New Favourite Thing: Infographics

Information graphics or infographics are visual representations of information, data or knowledge designed to present information quickly and clearly. Although infographics have been around for many years the recent proliferation of easy-to-use, free tools, have made the creation of infographics available to anyone.

What is an infographic?

an infographic is

Infographic to explain what an Infographic is by Hot Butter Studio

According to Inforgaphics Archive the history of infographics data back to early prehistory, where humans created graphics through cave paintings and later maps. One of the earliest maps to be recorded is the map at Catalhoyuk  which dates back to 7500 BCE. In 3000 BC ancient Egyptians used heiroglyphic symbols to tell stories depicting their lives, work and religion and perhaps one of the most recognisable infographic in the UK is the 1st tube map of London in 1933 showing only the lines of transit routes and stations.

First London tube map 1933

First London tube map 1933

In the 2000s and 2010s we now have access to web based infographic creators such as:

I’ve been experimenting with easel.ly for the last couple of months, it’s currently a beta site, but it is really easy to use and I can see the long term potential. The main downside to this site and I would imagine others is the database of  graphics and visuals you have available to you. Easel.ly is limited but as a beta site this is understandable. There is  the ability  to upload your own graphics or images, however these are imported as a solid block image, so if you want to overlay your own graphics without a white background onto your carefully selected infographic background this can be difficult. However with a bit of creativity you can work around the limitations to produce some pretty cool inforgraphics of your own.

Before the doors closed on the organisation I previously worked for I was able to pull together three infographics of the projects I was involved with. These were not only great at demonstrating to collegeues and potential business contacts what it is that I have done over the last four years, but it provided me with a real sense of achievement when I saw four years of hard work laid out in a easily understood pictorial.

HI-Arts Audience Development

HI-Arts Audience Development: Marketing, Research and Audience Development support for the cultural, creative and heritage sector

HI-Arts Craft Development

HI-Arts Craft Development Programmes for Craft Makers and Designers in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland

Growing Audiences North East Infographic

Growing Audiences North East: Audience Development for the Cultural Sector in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire

If you are interested in designing your own infographic I would definitely recommend easel.ly and here are a couple of tips to get you going:

  • The Purpose; what do you want your infographic to depict? What is the point of it?  And who do you envisage reading it?
  • The Data; you need a good assortment of data and information to be able to present and to make it interesting. Look at your diary, your accounting, your social media, your website stats, the number of people you have worked with  or met, the places you have visited… the data you choose will depend on the reason you are creating the infographic in the first place.
  • The Theme; when picking your background or theme (colour scheme, background image, the graphics)  think about how these relate to the data you are trying to represent graphically. If your going to depict the number of miles you’ve travelled say, then you might want to use a graphic of a car or public transport.
  • It’s not always about the percentages; I will admit that I can overdose on percentages, they’re neat and tidy, but over use of a percentage can be a bit uninteresting, so try to mix it up. So if you know 25%  of the people who visit your website also visit your blog then why not express it as 1 in 4 people visit your blog.
  • Less is more; it can be tempting to fit in as much information as you can, but sometimes less definitely is more, especially if you are trying to get across a particular point. With the infographics I designed I started out with twice as much data as I ended up displaying.
  • Get someone else to check it makes sense; because we understand our data and know what it means to us doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone else will too. It’s good then to get someone who is not as closely related to the information to read it over and see if they come to the conclusions or understand your graphic the way you intended.

If you are interested in having your own infographic made for you then do get in touch with me by leaving a comment below.

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Inverness Castle and Ness River

New Beginnings

As of June HI-Arts, the cultural development agency for the Highlands and Islands, closed its doors after 20 years of providing support to the cultural and creative sectors of the Highlands, Islands, North East and beyond. I was privileged enough to work there for four years, where I was able to hone my skills, develop my knowledge and work with a talented group of individuals across Scotland.

This month I have set out on my own, as a freelancer based in Inverness, I aim to continue to work with the cultural and creative sector, as well as the tourism sector and with small businesses or all persuasions. My focus will be on marketing, promotion and audience (or customer) development, and after working so closely with numerous small businesses in the creative field on making the most of the digital and online world, there will be a slant towards taking advantage of the world wide web.

I’ve since started a 9 month contract with Strathpeffer Pavilion, a beautiful 19th century spa building in the lovely little village of Strathepeffer, about 30 minutes away from Inverness. The Pavilion is the UK’s most northerly Spa and now runs as a multi-purpose venue for the community, the Ross and Cromarty area, Inverness and beyond. The Pavilion puts on live music events, theatre, classical concerts, craft and food, arts and photography fairs, weddings and conferences. In the last couple of months it has doubled it’s staff members and has an eye to becoming the provider of choice for all types of entertainment and events in the Highlands.

I’ve been brought on board with Kris Reid to assist the team in developing and improving their branding, marketing and promotion, press and media relations, programming, sales and income generation, audience development, sponsorship and friends schemes – so quite a bit to do.

I’ll also be continuing to work with Pamela Conacher and Avril Souter on their crafts development programme, which has now joined with Peter Urpeth’s writing programme to form a new organisation; emergents. I am delighted to be able to continue to provide marketing and development support and advice to the many makers on the Making Progress and Made to Measure schemes over the next year.

To top all this off, I’m going to continue to work with HIE on their IT Engagement Programme, as a specialist advisor and trainer, specifically in social media. In the last year I’ve delivered workshops in Dornoch, Orkney, Oban and Caithness.

Over the next couple of months I’m also working on setting up a social media marketing  business – so watch this space!

If anyone is interested in finding out more about the services I can offer please do get in touch sian.jamieson@gmail.com

Tour of Scotland: Orkney Day 1

 

Orkney Sunshine
Driving across to Kirkwall

Yesterday morning I set off in earnest Orkney bound, and I couldn’t have hoped for a better journey up the road. A 3 hour drive to Gills Bay, to embark upon the Pentland ferry to St Margarets Hope, and a smooth, wave free crossing was on the cards – hurray. I’d visited Orkney back in October last year, and it was amazingly good weather then, however I was not prepared for what awaited me once I’d cautiously disembarked from the ferry, it was absolutely stunning. Orkney has a reputation for capturing people’s hearts, and I can completely see why, instantly I was surrounded by beautiful crystal clear bays, blue skies which seemed to go on for miles, and white cotton-like clouds floating peacefully above.      

Orkney has an incredibly rich culture and history, and seeing the wrecks of WW2 ships emerging from the sea bed, rusty and broken, it is a stark reminder of the reality of life the people of Orkney endured during that stressful and violent time. And then sitting atop of a hill is the stunning Italian Chapel on Lambs Holm. Small, but oranately designed, this is testement to the character of the Orkney Islands. Built by 550 Italian prisions of war, brought to Orkney in 1942, they were charged with the task of constructing the Churchill Barriers to the east of Scapa Flow. The chapel was constructed from very limited materials, joining two Nissen Huts together, using corrugated iron, plasterboard, and painted by a POW Domenico Chiocchetti, the prisoners created a santuary for themselves and their religion. Chiocchetti remained on to finish the chapel, even though his fellow prisoners were released shortly after the war. In 1958 the Chapel Preservation Committee was set up by a group of local Orkadians to preserve this beautiful church, and in 1960 Chiocchetti, who had left Orkney sometime after the end of the war, returned to assist in its restoration. It stands now in Lambs Holm for all to take some form of santuary within.      

So aside from being distracted by the scenery and history, I did eventually make it to Kirkwall. Easy bit over, now to find the B&B. Now, unless you know anything of my past scottish travels, then you’ll know that I have a terrible ability to find my final destination, no problem getting to the area, but find a specific road, a specific place, be it an art venue, someones home or a B&B, maps and my iphone just don’t seem to do the trick. So I ended up on a car-tour of Kirkwall before I was able to get my bearings, after several 3 point turns and driving past the St. Magnus Cathedral numerous times, eventually I arrived at the Eastbank House.     

It was then off back into the town centre, to soak up the rays and enjoy the summertime vibes. What strikes me about Kirkwall is its obious unique character, and this is so prominent along the main drag. Yes, you’ve got the obligatory Boots and newsagents, but other then that the shops here are all independent and definately Orkadian. Something which I think larger towns and cities have lost, their own identities. Two such shops sum up this independent culture, Sheila Fleet, the award winning jewelery designer and Tait and Style, a crafts and needlepunching designer with a reputation for using innovative and unique fabrics. Both are clearly influenced by their natural and cultural surroundings, reflecting the sky, sea and landscape as well as the folklore and traditions of the Orkadian way.      

What struck me was the ingenious of Tait and Style’s Wool and Wine idea. What a brilliant way to shop, oh I want that wool, and while I’m kniting I’d like a wee glass of wine – oh I can buy them both in one shop – ace!   

Craft is a major element of what makes Orkney so unique. The Orkney Crafts Association demonstrates the influence and attraction of craft for many people across the UK and beyond. The OCA designed a Craft Trail across Orkney and its many outlying islands. What I feel sets the Orkney Craft Trail apart from other arts trails is that you, as a visitor, have the opportunity to see these craft makers work in their own studios and workshops, you get the chance to see behind the scenes, set against the backdrop of this beautiful and inspiring island. But I was saddened to see that the Craft Associations shop, which was once full of craft and design, now sits empty along the Kirkwall coastline. I will need to investiagte further tomorrow to find out why, 6 months on from my last visit here, their shelves are now bare. (NB. Turns out the OCA rent the shop space over the summer months, so to my relief the shop will be open once more.)

After my ramble along winding narrow streets and dodging cars on single track lanes, I found myself inexplicably in a bookshop. The Orkadian Bookshop to be precise. I love books, and i wanted to see if there were any interesting books about the island I was currently a guest off. My word, I hadn’t anticipated the wealth of literature on Orkney, everything from your typical tourists guide, to books on the bird life of the island, to Island writers. I could have spent an age browsing, but then something really unique took my eye: ‘The Mermaid Bride and other Orkney folk tales’ told by Tom Muir. What better way to gain an insight into the nature of this beautiful island, then reading about the folklore and fairytales thought up and told for generations to the children and people of Orkney.   

The Mermaid Bride - folkstories

The Mermaid Bride - folkstories

 

After a much needed cup of tea and a bite to eat, in the Trenebies Bistro, it was back up the road to the Eastbank House. So here I am soaking up more rays while rooks gobble up the bits of leftovers thrown out by the landlord. It’s a far cry from the wet, wild and wintery picture painted of the North over the last few months, and it has revitalised me in a way which was much needed.      

 
 
But, I am not here to gush about Orkney, and I am not here to wile away my time between tea and cake and crafts. No, tomorrow is the second web marketing workshop, lets hope that tomorrow is just as beautiful. Perhaps if we’ve got sufficient power cables we should move the workshop outside and do a bit of online work, offline and in the sun.