The Principle of The Flywheel

This is a slide from Will Critchlow’s presentation at the Distilled seminar in London last Friday.

Will used the slide to describe his experience of building a business, though he mentioned he thought it was applicable to many different areas.  And I agree.

The Flywheel vs Cycling Uphill Line Graph

The analogy goes as follows…

When cycling uphill, you start off with great gusto, and seem to be getting somewhere, but as you cycle further and further uphill, you get to the point where you barely feel like you’re moving.

Contrast this with the flywheel, which can take ages to get moving, but once it’s really going, you would struggle to stop it even if you wanted to.

In the example of building a business, Will discussed how the activities that bring results initially are not the same ones that will bring you long-term success.  For example, when Will first started Distilled (with Duncan Morris), they went door-to-door in the local area.  Their first client job was building a website for the local hairdresser.

However, it was stuff like blogging, tweeting, building relationships and running events that have really enabled Distilled to produce rapid growth, despite the low return of these activities for at least a year!

Anyway, I liked the metaphor (and the graph), so thought I’d share it on here with you.

Effective Use Of The Word Cloud

It’s going to be a short post today, but I just wanted to share an example of an effective word cloud with you.  Before I saw this, I hadn’t really appreciated the word cloud as a form of data visualisation.

Undoubtedly, they can be pretty, but I hadn’t necessarily seen them as useful.

The example below comes from Reevoo, a company that gather online product reviews.  In this example, they created a word cloud from the “most regularly used words in negative reviews of Android phones.”

See if you can guess what the most common complaint was about?

Reevoo Android Word Cloud

For me, this communicates a large amount of data so quickly and powerfully, it really justifies the choice of the Word Cloud on this occasion.  In my opinion, the word cloud has served its purpose here, better than any bar graph or pie chart might have hoped to achieve with the same data.

As an aside, when downloading the word cloud from the Reevoo blog, I discovered that the cloud itself was made using Wordle.

And so as not to be misleading (by taking the above visualisation out of context), I should point out the original post reveals Android phones are actually receiving more favourable reviews than iPhones.  It’s only certain models on the Android platform that are letting the side down.

9 Infographics That Made Me Smile

One of the most popular hooks for an infographic is humour.  If you can make a funny infographic, or even an amusing pie chart, it could spread far and wide across the net.

Now, don’t get me wrong… I don’t claim the following had me laughing out loud, but they definitely raised a smile.

1.  The Shower Faucet (oh, so true!)

Have you ever had a shower that wasn’t like this?

Shower Faucet Infographic

2.  Maslow v Lennon

Differing views on essential human needs… The Psychologist vs Musician

3.  If IKEA Made Stonehenge

Speaks for itself really…

4. The Banana Timeline

Took me a second to get this at first…

Banana Timeline Infographic

5. Life is Simple

Not so much of a humorous one, but it definitely made me smile :o)

Life Is Simple Infographic


Who knows, maybe it is that simple…

6.  The Nun Pie Chart

Come on! – A nun as a pie chart? – That’s some funny s***

7.  iPhone vs Android vs Blackberry

I don’t normally appreciate infographics aimed at the tech crowd, but this was too good to ignore.

8.  Mr T Pie Chart

I Pity The Fool!

Mr T Pie Chart

9. Kenny Rogers – The Gambler

All Together Now, “You Got to Know When To Hold ‘Em…”

“…Know When To Fold ‘Em,

Know When To Walk Away…”

You Know How It Goes…

How Useful Is Your Infographic?

You often hear people describe the goal of data visualisation as communicating something quickly and easily.  And I agree, in part.  But I’ve come to view this description as incomplete.

More accurately…

The goal of data visualisation is to communicate something more quickly and more easily than you would otherwise be able to.

A visualisation does not necessarily need to be quick and easy to understand.  However, the fact that one isn’t quick and easy to understand should be due to the nature of the concept being communicated, and not a failure of design.  Einstein’s quote seems quite appropriate here:

Things should be made “as simple as possible, but no simpler.”

photo of albert einstein

Suppose you’re trying to explain something to someone and they aren’t quite getting it…

You know you have a good piece of data visualisation, if you can imagine pulling it out to support the point you’re making.

Another question to ask yourself might be:

Can you imagine printing out your infographic and referring to it from time to time?

I saw this happen the other day.  I noticed the following on my colleague’s desk:

picture of the social media landscape infographic printed out

This was an infographic I had seen in previously, and I too had thought it to be a useful resource.  But my colleague had felt sufficiently compelled to go one step further, and actually print it off.  The original looks like this:

the original social media landscape infographic from cmo

You can find the original over at CMO, and you can download a copy too.

Note that the above infographic isn’t necessarily quick and easy to understand, but that’s not surprising.  It’s explaining the role that 10 different social media sites can play in branding, SEO, customer engagement and traffic generation.  I challenge anyone to make that quick and easy to understand!

But this infographic definitely does make it quicker and easier, and it has been created as a very useful reference.  Brilliant.

Ultimately, I’m suggesting that if you can imagine pulling out an infographic to help support the point you’re making, or if you could see yourself (or someone else) pinning it to the wall and using it as a reference – these 2 scenarios (imagined or real) present…

2 Quick Ways To Test If Your Infographic Is Actually Useful

Utility (or usefulness) is not the only test of an infographic, however, and there are other hooks you might wish to employ.  (I will be exploring alternative hooks in future posts).

One final note – if you ever happen to come across infographics you do find useful, please get in touch and let me know.  I love to hear people’s stories and experiences with infographics and data visualisation.

Joining The Story

The first post…. A blank canvas.

photo of people in front of a blank canvas

So where to start?

I once heard the best place to start a story is in the middle.  Good thing too, for I’ve no other choice.  The story of the infographic is already in full swing.  The beginning could benefit from clarification, and the future is yet unknown.

But here we stand.

Arguably, the infographic is entering the difficult teenage years.

Having enjoyed a brief and innocent childhood online, things have taken a more serious turn.  Many hold differing opinions about where to go from here.  And for those of us who care, we can but hope we are successful in influencing the direction…

Image Credit:  Blank Canvas by Henry Bloomfield