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How to approach and create compelling Infographics

17th November 2016

 
You don’t need us to tell you of the popularity of infographics – quite simply, they seem to be everywhere.
 
Their popularity shouldn’t come as much of a surprise though. After all, they are made up of a combination of images, words and numbers. Therefore, they encompass verbal and visual communications – a mixture of elements that greatly improves the success of communications.
 
 

So, just what are Infographics?

Unsurprisingly, they are visual representations of information.
 
However, as there popularity has skyrocketed, so too has the number of different examples/interpretations. This has led to widespread confusion (and arguments) as to just what an infographic actually is.
 
It’s perhaps best to think of “Infographics” as a broad term, under which the following three categories sit:
 
 
 

Data Visualisation Infographics

(these are known as being true infographics).
 
These tend to look the most complex as they not only attempt to display a great amount of data, but they try to do so in the most beautiful way possible.
 
Therefore they look like art pieces.
 
They’re likely to show patterns in the data, rather than individual data points. But brilliant data visualisations ensure both beauty and readability coexist.
 

 
 
 

Information Design Infographics 

Best way of thinking about these types is as instructional diagrams. These are predominantly used to explain processes, systems or operations – A bit like an advanced flowchart.
 
Infographics are used to improve how processes can be visualised, and in doing so can be easier to remember.
 
Here the focus is on displaying information through efficient and effective design.
 
 

 
 
 

Editorial Infographics

This is arguably the most recognisable form of infographic, due to their widespread use online for content marketing purposes.
 
Editorial Infographics however, have been around for decades and these are just the evolution of them. Before, they solely used charts as the graphical element, with illustration only used for more complex pieces.
 
Whereas now, charts are designed in more creative ways and icons/images are more heavily used.
 

 
 
 

Challenges of infographics

Given the sheer amount of infographics out there, you could easily be mistaken to think that they are easy to create. You’d be wrong. The truth is, is that there are a lot of subpar infographics out there. And we’re using the term ‘infographics’ pretty loosely when saying that too. We don’t think blocks of text with pictures that add no value, are worthy of being given the label of an infographic.
 
 

There are 3 major challenges in designing a successful infographic.

 
1. It can be difficult to truly understand the information that the infographic is trying to communicate. The information could be chronological, geographical, or quantitative. Or much more likely a combination of all three and more. In essence you need to work out the story you are trying to tell with the information at hand. This is the first major challenge you must meet, when designing your infographic.
 
 
2. A good infographic is a great example of how a ‘whole is greater than the sum of its parts’. Therefore, your next challenge is ensuring that all the information you are using is seen as one – as a whole.
 
 
3. OK – so let’s say you’ve overcome the two challenges above. It’s fair to say they are the toughest. Now what’s left is the form it will take. Yes, this is the design, but first it is best to identify the format.
 
Will it be static? Have motion? (Animation). Or be interactive? The type and amount of information you’re using, the audience, and thw budget will play a big part in your decision here.
 
 

 
 
To point out, the above are what we and many others cite as being the biggest challenges. But as you will find after the next section, there are a number of other considerations you must be aware of, for infographic success. Before we get to those, it’s best if we are clear on what makes an infographic good.
 
 
 

What makes a great infographic?

 
 

A great infographic tells a meaningful story in an instant

 

Great infographics take a lot of data, or a number of concepts, and boil it down to one image

 

A good infographic takes data and visually illuminates the patterns within it, and makes accessible the insight that the viewer might have otherwise missed

 

A good infographic communicates its intent without the need for further explanation

 

I think a great infographic is an imbalanced equation: the amount of information conveyed is disproportionate to the time it takes the viewer to process it

 

A quality infographic deepens a viewer’s understanding of a complex topic by clearly and concisely presenting data in an appealing visual design

 

A great infographic is simple enough to read but creative enough that it makes you look twice

 

The best infographics have a high density of information and are easily consumable. It is an art to be able to take a lot of data, or a number of concepts, and boil it down to one image. If your infographic makes sense when you look at it for 5 seconds, but is still teaching you things after you have looked at it for a full minute, then you know it is good

 
 

Source: Oracle – 16 Experts Answer, “What makes a great infographic?”

 
 
 

10 Best Infographic practices to follow:

The following are the key areas we always make sure we’ve covered, when approaching an infographic project.
 
 
 

1. What is the goal of the infographic? 

Be clear as to what the objective of the infographic is. Knowing the reason for the infographic will help you to better understand the information that you should be using. Not only that it will also help decide how it should be presented.
 
 
 

2. Is it relevant to the audience?

Building on from the previous point, always have the audience in mind to ensure that the infographic is relevant to them. The goals of the infographic will help you to do this.
 
Infographics will vary in information and presentation based on their intended audience. And it will help you to decide on whether the infographic should be static, in motion, or interactive.
 
 
 

 3. Go with the flow by telling a story

Great infographics will always have one thing in common – they flow. And they do so, both visually and cognitively.
 
An infographic should be seen as a story to follow. Therefore, it will seamlessly take the viewer on a journey, with everything – the data, ideas – being connected.
 
It’s why if an infographic is just a cluster of data turned into a graphical form, it will not be very effective.
 
 
 

4. Have an engaging title

This is what will likely first grab someone’s attention. So it should clearly describe the infographic, and be easy to understand. Keep it short and powerful.
 
 
 

5. Have a primary takeout (a hook).

There will be key areas of the infographic that are crucial to the story. These will be the more interesting pieces of information, so it’s important that these areas stand out. These therefore need to be emphasised visually, through size, colour or placement.
 
 
 

6. Colour.

A three-colour palette is a good rule to follow as it’s easy on the eye.
 
Choose three primary colours, of which one will be the background colour.
 
If you need to add other colours, use shades of the three main colours. This will keep the palette clear and calming, rather than jarring.
 
 
 

7. Avoid simply Illustrating pieces of text.

Yes, Infographics include text. But any text should really be kept to a minimum.
 
The visuals used must help the viewer quickly and easily extract information.
 
It’s very frustrating when we see what is essentially, just a lot of text with images thrown in with very little thought. It results with the words and pictures not working together, and therefore the information is very hard to distract, and not engaging at all. Yet people still call this sort of thing an infographic!!
 
 
 

8. But don’t underestimate the text.

Yes, infographics are visually led. But the copy needs to be on point to create a persuasive and compelling story. Remember it is the combination of visuals, words and numbers that make infographics so effective. Be sure that none of the elements are letting the side down.
 
 
 

 9. Do some great research

Ideally you want your research data to be fresh. That means trying to avoid data that is over a year old.
 
Seek out industry respected and trusted sources of information.
 
And of course be mindful of information sources that contradict one another. It’s why it also helps to limit the amount of sources you actually do use. Using a few high quality sources, well. Is better than using lots of lower quality sources, poorly.
 
 
 

10. Cite your sources

Always acknowledge the others who have helped play a part in the creation of your infographic.
 
Not only does this help to show you are using trustworthy and credible sources – which can further elevate your infographic. But it is also vital for rights use.
 
 
 
 

In summary of Infographics

Hopefully it’s now clear, that the point of creating an infographic is to take heavy data and visualise it so that it’s easier for a user to understand and consume. Therefore, making it more compelling than it otherwise would be.
 
However, this may not be applicable for all sets of data, infographics shouldn’t be done for the sake of it. If the data is not heavy enough, has no real story, is absent of key, interesting points, or cannot be tied to suitable visuals, then an infographic is not the correct route to take.
 
Infographics should be clean and simple, clutter and needless decoration will make it harder for the reader to extract the message.
 
Editorial infographics are the evolution of information displayed as charts and graphs. Therefore today’s infographics should still follow their founding principles, with iconography being very simple. Images should look more like charts rather than real life-like images, this will allow data to be incorporated into the design far more effectively. It is hard to place data into realistic images, with it often lost. And if the message of the data is lost in the visualisation, then the infographic has failed.
 
 
Remember – Infographics are about telling stories through images.
 
If you’d like our help with your visual storytelling, then please do get in touch.
 
Until next time…
 
Rima
 
 

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