How To Design An Awesome Infographic
First of all a disclaimer: I’ve pulled some elements of this post from a few different sources and linked to them in the foot of the post for reference. To quote Baz Luhrmann, the rest of my advice has no basis more reliable than my own meandering experience.
For the record, I’m pro-infographics, not just as a link building technique but also from personal experience. I love seeing data visualised in creative ways, mainly because I have the attention span of a four-year-old.
What I hate is bad infographics, so if this post helps one person avoid certain pitfalls and create something amazing, I’ll be a happy bunny.
Step 1: The concept
All good content is based on good data. By finding information that people find interesting or surprising, your infographic has the potential to be impactful and therefore linkworthy and shareable.
Firstly, the information has to tell a story, such as how Instagram went from nothing to being sold for one billion dollars in April 2012. Notice how the arrows on each box direct the reader to the next step in the journey:
This infographic has a clear purpose – to chart the rise of Instagram. If you have some great data, use it to prove a hypothesis (e.g. are offices getting overcrowded?) or to explain a specific point (e.g. how overcrowded offices are affecting productivity). “Infographics start with a unique intent. It might be clarifying a complex set of data, explaining a process, highlighting a trend, or supporting some kind of argument.” (Josh Smith)
- get bogged down in talking about your own products or services
- forget about your audience – it has to be relevant to their pain points and help inform or entertain them (or both)
Step 2: Research
The unique intent of your infographic will become apparent from sifting through your data. When a piece of information makes your jaw drop, you’ve found your concept.
Finding additional information to complement or back up your own data makes the infographic more authoritative, especially if the data comes from a reputable source. Find your concept, then find every piece of data you can to raise the quality.
- settle for the basics – really delve into the subject to make sure you’re telling people something they didn’t already know
- include anything too obvious – it will dilute the quality of the overall piece
- use too much information – your reader has a finite span of attention
- use too little information – short infographics are inevitably a let-down
- present anything as fact if you haven’t checked it
Step 3: Visualisation
The information you have gathered now needs to be made more digestible to ensure that the reader understands the data easily. The human brain processes images 60,000 faster than text, so the graphical element (info-graphic) is key to making the content a success. Simply reproducing the same data in text form with some pictures won’t cut it.
There has to be a reason to present the data through an infographic rather than a regular blog post. The graphical element has to add something to the content, otherwise it’s probably a poor concept. An infographic can communicate complex data simply, allowing readers to understand the information more easily. Use sub-headings to break up each section and make the infographic ‘skim-able’.
Make sure the infographic is attractive by using a specific colour scheme and try to find clever ways to represent the data – like this example where the carbon footprint of each country is represented in the form of one large literal footprint. A simple pie chart would be boring and wouldn’t attract links or shares.
- try to visualise something too complex
- use a wacky font – keep what little text you have simple and readable
- mix styles – keep your visualisations consistent in terms of colour, formatting etc
- include a ton of text – otherwise you may as well just write a blog post (see below)