Teachers and educators have always used comparison as an effective teaching method. According to the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, comparing and contrasting works by fostering ‘alignment’ between two objects or topics and highlighting important similarities and differences.
Remember the golden years where your pre-school teacher would use comparison to show you the differences between the sea and mountains? I bet that method became ingrained in your head.
A 2013 study by Louis Alfieri published on Educational Psychologist suggested that case comparison activities commonly led to greater learning outcomes over other forms of case study including sequential, single case, and non-analogous, as well as traditional instruction.
Today, we are going to learn how to take advantage of this concept and apply it to design an excellent educational infographic.
What Is The Comparison Infographic Layout For?
Infographics are a super versatile tool for teaching, learning, promoting or engaging readers, and a ‘versus infographic’ is no exception!
There are plenty of situations where you can use this style. If you are a marketer, journalist or content writer, these 3 ideas will get you thinking about how you can apply it to your work.
- If your strategy has changed in any way, you could do a ‘What We Did Back Then vs. What We Do Now’. For instance, if you redesigned your landing page and increased conversion, you could show your team or leadership what happened using a side by side comparison.
- Comparisons are great when people need to quickly grasp new concepts – for instance, during leadership training, you could compare two styles of leaderships like ‘being a boss’ vs ‘being an inspiring leader’.
- You could use a ‘versus’ infographic to sell your unique value proposition, and contrast it against the competition. If you are an HR services company pitching your idea to a potential client, you could compare doing HR in house vs outsourcing it, by highlighting its benefits in an infographic.
Also, if you’re a teacher, a comparison infographic can be an innovative way to educate students. For instance:
- You could compare two historical figures or book characters, like Napoleon vs. Alexander The Great.
- When teaching a language class, you could compare two different language structures. For instance, English grammar vs. Spanish grammar.
- If it’s an art class, a great idea is comparing two styles of painting – impressionism vs. expressionism.
It could even be a cool assignment to have students create their own comparison infographics!
How to Build a Successful Comparison/Versus Infographic
Now that we know when a comparison infographic is effective, it’s time we learn how to design one from scratch.
To start, there are two main aspects when planning a comparison infographic. One is preparing the correct data, and the second one is thinking of the design aspects that will help you visualize the comparison.
Have your Data Ready
As with every type of infographic, you will need to do some prep work, and have your data in advance before moving on to design.
Start by doing some Google research on the two different topics you are comparing. Read articles and books, check out other infographics, or interview experts. Afterwards, you should:
- Prepare 3-5 bullet points summarizing your topic.
- Choose your core data. This means picking 4-6 essential points worth comparing.
- Make sure you are comparing apples with apples and oranges with oranges. Make sure you use the same metrics and type of data between the two topics (i.e. percentages with percentages, numbers with numbers and facts with facts).
This process is the foundation of your design. If you don’t take the time to go through it and verify consistency, your infographic will be noisy, cluttered and unclear.
Let’s take a quick look at this infographic comparing the number of restaurants in two major cities – Paris and London. First, you should note that it’s comparing similarly sized cities, not Paris vs. Nantes. Second, it’s comparing apples to apples – the number of Michelin starred restaurants and the total number of restaurants.
The second example compares an interview at Facebook vs. an interview at Google, and puts emphasis on two main points: what not to say, and which famous celebrities visited their campus.
Pay Attention to Basic Design Rules
Once you’ve chosen your data, it’s time to move on to the design. Piktochart has very useful templates for comparison infographics. Login to your Piktochart account, and once you start searching for a template, type queries like:
- tea vs. coffee.
- traditional vs. digital marketing.
- do’s and don’ts of infographics.
- diabetes type 1 vs. type 2.
Once you select a template, the real magic begins. For this post, we’ll pick the ‘Digital Marketing vs. Traditional Marketing’ template.
1 – Start by comparing things side by side to make it easier on the eye. Whether it’s two or three elements, you should everything symmetrical.
2 –Obsess over alignment. Make sure your elements are correctly centered and aligned, and on the same level.
3 – Create a clear division using two different colors. In order to keep it clean and minimalistic, you can choose darker or lighter shades of color. In our template, we used two different shades of blue, but you can also use two contrasting colors, like tones of red and blue. If you aren’t sure which colors to pick, this post might guide you!
4 – Always stay consistent using the same kind of elements. We’ve covered this in the past, but look at the example below: the first version shows the correct usage of the same fonts and same style icons, while in the second one we chose different fonts and inconsistent icons. The difference is subtle yet meaningful. One is simple, clean and pleasing, and the other one looks messy.
Two quick Pikto tips: First, icons that share the same style are usually grouped together under categories. Second, use the same Text Frame for each side, this way you’ll make sure your design stays consistent
5 – Finally, use the same structure for side by side comparisons for titles, icons, text, etc. When comparing apple with apples, it’s important to keep the consistency between both sides to demonstrate that it’s a comparison. The example below is a perfect portrayal.
Bonus Inspiration: Best Comparison Infographics of the Web
If you are still wondering ‘what an amazing comparison infographic looks like?’ – well, we’ve got you covered.
We spent some time searching the web for three of the most amazing ‘versus’ infographics out there. Check them out!
London vs. Paris
Michael Jordan vs. Kobe Bryant vs. Lebron James
This post is part of September’s Layout Series. Feel free to check it out!
Throughout your academic career, you'll be asked to write papers in which you compare and contrast two things: two texts, two theories, two historical figures, two scientific processes, and so on. "Classic" compare-and-contrast papers, in which you weight A and B equally, may be about two similar things that have crucial differences (two pesticides with different effects on the environment) or two similar things that have crucial differences, yet turn out to have surprising commonalities (two politicians with vastly different world views who voice unexpectedly similar perspectives on sexual harassment).
In the "lens" (or "keyhole") comparison, in which you weight A less heavily than B, you use A as a lens through which to view B. Just as looking through a pair of glasses changes the way you see an object, using A as a framework for understanding B changes the way you see B. Lens comparisons are useful for illuminating, critiquing, or challenging the stability of a thing that, before the analysis, seemed perfectly understood. Often, lens comparisons take time into account: earlier texts, events, or historical figures may illuminate later ones, and vice versa.
Faced with a daunting list of seemingly unrelated similarities and differences, you may feel confused about how to construct a paper that isn't just a mechanical exercise in which you first state all the features that A and B have in common, and then state all the ways in which A and B are different. Predictably, the thesis of such a paper is usually an assertion that A and B are very similar yet not so similar after all. To write a good compare-and-contrast paper, you must take your raw data—the similarities and differences you've observed—and make them cohere into a meaningful argument. Here are the five elements required.
Frame of Reference. This is the context within which you place the two things you plan to compare and contrast; it is the umbrella under which you have grouped them. The frame of reference may consist of an idea, theme, question, problem, or theory; a group of similar things from which you extract two for special attention; biographical or historical information. The best frames of reference are constructed from specific sources rather than your own thoughts or observations. Thus, in a paper comparing how two writers redefine social norms of masculinity, you would be better off quoting a sociologist on the topic of masculinity than spinning out potentially banal-sounding theories of your own. Most assignments tell you exactly what the frame of reference should be, and most courses supply sources for constructing it. If you encounter an assignment that fails to provide a frame of reference, you must come up with one on your own. A paper without such a context would have no angle on the material, no focus or frame for the writer to propose a meaningful argument.
Grounds for Comparison. Let's say you're writing a paper on global food distribution, and you've chosen to compare apples and oranges. Why these particular fruits? Why not pears and bananas? The rationale behind your choice, the grounds for comparison, lets your reader know why your choice is deliberate and meaningful, not random. For instance, in a paper asking how the "discourse of domesticity" has been used in the abortion debate, the grounds for comparison are obvious; the issue has two conflicting sides, pro-choice and pro-life. In a paper comparing the effects of acid rain on two forest sites, your choice of sites is less obvious. A paper focusing on similarly aged forest stands in Maine and the Catskills will be set up differently from one comparing a new forest stand in the White Mountains with an old forest in the same region. You need to indicate the reasoning behind your choice.
Thesis. The grounds for comparison anticipates the comparative nature of your thesis. As in any argumentative paper, your thesis statement will convey the gist of your argument, which necessarily follows from your frame of reference. But in a compare-and-contrast, the thesis depends on how the two things you've chosen to compare actually relate to one another. Do they extend, corroborate, complicate, contradict, correct, or debate one another? In the most common compare-and-contrast paper—one focusing on differences—you can indicate the precise relationship between A and B by using the word "whereas" in your thesis:
Whereas Camus perceives ideology as secondary to the need to address a specific historical moment of colonialism, Fanon perceives a revolutionary ideology as the impetus to reshape Algeria's history in a direction toward independence.
Whether your paper focuses primarily on difference or similarity, you need to make the relationship between A and B clear in your thesis. This relationship is at the heart of any compare-and-contrast paper.
Organizational Scheme. Your introduction will include your frame of reference, grounds for comparison, and thesis. There are two basic ways to organize the body of your paper.
- In text-by-text, you discuss all of A, then all of B.
- In point-by-point, you alternate points about A with comparable points about B.
If you think that B extends A, you'll probably use a text-by-text scheme; if you see A and B engaged in debate, a point-by-point scheme will draw attention to the conflict. Be aware, however, that the point-by- point scheme can come off as a ping-pong game. You can avoid this effect by grouping more than one point together, thereby cutting down on the number of times you alternate from A to B. But no matter which organizational scheme you choose, you need not give equal time to similarities and differences. In fact, your paper will be more interesting if you get to the heart of your argument as quickly as possible. Thus, a paper on two evolutionary theorists' different interpretations of specific archaeological findings might have as few as two or three sentences in the introduction on similarities and at most a paragraph or two to set up the contrast between the theorists' positions. The rest of the paper, whether organized text- by-text or point-by-point, will treat the two theorists' differences.
You can organize a classic compare-and-contrast paper either text-by-text or point-by-point. But in a "lens" comparison, in which you spend significantly less time on A (the lens) than on B (the focal text), you almost always organize text-by-text. That's because A and B are not strictly comparable: A is merely a tool for helping you discover whether or not B's nature is actually what expectations have led you to believe it is.
Linking of A and B. All argumentative papers require you to link each point in the argument back to the thesis. Without such links, your reader will be unable to see how new sections logically and systematically advance your argument. In a compare-and contrast, you also need to make links between A and B in the body of your essay if you want your paper to hold together. To make these links, use transitional expressions of comparison and contrast (similarly, moreover, likewise, on the contrary, conversely, on the other hand) and contrastive vocabulary (in the example below, Southerner/Northerner).
As a girl raised in the faded glory of the Old South, amid mystical tales of magnolias and moonlight, the mother remains part of a dying generation. Surrounded by hard times, racial conflict, and limited opportunities, Julian, on the other hand, feels repelled by the provincial nature of home, and represents a new Southerner, one who sees his native land through a condescending Northerner's eyes.
Copyright 1998, Kerry Walk, for the Writing Center at Harvard University