Conceptual Thinking gives us a setting for the story we are telling with our infographic. We see this frequently in the opening and closing credits for films. Monsters, Inc used upbeat, jazzy music with vibrant sketchy monsters and doors. It’s a movie about monsters who scare kids to power their world, but the monsters are also a bit silly and mostly mean well. In this same way, we can use the goals, messaging, data and what we know about our audience to brainstorm conceptual ideas for an infographic.


What’s the Hook?

We want to start with the perspective that will resonate with our audience. We can both be talking about driving safety, but I might frame it as “#TextWrecks” for a teen audience or as “Teenagers have the highest driving fatalities from cell phone use. Talk to your teenager about distracted driving,” when my audience focus is on the parent. It is not just the raw content of what you have to say. It is also a subjective slant or hook. This is not really a negative thing, we do this naturally when people ask us for advice. Companies use messaging to have a unique way to talk about what they have to offer or sell. Disney does not just offer a place to vacation, they offer a place to make memories for a lifetime.



Thinking Conceptually: No Tech Allowed

I don’t use a computer or tablet when concepting since I might get distracted or start focusing too much on alignment or how things will work when at this stage I need to focus on the “What.” I find that low fidelity tools help keep the focus on the goals of the project. The less polished ideas look, the easier it is to make changes in direction, think things through and invite others to get involved and buy in to solutions early on.

I began by thinking about ways to talk to teenagers in a visual way about the dangers of texting while driving. What would have the most impact on them? Here are a few quick ideas I had:

  • A road throughout with stats along the way, maybe organized by major distractions
  • A toy raceway set
  • A heads up display with a teen or under 40’s driver at the wheel and everything else in orbit around them
  • The scene of a wreck, with the debris being areas for stats. This would free us up to use a more interesting layout and drive home the fatal danger.

Notice at this point I haven’t even doodled. Okay, maybe I did a little bit when you weren’t looking. If I still am working to come up with concepts, I can use design thinking methods or exercises like before/during/after.

Before/During/After is a method I first learned about from Von Glitshka during one of his design workshops. What you do is think about the past, present, and future of the idea. In our case, we could consider what simple visual representations of before, during and after a distracted driving accident might look like.

Before: Sunny day, happy clouds, car zooming along on a road

During: Driver misses a stop sign because they were looking at their phone and runs into another car

After: Wreckage in the road

That did generate some interesting ideas for us. We still may need to create quick layout prototypes in pencil or on a white board then test them by getting feedback from stakeholders or reviewing them the next day.



Symbolic Concepting

Some design firms use symbols or themes to build concepts around. Examples of these are representations of time, hope, change, immortal love, growth, exploration, coming of age and power. These broad themes help inspire creative directions. A solution using the theme of exploration might draw visual inspiration from multiple cultures and hand drawn maps.



I hope you found this information on concepting useful. It is fun to explore conceptual ideas with other people, but you can do it on your own with a little practice. I keep a notebook to capture interesting things I see or phrases I hear that might be useful later. You might enjoy using a camera to visually capture themes or ideas to refer to later.

If you did find today’s post valuable, then you should sign up to get updates about my step-by-step guide on creating awesome infographics. It is full of tips and tutorials from my time in the trenches as an infographics designer.




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