You’ve compiled some boring information and you have to present it Friday morning. How can you avoid putting everyone to sleep?
You could bring an air horn to that meeting. Or you could bring an infographic. Depending on your place of work, an infographic might be a little more appropriate.
It’s your call.
What is an infographic?
An infographic is a visual representation of information, usually data points. A well-designed infographic has the power to turn a difficult subject into something interesting and engaging with the appropriate usage of pictures, typography, and data visualization.
Infographics are a fabulous way to present and communicate complex data for a few reasons:
First, data can be difficult to crunch. Providing your audience with colorful data visualizationmakes the important information more accessible for everyone.
Second, infographics have the ability to condense full course meals of information into bite sized pieces. If you’re looking to sum up a report or a chapter, think infographic.
Finally, some data can be incredibly boring to look at on a spreadsheet. Infographics visually enhance this data and engage the audience in information that they may otherwise not be interested in understanding.
If you have something important to say, say it with an infographic.
An infographic isn’t just a pretty picture, but it’s not a spreadsheet either. Instead, it’s both of those things, together. Hence the name.
There are an endless amount of ways to design an infographic. To ensure that you’re clearly communicating all of your information, we’re going to go through some of the steps to take to create one that will impress everyone who sees it.
Part 1: the info
The reason you’re creating an infographic is to more effectively communicate data points that may be difficult for others to understand. The colors and visualization are important, but half of the infographic is the information you’re providing to others.
Decide on your key messaging points first. If the people you’re showing this information to only leave with a handful of data points, what would you want them to remember? Use that to decide what information is most important, and design accordingly.
Decide on your message
Why are you making an infographic in the first place? Before you lay out all of your data, remember why it was collected in the first place. Understanding this is helpful for deciding what information to include as well as what graphics will be appropriate.
If you have an enormous amount of data, try to find a focus. We’ve seen infographics ten miles long, but the reason for an infographic is to simplify the data as much as possible in order to enhance communication. Having a story, something that has a beginning and end, will also help you when you begin to design because it will assist in the visual flow of your infographic.
Create an infographic outline
An infographic outline is exactly what it sounds like: a rough draft. With this outline, you’ll want to have all of your content ready and available to go so that when you begin designing, you have something to refer back to. Your infographic outline should have the following components:
A clear and concise title
When you write an essay or prepare for a presentation, the title you choose is one that encompasses the topic you’ll be discussing. The title of your infographic is no different.
Your title should be short and sturdy; a wordy title will both lose the attention of the viewer and take up precious space that could be used to present more data.
For example, if you’re making an infographic about infographics, some good, concise titles could be “Everything About Infographics” or “The History of the Infographic”.
Stay away from a title like “The History of Infographics and How They’re Used in Each Industry in the United States of America”.
That’s a little long.
You need to determine what it is you’re trying to tell people.
We can’t tell you everything about an infographic, but we can tell you a lot. Some questions to answer might be
What industries use infographics the most?
What makes infographics work?
What is the average word count of an infographic?
Sometimes, it can be difficult to come up with questions. If you’re having trouble, step into the shoes of future viewers - what would they want to know about your topic?
If you’re reading this article, you’ve likely already collected the majority of your data. If not, hop on it! An infographic isn’t a list of questions; it’s a visualization of the answers.
The data you end up with may not be numerical! Understanding qualitative vs quantitative data will be helpful when determining what information to include in your infographic.
Here’s a quick example:
Quantitative data could be types of infographics.
Qualitative data could be the number of sections within each type of infographic.
Make sure your data quality is high quality. There’s always a chance that numbers could be out of date, company names can change, and so on. That would be embarrassing. It’s always a good idea to double check!
Finally, give your sources some credit. You don’t have to make your citations the focal point of your infographic, but make sure they’re neatly placed somewhere. Often, designers put a quick list in a bottom corner.
You’d want credit if someone was using your data, too.
Now that you have your questions and answers (finally!), you’re going to want to come up with headers for them as snappy as your title. Turn your questions into statements:
You haven’t gotten started designing yet, but as you’re outlining, you may end up brainstorming a thing or two. Any quick thoughts you have can be marked down in this outline so that when you do begin designing, all of your ideas are in once place.
If you’re all about getting down to business with your data and want to block out some time for creativity before making moves, think about mind mapping to help you ideate.
Part 2: the graphic
We have all of the parts; it’s time to put them together.
Wireframe a draft
Some designers love hopping right into a project and really going for it. If you’re working with a client and you show them your outline above, that’s nowhere near enough for them to feel confident that the infographic you’re making is going to be mind-blowing.
A wireframe is a great way for you (and your client, if you have one) to see how everything is going to be laid out. It should show which images go where, where headers and copy will go, and the overall feel of the infographic without actually being the infographic.
Think of a wireframe like a blueprint.
Include spots for your title and an introduction, if you’re using one. This is also a place for you to do a rough sketch of the data visualizations you’ll be implementing into your design, as well as any icons or images you’ll be using throughout. It doesn't have to be complex to be effective; even an organizational chart can help explain complex concepts.
Finally, it’s optional to include a color palette and the fonts you’ll use to keep you focused.
Remember who the infographic is for
Just like how you don’t want an infographic with tons of information, you don’t want to design one that is visually overwhelming for your audience to look at.
As you’re designing, remember the purpose of the infographic: a simple place for the audience to quickly find and understand valuable information.
Keep your copy short and sweet, and use bullet points when necessary. Remember the principles of design and keep your elements in line and balanced. Make sure your font is legible, your color contrast is on point, and images are clear.
Your job is to make something that is complicated easier to understand. Not harder.
Be clever with your images
There are so many ways to tell someone how your client’s new product has improved the lives of people over time.
But why on Earth would a graphic designer settle for a bar graph?
Push yourself to think outside of the box - don’t represent your information in a traditional sense if you can get around it. Make your data visualization unique and use metaphors to really drive the point home.
If your infographic is being created in order to demonstrate the growth of a company, brainstorm different ways you could resemble that. What else “grows”? Think of plant life, climbing to the peak of a mountain, hitting the top floor of an elevator.
The more relatable your visuals are, the easier it will be for your audience to understand what you’re talking about.
Make your infographic...graphic!
If someone wanted to read a report on the global carbon footprint, then it would just be information. You’re making an infoGRAPHIC. Infographics serve as the TL;DR version of complex data; they should be colorful, interesting, and pleasing to the eye.
Don’t just copy and paste the carbon footprint report and change the font color to red - sum it up and make carbon footprints look as epic as possible.
Source: Pacific Standard
Provide a guide
If your infographic design isn’t just fun facts, but more of a story, you’ll want your viewers to read that story from beginning to end. In design, it isn’t always as easy as just designing from left to right or top to bottom. Some elements draw the eye more than others.
In order to help reassure that your audience is reading information in the right order, use arrows between elements or number your elements. Often, infographics use arrows or numbers to show where the viewer’s eyes should be traveling.
Keep it simple
Make sure you’re giving your visuals a purpose. Is there any reason for you to be using a squiggly arrow instead of a straight one? Probably not. The simpler you design something, the easier it is for the audience to comprehend.
It’s important you understand the relationship between the values as well as having the ability to represent those relationships in a visually simple and attractive way. It’s a lot of work, but once the project is complete, it’s absolutely worth it.
FREE Infographic Design Guide
We teamed up with Easelly to provide this FREE Infographic Design Guide. Download your copy before you start your next infographic design project.
Daniella Alscher is a Brand Designer for G2. When she's not reading or writing, she's spending time with her dog, watching a true crime documentary on Netflix, or trying to learn something completely new. (she/her/hers)