How do you guys find ideas or spot potential stories for infographics? Or what's your approach to finding them?

I've bookmarked a few infographics blogs but most of the time, their content aren't suitable to be adapted locally to where I'm working. So it's really an uphill task coming up with them.

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Great question! In my mind, there's a difference between "spotting potential" for infographics, and drawing inspiration from stuff you see on blogs. If you solely rely on the latter, you're waiting for that perfect story to fit a mold. I save examples of graphics to study their devices and techniques, but the graphics seldom yield a lot of story ideas locally.

Your best bet is to get involved in the news planning meetings, scour the advance budgets and sell your ideas to the appropriate editors ("Hey, I read the story on the school funding referendum and thought the numbers would make a great chart."). At this point, it's perfectly acceptable to present her with a pencil sketch of your idea, if it will help sell the graphic.

Another approach is to pitch your idea to the reporter assigned to the story. The reporter is closer to the story, anyway, and may hit you with some angle to the graphic you hadn't spotted.

Another source of inspiration is to keep your eyes open around town. Example: is there a part of town that's prone to flooding after every heavy rainfall? Why is that? Have city engineers studied this? How would they fix it?

Be on the lookout for visual stories and ask yourself a series of critical questions. The ideas will follow.
Typically the need for an infographic presents itself in the story -- especially 1A stories (politics, health care, insurance commissions, cops and crime, real estate, etc.). Infographics need to enhance the story, and as a visual person I'll read the prose and ask myself, "How could I better understand this through visuals?" From there I start to sketch and build an idea until it becomes cohesive not only to itself but to the story -- an infographic shouldn't stand alone as a piece of art, but it shouldn't blend into the gray of the page either -- the story and the graphic should work together as one. From there I ask myself, "How could the masses better understand this through my visuals?" The ultimate goal is to translate information into a visual idea that not only makes sense to you, but that you think will make sense to every single reader in your circulation, ages 9 to 90 -- while maintaining a high-design aesthetic.

In other words, the potential is either there or it isn't. An inforgraphic for the sake of an infographic can feel contrived. As for the inspiration, a daily run through of the Newseum is always a good idea. I make sure to save anything that catches my eye. Whether or not it translates to your local beat is up in the air, but a graphic about housing values could easily translate to one about health care costs; things like color treatment, scale, perspective, and inventive typography are what you should look for to adapt to your use, not so much the information itself.


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