Interviews

Exclusive conversations about infographics and data-vizualization

Talking with... Justin Beegel

The founder of one of the first infographic agencies looks at the state of the market

October 8, 2013  |  CATEGORIES: Featured, Interviews, News

Justin Beegel, founder of Infographic World

(Photo: Justin Beegel)

Before we start this interview, a full disclaimer: Infographic World has been sponsoring Visual Loop for a while now. That said, it’s also important to state that these interviews are not included in any type of deal involving partnerships or sponsorship. We do it because we believe them to be of some value to our readers – a community that includes not only visual journalists and academics, but many marketers and agencies as well. And that was the main reason why we invited Justin Beegel, Infographic World’s founder and CEO, to answer a few questions.

Justin was one of the first people we met online, back in 2010, when we started searching the Internet for infographics and data visualization. At that time, there was just a handful of companies offering this type of content creation, something that changed completely in just a few years.

The result of such ‘explosion’ of agencies and freelancers is there for everyone to see: an avalanche of poorly designed and badly sourced ‘info posters’. Thankfully, the general audience is slowly getting more educated on the topic of information design, as we shift to an even more ‘visual content culture’.

And that creates new challenges and opportunities, something that Justin talks about in this interview, besides sharing a bit about Infographic World’s history.

 

Visual Loop – Justin, how tough is the competition, at this point, in the infographic design market?

Justin Beegel (JB) – I often joke about this, but I think back to the landscape when I started the company versus where it is today. When I started it in 2009, it felt like there was really only 1 other infographic agency out there. Today, I feel like there is a new competitor popping up every single day. Looking around the space, on Google, etc. I see more and more infographic agencies out there. On one hand, no one likes to see their space get more and more competitive. On the other, it’s a testament to how viable of a solution infographics are, and how in demand they are and likely will continue to be.

I see the growing competition as a statement that data visualization and infographics are here to stay, and are the way companies will communicate their message in the long-run, so that makes me happy.

VL – And how does Infographic World cope with that evolving scenario?

JB – What we’re doing is truthfully the same thing we’ve been doing since the first day I started the company; competing based upon quality. My goal when I started Infographic World was to be the highest quality infographic agency out there, both at the time, and in the future. By quality, I mean two things. The first is the obvious one; we aim to offer the highest quality final deliverable; the most beautiful looking infographics out there. That, in essence, is almost the easy part for us, because I think we have the best team of people out there. The second part though, to me, is as important or more important than the first part; truly caring about our customers. We take the customer experience VERY seriously.

It’s my hope that these 2 factors are what allows us to remain competitive in the ever growing infographic industry.

I see the growing competition as a statement that data visualization and infographics are here to stay, and are the way companies will communicate their message in the long-run, so that makes me happy.

VL – Tell us a bit about the story behind Infographic World. How did it all begin?

JB – I was working as the Social Media Marketing Manager at Hachette Filipacchi Media, working with our main brands CarANDDriver, Elle, Road & Track, and Woman’s Day to help drive more traffic to our websites, content strategy, etc. I had come across something called an infographic while I was working there. Every time I saw a website create one, it would spread like wildfire around the web and go crazy viral. I thought they were pure genius creations, because I knew I didn’t want to read long articles anymore on websites, and I figured I was not the only one feeling that way. I ended up taking on 1 consulting job on the side, outsourced the work, and took a tiny bit of profit. This lead to another job, outsourced the work, took a tiny bit of profit.

I slowly over time built up a decent sized client list, and decided to take the bold move of quitting my job at 23 to focus on turning this into a real business. I came up with the name Infographic World (because I wasn’t creative enough to think of anything else), spent a LONG time find the best designers and creative people I could find, and built a company around very high quality talent. Now here we are almost 5 years later, and it’s been a hell of a ride.

VL – The popularization of infographics all over the world also led to the development of free tools, set to be used even by those without an information design background. How does this impacts your market? Is there a real threat?

JB – I’m actually asked this question a lot. I personally do not see the free infographic creation tools as a threat at all. The reason for that is that there is so much more to infographic creation than just the design. Who is coming up with the idea? Who is researching the data? Who is fact-checking the research, building the concept, reviewing the concept, reviewing the design, etc? People see infographics online all over the place, and sometimes think it’s the simplest thing ever to create. It’s the complete opposite. We have a saying we always use in the company that the art of visualization is a science. It’s exactly that; an art and a science mixed into one amazing output (at least when done properly).

Just because you have a tool that allows you to put together an infographic for free, does not mean you can create a great infographic. I think most companies realize this, and that is why regardless of the proliferation of these tools, companies continue to hire agencies like Infographic World and our competition. It’s just such a specialized craft that you need (or should have) a team to build it; not a single person.

Just because you have a tool that allows you to put together an infographic for free, does not mean you can create a great infographic.

VL – Looking now from a client’s point of view, have you felt any kind of development, in terms of their basic understanding of what is a good infographic?

JB – I definitely have noticed a more sophisticated client as of late (late being the last 6-8 months or so). It’s always a breathe of fresh air when a client approaches us and truly understands what goes into making a good infographic. They understand that there are things they need to communicate to us, and that it’s an iterative process from beginning to end. They understand that if they want to create an infographic with the goal being social sharing and blogger pickup, that the infographic has to bring value to the readers; it’s not a pretty looking advertisement. Rather, it’s something of mass appeal that people genuinely want to read, and because of this, are inclined to share with others.

I would be lying if I said we didn’t still get people who want us to create an infographic all about their product and expect it to viral and have Mashable and Huffington Post begging to feature it. These types of tactics do not work. The major bloggers are too smart, and they didn’t build up their site’s audiences by accident; they know what their readers want to see, and it’s quality content. Therefore, the content needs to be quality.

I definitely have noticed a more sophisticated client as of late (late being the last 6-8 months or so). It’s always a breathe of fresh air when a client approaches us and truly understands what goes into making a good infographic.

VL – Now for those out there interested in a career designing infographics: what expertise and skills they must cultivate if they want to land a job on Infographic World, one day?

JB – I would say a few things: (1) have a very strong handle on not just illustrating, but how an infographic should be designed. This means knowing how to take the reader along a journey, telling them a story from beginning to end, keeping their attention, and not making what I call a cookie cutter infographic. The web is polluted with cookie cutter infographics in my opinion. I love being able to make something that is unique and stands out a bit, and that’s what we look for when hiring new infographic designers to our team. (2) If you have animation and/or interactive development skills on top of being a great designer, you are GOLDEN.

VL – With things moving so fast, I’m sure there are a few opportunities and challenges ahead! What can we expect from Infographic World in the near future?

JB – There is a very obvious shifting/increase in demand as of late for interactive and animated infographics. We are looking to stay as far ahead of this as possible, and have been doing a lot of work in this realm. I personally find them to be more fun in general too, in terms of the final output. Animated infographics in particular are my favorite. It’s just a great way to tell a story about a company, a product, an industry, anything.

Also, as technology continue to improve, there will be a lot more tablet usage of infographics and data visualization.

As far as challenges, when you have new competitors popping up daily, there’s always a challenge. For us, it’s continuing to differentiate ourselves, and keep up a certain high level of quality that will attract the clients that we want.

VL – Thank you so much, Justin, and good luck!

JB – Thanks!

 

Again, we’d like to thank Justin for taking the time to answer our questions, as well as for the ongoing support of Visual Loop. You can connect with him on LinkedIn, and don’t forget to visit Infographic World for a sample of their work.

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