Infographic is a Dirty Word

Written: June 2020    |    by Casey Hawes

Credit: Italic Studio, Hog Island Press, The New York Times, and The Boston Globe.

Your favorite deliverable, the “infographic", is a dirty word. It’s offensive because you’re using it wrong. Most people have a different understanding of what an infographic is. Or they ask for one when the content isn’t right for an infographic.

I’m here to put the soap in your foul mouth. In this article I’ll help define infographic, tell you what makes a good infographic, and discuss common mistakes. Let’s make infographic a good word. The kind of word you’d say to your mother.

What is an infographic?

The Merriam-Webster Definition:
Infographic (in·fo·graph·ic) noun: a chart, diagram, or illustration (as in a book or magazine, or on a website) that uses graphic elements to present information in a visually striking way.

My definition:
An infographic is a visually creative execution of data.
Let’s dive deeper into that.

Infographic = Data Creative

(Or creative data visualization)

Infographics and Data Visualizations are similar. However, there is one distinct differentiator: the “creative” factor.

Data visualizations (like charts and graphs) can be part of an infographic, but what makes it an infographic is the addition of creative. Let’s break down these two pieces, data + creative.

Data (The info)
This good four-letter word is the meat of the content. Examples include: statistics, instructions, dates, progressions, evolutions, processes, etc.

+ Creative (The graphic)
The visual design and storytelling factor. Examples include: story, branding, photography, illustration, graphic elements, etc.

= Infographic
The final creative portrayal of your data might be a chart, graph, flowchart, list, map, sequence, timeline, or illustration. It is data via storytelling and creative visuals instead of data via scientific or mathematical expressions.

The word infographic can be a frustrating deliverable for designers because every client has a different understanding of what that means. We are not always on the same page, and even when we are, there seems to be a lack of good content to fulfill that vision.


It’s our responsibility (the design agency) to bring the creative part. It’s our shared responsibility to find content that will be best conveyed by infographics. The best content for infographics is data. Numbers are great. What’s even better are numbers that have relationships or comparisons to give them better context.

Does your content have data? Do those numbers relate to each other somehow? Percentages are great because they have an inherent relationship to another number (100%) – 27% has a relationship to 100% that we can visually convey.

These are flat numbers. Flat numbers have no connection, correlation, association with other numbers. There is no added context here. Without that context, we’re missing a creative design opportunity. This example is purely type design. Not an infographic. We could add imagery or iconography here to make it an infographic, but it would still be missing the contextual content to make it a GREAT infographic.

Credit: J Alexander Diaz / Los Angeles Lakers

These are numbers with additional context, but there is no creative here. Therefore it is a data visualization. Not an infographic.

Credit: J Alexander Diaz / Los Angeles Lakers

Here is a good content example:

  • We have 12 products we offer our clients.

We can visually convey “12 products” via photography, iconography, illustration, or graphics.

GREAT content examples include at least one contextual number/factor:

  • We have 12 products we offer our clients. Double the amount we had just 2 years ago.
  • We have 12 products we offer our clients. Our competitors only offer 2-3 comparable products.
  • We have 12 products we offer our clients. They are priced in 3 tiers...
  • We have 12 products we offer our clients. They connect to these 4 industries...
  • We have 12 products we offer our clients. They each require X hours of onboarding...


Now that you have an understanding of the best kind of content, let’s talk scale. Sometimes clients provide very little content or data but expect to see a large multi-sectioned infographic.

This is one great infographic (single). It compares the average altitude of various aircraft.

Credit: National Geographic

This is also one great infographic (multi) made up of many individual infographics.

Credit: Adonis Durado

It is not a measure of scale or complexity that makes something an infographic. It can present itself as a single stat or a deeper design built from dozens of facts and figures.


Infographics are an engaging way to convey statistics and complex information. They can be designed for ads, posters, web pages, social posts, documents, and more. They are more than data visualizations, thrive on statistical content with context, and can vary in scale. No longer vulgar, obscene, or profane, the infographic can now be the good word sung on high.

Equipped with this info, we can now speak the same graphic language.

The State of Design: 2019

Written: October 2019    |    by Casey Hawes

This article is written from sections of a larger presentation I gave to my agency CEO in late 2019. Below is a summary of thoughts about Landscape, Trends, and Case Studies.

1. Landscape


  • More companies are building their own design capabilities. Are we seeing a a maturity of the discipline within the enterprises?
  • B2C brands have fully embraced the need to prioritize design in their business practice. B2B brands have not gotten there yet.
  • There is more data and understanding of the customer. Companies now value the empathy phase of customers
  • Design companies are being acquired at a faster pace. Since 2004 over 100 design-related companies have been acquired, with > 60% of them acquired since 2015. Corporations are seeing the value in design, and bringing whole design companies in-house.

Designers + Tools

  • The education in this field has exploded. Young designers are gaining senior titles faster. The industry 
is top heavy. Too many Senior level positions open. Diluting titles and confusing the responsibilities between manager and designer.
  • Designers will need more business skills in the future.
Designers have become more focused 
on the ethics of what they do. They realize they can make actual change in the world so there is more value on “designing for a cause/mission”.
  • Tools are diversifying. Adobe still dominates the creative software landscape, but Sketch, Figma, Invision Studio, and more have 
gained steam.


2. Trends


Animated Brand Identity and Kinetic Typography

The energy and personality that motion adds to design has become table stakes. Animation now needs to be considered a foundational element of all modern design projects.


Responsive Logo Systems

Not a new idea in 2019 but something we should consider more often in branding projects.


Vivid Color

  • Chromatic Colorways
  • Gradients
  • Cast Lighting
  • Neon

"I think in the case of giant brands, the thinking may be that the only thing more powerful than owning a single color — like IBM's blue, or Coke's red — is to own the entire spectrum. In the digital age, a million colors cost the same as one, so why not?" - Michael Bierut


Mixed Media

Mashups of live action video, design, illustration, and animation are making things more and more unique. Any cross-discipline approach like this will elevate the underlying concept.



“In 2018 we’ve seen a big comeback of the ’90s in fashion. It’s a kind of nostalgia but beneath the surface it’s a signal that people crave differences in expressions. Wildly different expressions. We will see that yearning for expressions evolve in all areas, especially in branding, which pretty much dominates the contemporary visual landscape. We will see designers go through an awakening and go back to a rich history of expressions in the pre-mobile era, and brands will have to learn how to tap into that genius part of designers: the part that is a human being.”

—Natasha Jen, partner, Pentagram



"The often-simplistic love affair of the tech world with clean, simple, and emotionally subdued design is coming to a slow, yet clear end. Such formulaic serene Sameness is no longer a valid risk-averse strategy as more and more companies understand that brand building requires a distinguished aesthetic with an emotional point of view."


3. Case Studies


Branding Case Study: Dunkin'


Best Campaign Case Study: The Gun Violence History Book


Branding Case Study: NYT The Truth is Worth it


Campaign Case Study: Whopper Detour



Design is a craft that I love and take a lot of pride in. In order to get to be the best design player we can be, we need to push the creative limits to make some noise.

The creative process is a fish

Written: January 2020    |    by Casey Hawes

The process involved in creating creative* can sound like a subjective one.
You might picture a group of artists smoking cigarettes (or the like) throwing colors and shapes at a wall, making decisions based on feelings or personal taste.

Now that’s FINE for fine artists.
But when building creative for brands, this is not a formula for success. A proper creative process for brands needs structure. We cannot afford to have writers block or wait for inspiration to strike. We are in the business of delivering amazing and relevant creative on time and on budget. That takes a process.

The fish diagram

We like to describe our creative process as a fish. Not in the way that it behaves or moves. But simply the silhouette of a fish, drawn in its most elementary form.
THIS is the fish.

The process over time (x axis) and quantity of concepts (y-axis) visualized as a future-facing fish.
It starts with a large bucket of ideas (a tall tail fin) that get’s narrowed down to a single idea (the base of the tail). That single idea is then expanded into a high quantity of concepts (body of the fish) and then one of those is refined into the end product (the face of the fish).

Here is a project example

Let’s say we are doing a brand identity project for the zoo and we know they want a logo mark that features an animal.

  1. Ideate: panda, lion, monkey, giraffe, etc.
  2. Distill: Were going with the panda. A client decision was made.
  3. Iterate: Blow the options out again. This time with several different panda logos. Various panda perspectives, stylistic approaches, color ways, etc.
  4. Distill: Again, into a final mark.

Of course, this is abbreviated.

This is a simplified view of how a branding project would go.
But it illustrates our approach, the phases of options, and the crucial decisions that need to be made to make this an efficient process.
It keeps us all on track.

This fish is a great metaphor in this singular fashion, but also when you need multiple creative efforts within one larger project. A multi-channel ad campaign is a great example.
Your fish just gets friends.

We cannot execute all creative deliverables at once (stack the fish). This school of fish comes in a stepped progression for strategy, then messaging, then design, before stacking fish for final creative deliverables like video, production art, web design, etc.

These are good fish.

Now let’s talk about when the process goes wrong.

Dead Fish

A client is going backwards. They’ve had a change of heart on their previous decisions. Fish can’t swim backwards. We cannot go back in time. We’ve chopped the process and a dead fish can’t swim. We will have to start a new fish.



A client is moving the goal line. Changing the final deliverable. We don’t know the target, so we branch out in different directions, eating too much time.



A client is forever making changes/revisions. Sometimes many many minor changes. Larger decisions may have been made up front, but then its death by a thousand paper cuts.



A client is not making any decisions, but we continue to make new stuff. Without clear decisions, or narrowing the focus, the process elongates without a clear destination.



When you need to accomplish multiple creative tasks but a client wants you to work on all of them at once instead of in a natural order. We cannot stack all the fish. A barrage of opinions and feedback out of order creates chaos and inflates the hours and the process.

These are all bad fish. Some aren’t even fish! When these bad processes happen, the parties on both sides of the relationship became frustrated. Even if the end product is a whale of a success, the process to get there may leave everyone feeling sea sick.

Key takeaways

The agency needs to produce amazing creative at an appropriate quantity. The client needs to be decisive and provide productive feedback that isn’t based on personal taste. This expanding and contracting action is the healthy heartbeat of the creative process.

*Yes we use creative as a noun. I am a creative who creates creative creative.

101: Logo Redesigns

Written: December 2019    |    by Casey Hawes

“We want to refresh our logo, but we don’t want a whole new logo.”
Translation: We want a new logo, but we don’t want to pay for it.

Clients don’t know how to talk about redesigning their logos. They want better, but they don’t like change. Or they simply don’t know how to describe the level of change they want. That’s understandable.

This is how I like to describe the various levels of logo redesign to get us all on the same page.

1: Logo Refresh - Clean up your house

This means minor modifications to achieve the goal of making the mark feel new (more modern, youthful, approachable, etc.). Modifications might include adjusting scale, alignment, color, and footprint.

2: Logo Evolution - Remodel your house

This means more noticeable modifications to the mark without tearing down the equity built up by the original logo. Modifications might include a new typeface or redrawn symbols.

3: Logo Redesign - Buy a new house

The current logo has served you well over the years, but now it’s time to move on. We are building you a whole new logo from scratch, as if you started the company today. We may include some nod back to the previous branding, but this is the dawn of a new day.

Before you embark on this logo hunting journey, ask yourself these questions:
What is wrong with your current logo?
What do you hope to achieve with a logo redesign?
Why is the timing right?

Happy house hunting.

Disclaimer: We can design (or redesign) logos in a vacuum, but we highly recommend taking a broader look at your brand identity to see how any change to the logo will impact other visual elements. 

101: What is a Brand Identity?

Written: November 2019    |    by Casey Hawes

Do you remember those Heineken commercials of lavish parties full of eclectic and eccentric people? Or the Captain Morgan commercial of a bar full of various captains? They showed crowded rooms full of visually interesting characters. Imagine walking amongst those people and admiring each individual’s unique style. Note the decisions they’ve made about their appearance. Those characteristics and appearances could be described as a brand identity. Height, weight, age, facial expression, hairstyle, wardrobe, and even the way they walk are all visual cues that would lead you to an assumption or perception of who they are. You might believe that he/she is a basketball player, a liar, flamboyant, or Russian. Any number of descriptors could be perceived from your visual appearance. The same goes for brands.

A brand identity is the holistic visual system that informs consumers who you are and promotes a desired perception. It is the face of your brand. It’s not just a logo. It’s not a random collection fonts and colors. It encompasses everything your audience sees; from the primary logomark to the button style on your latest email blast.

A brand identity can include the following common parts:

  • Primary Logo: The hero symbol that is present in every customer experience. In most cases, this is the thing that garners the most visual brand recognition.
  • Alternate Logos: The logos to use when the primary logo cannot be used because of color, scale, or other complicating contexts.
  • Secondary Marks: Symbols that reinforce design elements from the logo, product marks, or mascot characters.
  • Color Theory: The color scheme and strategy based on an understanding of the color wheel, color harmony, and color context.
  • Typography: A collection of typefaces with guidelines for purpose, scale, and visual treatment.
  • Graphic Elements: The shapes, patterns, textures, and linework that extend the design language of the brand identity.
  • Imagery: Any combination of iconography, photography, and/or illustration.
  • Layout Systems: The compositional considerations and general structure of final applications.

Bringing it Together

The elements above should not be designed in silos. While we can design just a logo, or explore a color study on its own, the most powerful brands build all these elements together in one cohesive design system.


We use the traits from our strategy and messaging phase to inspire the visual characteristics of the brand identity. If together we’ve determined that trustworthy, or innovative, or humorous is the primary attribute for your brand’s tone-of-voice then the visual side of your brand will support that. A good brand (and brand identity) needs personality. It makes your brand memorable and relatable.


A brand identity is tangible. You can see it, and touch it. You may be able to taste it, or hear it. Brand identity can break outside of our traditional visual understanding. It can be a sensory experience built on sound or texture. That might be controversial to some, but there is untapped potential in these ideas. It might be why Pentagram’s newest partner is a sound designer (Yuri Suzuki).


Brand identity is not static. Brand identities are moving more than ever. It’s a trend that will continue to grow beyond 2020. We can build identifiable characteristics in the way things move and animate. It deepens the audiences understanding of the brand’s personality. Animation adds another dimension of life, delight, and approachability to a brand identity.


A brand identity is one of the most important foundational elements of any brand. Every visual asset that is produced by the brand needs to connect back to the core design principles built in the brand identity. Breaking the brand identity leads to consumer confusion about who you are and what you stand for.

What does your brand look like? How do you want it to present itself? What perception do you hope consumers have after seeing your brand? When people meet your brand at the party, what does that party-goer look like? That is a brand identity.

Can Design Impact Win %?

Written: April 2015    |    by Casey Hawes

Being a designer and sports fan (like I am) is a mix of interests that don’t always overlap. However, I often see designers posting their own design takes on a team’s logo, uniform, and overall branding. It got me thinking about REAL rebrands in sports and the possible lasting impacts they might have. More specifically: can design impact a team’s win percentage?

The power of a brand

I recently read an article about how the Los Angeles Clippers should change their name and rebrand due to last year’s controversies brought about by their former owner Donald Sterling. That’s on top of the fact that despite recent winning, they’ve been largely irrelevant during their 37 seasons. They take a back seat in their own city, in their own BUILDING to the LA Lakers.

This season, the Clippers were 35-19 at the All-Star break, good for a 6th seed playoff spot in a highly competitive western conference. The Lakers were 13-40. They are the 4th worst team in the entire NBA. Yet they continue to crush the Clippers in TV ratings. That just illustrates the power a brand can have.

The argument against rebranding is that you’d be throwing away the brand equity you’ve built as an organization over a long period of time. Would it diminish the power of your brand? Change is hard. Large financial interests are at stake but I would argue that WINNING is the number one key to building a fan base and increasing sales revenue/profit. The Lakers fan base still tunes in because they have a long history of winning, including championships as recent as 2009 and 2010.

Teams that have rebranded in a significant way

Consider the following a brief (and incomplete) research project. Here’s a look back at the records of a few teams that have gone through some level of significant rebranding. What were the records before and after rebrand? You’ll find some very interesting trends.

Sports logos - before and after rebrandingNFL

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1997)

  • 10 years PRE rebrand (‘87-96) Record 52-107= .327% (0 playoff appearances)
  • 10 years POST rebrand (‘97-06) Record 87-73= .544% (6 playoff appearances, 2002 SB Champ)

Tennessee Titans (1999 – formerly Houston/Tennessee Oilers)

  • 5 years PRE rebrand (’94-98) Record 43-47= .477% (0 playoff appearances)
  • 5 years POST rebrand (’99-03) Record 56-24= .700% (4 playoff appearances, 1999 SB Loss)

Seattle Mariners (1993)

  • 10 years PRE rebrand (’83-92) Record 718-901= .443% (0 playoff appearances)
  • 10 years POST rebrand (’93-02) Record 840-711= .542% (4 playoff appearances)

Tampa Bay Rays (2008)

  • 10 years PRE rebrand (’98-07) Record 645-972= .399% (0 playoff appearances)
  • 7 years POST rebrand (’08-14) Record 627-508= .552% (4 playoff appearances, 2008 WS Loss)

Oklahoma City Thunder (2008 – formerly Seattle SuperSonics)

  • 6 years PRE rebrand (‘02/03-‘07/08) Record 215-277= .437% (1 playoff appearance)
  • 6 years SINCE rebrand (’08/09-‘13/14) Record 294-182= .618%
    (5 playoff appearances, 2012 Finals Loss)

Washington Wizards (2011)

  • 3 years PRE rebrand (‘08/09-‘10/11) Record 68-178= .276% (0 playoff appearances)
  • 3 years SINCE rebrand (’11/12-‘13/14) Record 93-137= .404% (1 playoff appearance)

Brooklyn Nets (2012 – formerly New Jersey Nets)

  • 3 years PRE rebrand (’09/10-’11/12) Record 58-172= .252% (0 playoff app)
  • 2 years SINCE rebrand (12/13-‘13/14) Record 93-71= .567% (2 playoff app)

New Orleans Pelicans (2013 - formerly The New Orleans Hornets)

  • 2 years PRE rebrand (’11/12-’12/13) Record 48-100= .324% (0 playoff app)
  • 1.5 years SINCE rebrand (13/14-‘14/15) Record 61-74= .452% (0 playoff app*, .5 year cutoff at all-star break Feb 12)

Winning percentage chart - before and after rebranding

Let’s go to the chart!

The y-axis is winning percentage. The x-axis is years/seasons relative to the rebrand. Notice anything? All of these teams had higher winning percentages in the very first year of rebrand. Beyond that it flutters but for the most part, the lines show the most activity in the lower left quadrant (losers pre-rebrand) and upper right quadrant (winners post-rebrand).

Teams that rebranded where the results were inconclusive: Baltimore Ravens (2006), Arizona Diamondbacks (2007), and Miami Marlins (2011).

Other factors of change

Clearly, there are many other factors that can impact a team’s winning ways. Factors at play could include relocation, name changes, new stadiums/arenas, and of course new players and coaches. We could dissect each example above and find something else that made an impact (e.g. Russell Westbrook joined OKC in the first season of rebrand, and with Kevin Durant already there, those guys are really good). However, I believe the rebranding, the redesigning of a team’s identity, and all the excitement and buzz surrounding it has a positive impact on the inner culture and outer perspective of a team.

Is it simply change that matters? Not just design change?

Looking at the changes these teams made purely from a design perspective, I don’t think all of the rebrands were an improvement over what they had before. That’s just my opinion. So while design MIGHT have a positive impact on a sports team’s winning percentage, I might argue that any change or shift in identity can be good for organizations, especially losing ones. That may be obvious.

Could this translate to your team? Your company?

Could a design change make you a winner? Here at Innate, we rebranded in the past year. Every step we’ve taken to build our new identity has made us stronger. We have an identity that we believe in and has been tailored for who we are RIGHT NOW. That alone makes us feel like winners.


  1. Not every sports rebranding effort was included in this research. Duh.
  2. Rebranding involves more than just design. Duh.
  3. Sports stats can be skewed to whatever narrative you like but my intent here is not to deceive. This is intending to be thought provoking so take my take with a grain of salt. Always.

Pro Football Reference
Baseball Reference
Basketball Reference

Thanks for reading sports fans.

Designers X Zombie Apocalypse

Written: February 2015    |    by Casey Hawes

You know what the zombie apocalypse is all about right? Rotting corpses chasing after you to feast on your living flesh. Your friends and family dying, getting lost, eaten, or turning into zombies before your very eyes. I don’t need to explain this scenario do I?

It’s gruesome and depressing but I watch a LOT of The Walking Dead. It’s AMC’s hit show that rivals the NFL’s Sunday Night Football in TV ratings. America loves the dead and so do I.

This fascination with a post-apocalyptic world is easy to understand. We are captivated with this world that is reminiscent of the cities, communities, people, and everyday objects we are so familiar with, but is dangerously different. It puts us into a realistic setting with unrealistic circumstances. We like to imagine what we would do in these life-and-death scenarios, IF it became reality.

Funny thing about zombies; they’re not creative folk. They don’t have taste or personal preference. Designers must be the total opposite of the walking dead. I’m a designer (graphic/web) and I began to wonder…

Where are the designers in The Walking Dead?

I don’t mean there aren’t designers working on the show. I’m sure there are costume, prop, and set designers to name a few. They are amazing. I’m saying there are no characters in the story that are designers. Surely not all the designers were killed. Even though we sit at desks all day, we aren’t all weak.

What if designers lived in a real zombie apocalypse?

What skills do designers have to survive on? Well, our pixels and software might as well be fairy tales. There would be no APP that kills zombies or locates your nearest death-escaping Uber. Your iPhone is now a disposable projectile.

However, we would still design. We would still be taking photos, using an old pinhole camera perhaps. Maybe we would find the time to design a menu for our next meal. The great typography could trick us into getting excited about the night’s menu of scraps and scavenged leftovers, or humans, depending on your audience.

We would create undead deadlines for ourselves, critique each other’s help signage, and neatly stack the bodies with an even amount of spacing. Kerning the dead, if you will. Then, since we designers have egos, we’d leave a byline to let fellow survivors know; “that pile of zombies there… that was all me bro.” Then maybe you’ll follow me, and my work. Like it. Share it. Pin it?

The world would be running terrifyingly low on Moleskin notebooks. How would we properly brainstorm and wireframe all the possible zombie interactions? The zombie-user experience may even bring about an entirely new design profession. Zombie UX Design Pro?

Maybe we would eventually find the beauty in zombies. We’d draw and paint them. Sculpt them. Can you image what the post-apocalyptic artist would have to do to shock the art world? Living (or un-living) installations? Too far…

What would I do? I know I’d grab my hand-painted ax (that is currently just apartment decoration) and let the zombie heads fly. Violence was never so stylish.

Is design dead too?

This Walking Dead zombie world isn’t just missing designers; it’s missing all remnants of the designs they left behind. No advertising, branding, signage, unique product design, etc.

Where has all the fashion and color gone? Zombies and survivors alike would not just be wearing neutral shades of brown and gray. When the world is up for grabs, “looting” the best goods is high priority. No Hello Kitty shirt-wearing zombies? You would think the occasional zombie would have some style, accessories, Beats headphones, gold chains, fedora, sports jersey, SOMETHING. Imagine a zombie clad in Gucci or Prada. Is it too presumptuous to assume that SOME of those brand-driven women probably didn’t survive and became zombies? There would definitely be some fashionista zombies. Designer zombies with designer handbags…

Also, why aren’t these survivors running around in the best Nike or Under Armour gear? I know a good pair of running shoes would be the first thing I grabbed.

The only branding left that I can see is in the cars. The red Dodge Challenger from season 1 stands out the most. Fun fact: that Challenger is the same one bought by Walter White for his son in AMC’s Breaking Bad.


I know that without some of the colors and design I’m talking about, the show’s believability delves deeper into this alternate world. Without those nods to ‘the past’, things seem more distant and lost. But as a designer, that desire for visual interest is embedded in my DNA. It’s a big part of who I am and no flesh-eating freaks could take that away. In the face of death, I would continue to create. I would go on designing. It may prove to be the very thing that saves me.

So while the fun, color-loving designers were left out of the show, I’m sure we’re doing just fine holed up in an Apple store somewhere.