Raw data is boring. That’s why 65% of marketers use infographics to deliver quantitative content, metrics, and statistics in a visual, colorful way. But for as simple as infographics make it to understand data, creating infographics is harder than a lot of marketers might think.
Although infographics are datacentric, their creation is more of an art than a science. And, as with all art, infographics require substantial planning before you dive into their design.
If you want to know how to design infographics, there are six essential planning steps to the process. Here’s everything you need to know, along with my personal advice on how to effectively engage your audience through visual design.
1. Align your goal with your design.
First things first: What’s the message you want your infographic to get across? Are you comparing two products? Are you trying to explain a process and the steps involved? Do you want to make data and metrics more accessible?
Consider the six most common styles of infographics to determine which one best helps achieve your goal:
1. Map: Showcases data trends based on location.
2. Versus: Compares two things.
3. Timeline: Tells a story over a period of time.
4. Flowchart: Illustrates the process or cycle of something.
5. Visual Article: Makes a piece of writing more visual.
6. Data Visualization: Communicates data and numbers through charts or graphics.
2. Do your research.
Once you have a basic format for your infographic picked out, conduct some research to find examples of that style. When an infographic captures your attention, ask yourself how it captured your attention in the first place.
Do the colors complement one another to guide you through the piece? Why do certain bits of information stand out? Is the data easily digestible? In other words, analyze the infographic to learn how its goal was achieved.
3. Sketch, sketch, sketch.
Sketching your infographic will save you time by helping to identify and resolve design roadblocks early in the process, rather than struggling to resolve them during the design phase. Your sketches should outline:
- Where the user will start their journey on this infographic.
- Where your headlines need to go.
- Where the data points will go and how they might affect the infographic as a whole.
Really plan out every detail of the infographic layout that you can in this phase. The more the sketch organizes, the more time you can focus on the look and feel in the design phase — as opposed to actually making the infographic work.
4. Strategize your color palette.
When utilized right, colors can help your reader quickly distinguish between important pieces of information. But before you start thinking what your colors will be, know what your colors will be used for. You can always refine your color palette later, but you need to first have a strategy to distinguish bits of information.
Check out this example of a “Versus” infographic:
Infographic courtesy of Red Bull USA.
The designer of this piece selected two contrasting colors to represent the statistics of NASCAR versus Formula One. As a reader, you can quickly figure out the facts based simply on the two colors. This principle of color goes for all types of infographics, not just “Versus” models.
5. Use a typographic hierarchy.
Typographic hierarchy is a system for organizing copy that establishes the order of importance for your data, and it’s one of the most crucial steps in the infographic creation process. Having a clean hierarchy in place is very important for those readers who quickly skim the piece, allowing them to read the bigger bits of text alone and still understand the story. The purpose of the smaller body copy should be to simply back up the headlines — the message and key information should be understood through the large text alone.
Take a look at the example below:
Just from a quick scan, you can easily identify the most important bits of information the infographic offers. You see “Locations,” “Travel,” “Weather,” “Photos,” “Music,” and “Videos.” From these headlines alone, a picture is painted of what the infographic is about and the data that is displayed. The eye can easily jump from one topic to the next because there is a clear typographic hierarchy.
6. Aesthetically effective design.
With a goal, sketch concepts, colors, and a typographic hierarchy in place, it’s finally time to design your infographic. In this phase, you’ll be challenged with uniting all these aspects to communicate the information effectively.
Let’s say you want to represent 34% of the population with your infographic. Instead of simply saying “34%,” take advantage of the visual nature of infographics by visualizing for your reader what that number looks like in comparison to the rest of the population. Not only does this visual eliminate the need for extra text, it also makes the graphic more aesthetically appealing.
Line graphs are another great opportunity for visual flair. Adding patterns, color contrast, and line thickness will upgrade a regular line graph into something sophisticated, detailed, and pleasing to the eye. Here’s a great example of what I mean:
What to avoid (and how to avoid it).
Knowing how to design infographics also involves knowing how to not design them. For as fun as they are to create, they can be easy to overdo — resulting in frustrated readers and wasted time. Here are three qualities your infographics should avoid and my advice on each:
1. Crowded text.
Overloading your infographic with text defeats the purpose of having an infographic in the first place. Your readers don’t want to read an entire paragraph in order to understand the story. They’re looking at this infographic because they want to learn this information visually.
My solution: The visuals of your infographic should be supported by the text — not the other way around. Be sure to give plenty of negative space around your elements to make sure your piece doesn’t feel crowded.
2. Overuse of color.
Splashing too many colors across your infographic can make it confusing, muddy the important info, and, frankly, be an eyesore. Like I mentioned before, the purpose of colors is to separate the information, not to simply make the graphic look prettier.
My solution: Never use more than four or five colors if you can help it.
3. Confusing representation of data.
If the data you’re trying to visualize is so complex that it’s melting your brain, don’t worry. We’ve all been there. How can you possibly illustrate this in a simple way? Because not only is it frustrating to you, charts that don’t make sense or take time to understand will frustrate your readers.
My solution: Take extra time in the sketching phase to map out the best visual representation. Keep it as simple as you can and use colors and typography strategically to make your graphics understandable.
There you have it — my best secrets on how to design infographics. If you need assistance in designing your next one, contact D Custom to see how we can help.