the popularity of the infographics has grown and gained traction as a new form for content. Releasing them one at a time also builds anticipation for the next infographic before it is released.
Anecdotally, feedback from within the organization as well as from readership has been very positive. Plus, McMillan has won a few awards for the project which made the client happy and also showed us that we had succeeded from a design perspective. We are reviewing options for continuing Smart Paper infographics in the future and looking at ways to streamline the process so that it will be possible to publish more content on a quicker timeline.
- Projects like this require very close client involvement – being very clear on process and roles from the beginning pays off.
- Cooperation between the writer and designer is likewise essential for a clear story to be told. It is important to maintain a strong balance - too much design or too much copy can threaten the success of the infographic.
- Have fun! Never be afraid to throw your wackiest idea at the client, sometimes that will be the one that sticks (as long as you have a good rationale to back it up).
- More discussion up front saves more difficult discussions further down the process.
- Infographics should always be simpler than they could be. It might be possible to include everything, but there is always something that could be left out - to simplify, leave it out!
- The best results happen when you take a strong stance on your knowledge of what the project is about, but also trust your creative team on points related to their areas of expertise.
Michael Zavacky RGD – designer and illustrator
Cory Haggart – writer/strategist
Jeff Street – writer
Leah Goodman – project manager
Andree Fournier – production artist
Jackie Barlow - Quality Assurance