A Great Infographic is Only as Good as its Story: An Interview With Alex Kenemer, Head of Research

A Great Infographic is Only as Good as its Story: An Interview With Alex Kenemer, Head of Research

A Great Infographic is Only as Good as its Story: An Interview With Alex Kenemer, Head of Research[/caption]

When you look at an infographic, the first thing you see is a compelling design. Once you’re past the appealing visuals, there has to be a compelling story and quality research that’s truly the backbone of the infographic.

While a picture may be a thousand words, it takes a thousand words to make a picture.

And that’s not really much of an exaggeration. Tons of infographics can now be found throughout the web by way of infographic design firms, freelancers, pr agencies, and free/paid template tools. What’s interesting is that when you look around the web for people talking about the research process, there’s little to be found. There are plenty of tips on creating infographics, lists of infographics, and people hating on infographics (though that’s a pretty lazy argument – hating bad infographics is what I think people say when they say that).

Let’s demystify the process a bit. Without further ado, here’s a first-hand Q&A with Alex Kenemer, our head of research.
I got to waste a good 20 minutes of Alex’s day to have him talk to me about what exactly the heck he does around here. Aside from his endless fun facts and “did you knows?” he really seems to know his stuff when it comes to research. Here are his thoughts on what it’s like to be a researcher.

Q1 – How do you find the medium between what readers want to hear and what the client wants to say?

A:   Well for starters, we try to deny both the readers and the clients what they think they want. It’s never a thought process of “oh, well we have to sacrifice the readers’ wants with client advertising, and sacrifice the client message to get the readers’ attention, so let’s find that give­-and-­take middle ground.” That is the traditional broadcast marketing way of thinking– Free entertainment, but you must sit through advertising. Infographics are the featured content, not the paid ads on the sidebars. So where’s the medium? Ideally, it’s out the window– We like finding topics that neither the readers nor the clients expected to want to see.

Q2 – In your opinion, what are the parts that make up a good flow, and ultimately, a good infographic?

A: Compared to reading a news article on a similar topic, my expectations for an infographic are to learn more, in less time, through an artful experience. [Editor’s note: we as a company view a typical reading time of 2.5 minutes to consume an entire infographic as a good rule of thumb].

Q3 – How do you turn a “boring” topic into something that people can relate to?

A: Every successful organization has a purpose or it wouldn’t exist. Once we gain a grasp of that purpose and its meaning in people’s lives through any series of chain reactions, we usually have quite a lot to work with. My favorite companies to work with are the ones that think they are unmarketable, because of how unsexy and boring their industry is. Due to a bad track record in marketing, they’ll let us pull out all the stops and without fail, those are always our best infographics.

Q4 – What do you do when you come across conflicting information, or no information at all?

We are based in Louisville, birthplace of Hunter S. Thompson, so we just flip to Gonzo mode…
Hunter S. Thompson sculpture
Hunter S. Thompson sculpture, Courtesy of Kentucky for Kentucky

We make up a new reality and end up covering the story of the American Dream no matter what sent us on this wild goose chase in the first place…
By new reality, of course I mean we just keep doing more work and banging our heads against the wall causing alternate visions until we find a suitable solution.

Conflicting info happens, so we go with the most recent of respectable data. Finding no information at all generally means the topic is
basically illegal or buried by a reputation management company. No doubt our researchers have earned quite a few “red flags” and made a list or two.
Regardless, we do the best we can from publicly accessible data, and sometimes have to set up a scenario based on what we were able to find and bust out the calculators and do some math.

Q5 – What is your process in essentially becoming an expert overnight in any given topic?

A: To remain relevant and to be pulling from the most current data we try to keep our turnaround pretty quick. However, we can’t really publish anything that we aren’t confident in or the Internet will rip us apart. The balance of speed and accuracy comes from a thousand directions, but here are 3 things.

    1. Preemptive strikes– we read a lot and come across some awesome stuff often when looking for something else.  Anything genius that twerks its way into our skulls we write down in a collective “Cool ideas” doc and label it with relevant industries or topics.


    1. Learn the lingo– knowing the industry terms speeds up info searches exponentially. We’ll know what we’re looking for, but can’t find evidence of it, until we are speaking the same language. Then, ctrl+f “LINGO” in a 100 page white paper and boom: harvest, cite, next.


  1. Work hard–we keep real busy, but get better, smarter, faster and learn more about each industry and how they all interact together every day. Pulling from an understanding of total experience helps narrow down what answers we need to find and in a way that hasn’t been done without grasping in the dark.


Well there you have it. When you go further down the rabbit hole and get the process straight from the horse’s mouth, you see how intense the process truly is. Check back soon for more in-depth coverage of our other departments!