Infographics are so popular now that you’ll no longer get the same traction as you once did if you don’t go the extra mile in both your research and your design. But it’s also a new enough medium that not everyone has figured out how to do it well, or how to take static information and weave it together in a way that has a point of view, tells a story and sends a message.
The goal is to make it quick and easy for the reader to digest the key pieces of statistics and information that you’ve laid out for them. The more that you can visualize, or show instead of tell, the better.
Tip #1: Make sure you have the right skillset
Creating a great infographic requires an intersection of two different skillsets. The first skillset is to be a strong designer. If you have illustration skills, you can create a fully original piece of visual content, but even if you just have some basic design, layout and photoshop skills, you can string together text and images into an infographic that tells a complete story.
Which brings us to the second skillset – storytelling. Creating a great infographic requires strong skills in researching, writing, and communication. The writing in an infographic is often no longer than the length of a Tweet, and it may even be simply a series of standalone statistics, but the information must be laid out in a way that tells a story. The infographic must guide the reader clearly and carefully through the research. It must have a point of view and make some kind of larger point. The skills required to do this, and to do it well, are less tangible and measurable than the skills of a designer, but these editorial skills should not be overlooked if you’re looking to create a truly interesting, compelling and shareable piece of content.
Some people have got it all – the research and communication as well as the design skills. If you would describe yourself as one or the other, find someone to team up with.
Tip #2: Choose the best possible topic for the medium
Not all topics are well suited to infographics. You want to choose a topic that lends itself well in the following ways:
- Think of your audience: As with any content, make sure you’re providing information that is useful, helpful, focused and targeted. Use your infographic to boost your SEO by choosing a topic that other websites and influencers in your community will want to post on their site so you can get those great backlinks. And don’t forget that great content also entertains, intrigues or even amuses the audience.
- Keep it simple: Before committing to a topic, take a moment to forecast the type of research you expect to be able to gather. You should be able to split your research into a series of very clearly defined categories. You don’t want to pick a topic with a lot of blurred lines and nuance – those topics are more suited to long-form writing, video or podcast. Decide on a focused angle and don’t use any research that strays beyond that scope.
- Statistics are great for infographics: Choose a topic that is likely to have many statistics that will help you explore the angle you’ve decided to focus on. Ideally, you want to track down some historical data that can show either upward or downward trends or some other marked change. Look for a topic that is likely to have data about demographic behaviour, trends in government spending, population growth, social media shares, industry growth, etc.
Tip #3: Frame your writing and research in a way that can be visualized
Visualize with bold, attention grabbing typography:
In a regular sentence that’s used within a paragraph in a blog or any other piece of text, you set the scene, you give context, and you build towards the key piece of information. But when you’re writing for an infographic, you want to turn that on its head. Pull the stat or the key piece of info out of the sentence so it stands alone and your designer can treat it with visual priority. For example:
Visualize with a set of repeated icons that represent a portion or ratio in a stat:
Look for numbers and figures in your research that you can visualize with a set of icons. For example, in the source below, the infographic shows the high number of prescription drugs filled each year in America, and the designer has used individual pills to represent those prescriptions. The goal is to make it easy for the reader to grasp at a quick glance that the numbers are higher than you might think:
Tip #4: Choose a consistent visual theme that’s relevant to the topic:
If you’re doing an infographic on tips for safe and healthy jogging in the winter, choose a silvery, snowy colour palette. Look for ways to incorporate visuals like icicles and snowflakes into the icons you use. If you have to divide one section from another, consider using a snow-covered road with a joggers footstep across the path. Have some fun with it and keep it consistent.
Tip #5: Look for places in your design to show action, movement and change:
If there’s been an upward trend in demographics, don’t just write it out in a sentence. Use a large, bright upward arrow next to the statistic. Arrows are one of the easiest ways to take something that feels static and add a dynamic element. If may seem obvious, but give it a try and see if it changes the feel of the layout. Here’s a great example:
If you want to lead people along a path from one piece of info to the next, consider using footsteps, a jet stream, car tracks, or whatever’s most relevant to the visual theme you’ve chosen.
Like with anything else, the real trick to doing infographics well is to study what’s already out there. Find examples that leave you feeling confused, that seem to have random stats without context, and take note of why they didn’t work. Do the same for those that you find to be successful and that have lots of shares, and study the approach that was used in those pieces in order to mimic that success.