Why you should create a minimum viable visual

Tiny infographic cartoon by Chris Lysy
The infographic was not going to be a finalist in any design competition. The font was tiny. The few colors just didn’t seem to gel. It was printed small with strange dimensions.

Definitely not going to find this one on any blogger’s top 100 list.

But that’s out of context. Listening to the evaluator talk about the infographic tells a completely different story. This infographic was greeted with praise by their client, who loved it so much that the simple visual report outgrew its original purpose and became one of their key handouts for the following year.

And now the evaluator gets to share her success with colleagues. Each one furiously copying down the instructions so that they can go home and try it out with their own clients.

Oh, and did I mention that the infographic was based off a free web template? And that nothing about the final product was different from the original, right down to the flawed export approach that made it low resolution and forced it to be printed small.

Even with its flaws, this is the very definition of a quick win.

Responding to an audience’s visual appetite

Responding to a visual appetite cartoon by Chris Lysy
When an audience shows a visual appetite, there are lots of ways to respond. But it’s easy to fall into an all or nothing mentality.

“Well clearly our audience wants visuals, so we need to make a major investment in professional development and software. We’ll get there, but for now, just hold tight.”

Think about a crowded park filled with hungry people. One way to respond is to consider building a restaurant nearby. There is a lot of prep work to be done, but with all of those hungry people the restaurant would do well.

Or you could buy a hot dog cart and start selling much sooner, responding to the need.

The restaurant isn’t a bad idea, it’s probably a great one. But investments take time, especially major ones.

Minimum Viable Visual

Easy infographic favorite part cartoon by Chris Lysy
Businesses like to talk about minimum viable products. These are products with low risk but offer the potential of a high return. Lots of times they’re bare bone versions of a product put out to test a concept.

We can do the same thing with visuals. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing. See how your audience responds, this will help you decide if you should make a major investment.

My coming soon course is going to be filled with recipes for minimum viable visuals. Step by step directions you can follow to create something that you can use right away, not years from now.


  1. Kathleen Lynch on November 18, 2014 at 9:51 am

    This is a great post! So many times, I shy away from trying something new with visuals because I think I don’t have all the skills I need, and I’m just not up for climbing the steep curve of learning how to use one of the gazillion new free tools for infographics, reference management – you name it. I love this concept of the minimum viable visual. Thank you, Chris.

    • Chris Lysy on November 18, 2014 at 10:09 am

      Thanks Kathleen 🙂

      As evidence people (self included) I think we have this tendency to get stuck on gathering information on which is the “best” way. Then we get stuck there or think we need to learn a lot before we can get started.

      But there is plenty that we can do quickly and efficiently. Then once you start, it’s so much easier to scale-up than it is to scale-down.

  2. Linda Peritz on November 18, 2014 at 10:40 am

    This approach fits with the design paradigm: Start with something, watch what happens, improve your idea and try again.
    I love it!

    • Chris Lysy on November 18, 2014 at 11:01 am

      You got it, fail early and often 🙂