How to Create an Effective Infographic
December 18, 2017 by Andrew Symes
In a previous blog post, we shared the Top 5 Times to use an Infographic. Now, with the help of professional visual designer Denis Savoie of Studio91, we’re sharing our top tips for creating infographics that that grab attention *and* communicate your message.
1) Make it Necessary
Before you begin, ensure that an infographic is the right vehicle for your content. “There’s a bit of infographic fever happening right now, and it’s possible to go overboard,” says Savoie. “Infographics can be very useful, but they are also overused.”
As we wrote previously, infographics are useful for listing facts, communicating a process, presenting a timeline, comparing items, and serving as a quick reference guide. If your content doesn’t serve one of those purposes, it may be more useful to simply present it in a text-based format.
2) Have a Purpose
Once you’ve decided that an infographic is best, clearly understand your goal before reaching out to a designer. What picture are you trying to paint? Are you telling a story that has a start and end point? Are you sharing statistics? Are you presenting a set of facts?
“As a designer, I need to understand the key aspects of what you’re trying to convey, and the most important things to highlight,” says Savoie. “Often, I’ll be given a table of data, but it isn’t clear to me what key message the design should highlight.”
Your infographic’s information should be consistent and relate to an overarching theme. If you have many unrelated pieces of data – such as a set of statistics and a set of dates or timelines – consider breaking up the content into multiple infographics.
3) Consider Context of Use
Infographics come in all shapes and sizes, but some styles are more appropriate for certain mediums. “It’s important for your designer to know whether the infographic will be used online, in a print publication like a brochure, or a large printed format like a poster,” says Savoie.
“The medium can affect everything from the style and size of font used, to the shape of the actual graphic. For example, sans serif fonts can be hard to read in smaller web graphics – especially on low-resolution displays – although this will become less relevant over time with the arrival of high-definition monitors. If your infographic will be put up on a wall, you’ll want to use text sparingly and use larger fonts so that people can read it from a distance. Also, if you think that your infographic will be seen primarily on a mobile device, you may want to design it to be narrow and tall to facilitate scrolling, or segment it so it can stack.”
4) Be Open to Different Ideas
Sometimes, you’ll (think you) know exactly how you want your infographic to look. At other times, you may want your designer to inspire you. As Savoie explains, either approach is fine. “If you have strong ideas for how your infographic should look, I need to know that up front. I don’t mind when clients have an idea, but I’m also willing to tell a client when I have a different approach to consider.”
In some cases, the final infographic will differ substantially from the original concept. Good designers will sketch out an initial idea, discuss it with you, and then refine it. This process helps ideas evolve, and generates an infographic that is both informative and attractive.
5) Tell the Story Visually
Infographics are meant to be eye-catching. While your infographic will always contain text, it’s important to use graphics, icons, and images that communicate and reflect the message you’re looking to convey. “Try to use visuals as much as possible,” says Savoie. “When I’m designing, I try to find visual metaphors to get the message across. For example, if you want to show that one in six people perform a certain task, you could use icons of people rather than listing an actual number or fraction. It’s also easy to make some icons larger than others when you’re trying to make a point about size or importance.”
6) Consider Your Budget
Your designer will need to know what kind of budget you have to work with. There are a variety of ways to develop infographs and some – like custom illustration – are more labour intensive than others. Part of your budget decision should be how crucial the infographic is to your overall strategy. For example, if you original-content production is key to your strategy, then it’s worth paying for illustrations and high-end photography that won’t be readily found in other infographics.
But your designer doesn’t need to create all of the graphics and icons from scratch. “There are a lot of good places to get pre-made icons or graphics, such as Pixabay and FlatIcon.com,” notes Savoie. “Likewise, there are a variety of options for stock photography – from very inexpensive to quite pricey. Of course, the less costly stock is more likely to be seen elsewhere.”