The Anatomy of a Great Infographic

Infographics are becoming one of the most popular ways to share information on the internet. Many readers are no longer interested in actually reading about your data. It’s tiresome and time-consuming to plow through a white paper or even to work your way through an article when the information consists primarily of numbers and statistics.

Infographics reframe the game, presenting essential information in an appealing and intriguing format that draws your viewers in and gets their wheels turning. The competition is stiff for effective infographics, so it’s important to build yours well from the ground up. Here are some of the most important aspects of a great infographic.

An Engaging Topic

The core of any infographic is the topic. Even the best research and design can’t overcome a bland subject with no audience interest. Think carefully about whom you’re writing for. If you can’t concisely and confidently answer the question, “Why should they care?” then you need a new approach. It’s not enough that you want your audience to absorb more information on the topic. The reader must have a genuine desire to learn more.

Say you want to share information on the latest luxury mattress in your collection. Perhaps your first instinct is to collect data on the materials, design, and production of the mattress. You could create an informative visual with this information that gives viewers a peek inside the mattress, but why should they care?

Instead, consider the pain points your audience is facing. In this case, you’re dealing with poor sleep. Your viewers don’t care about what’s in your mattress because they haven’t yet identified a new mattress as the solution to their problems. A flowchart diagnosing the cause of poor sleep could guide potential customers to this conclusion while also illuminating other issues that disrupt sleep, such as screen time just before bed. A great infographic that offers real value for your audience will help establish your brand as a reliable source of information in your field.

Concise Presentation

People like infographics because they offer a lot of information in a small, easily digestible package. Viewing an infographic should always be smoother and easier than reading the same data in blog or article form. If your infographic becomes too long and unwieldy, viewers will abandon the effort to understand what you’re telling them.

As a general rule of thumb, you should aim for no more than three data sets for each section of your infographic. Set your absolute cap at five. Don’t fall into the trap of believing that you need an extensive list of data sets to create interesting infographics. You can engage your audience successfully with a single section. If you need to expand on your story, do present your data in bite-size chunks that are clearly separated in order to minimize visual strain and overall confusion.

Appealing Design Elements

Image via Flickr by miltedflower

The design elements are what set an infographic apart from a simple graph or chart. Yes, infographics can contain plenty of charts, graphs, plots, diagrams, and maps. However, there’s a particular finesse to the data visualization that elevates an infographic to the next level.

A great infographic makes data interesting, exciting, appealing, and even amusing. For a Thanksgiving infographic, you may transform a pie chart into an image of an actual pie with the appropriate portion eaten away. If you’re dealing with prices, the chart becomes a coin. For an infographic about your visual health, it’s an eye. A good infographic designer and creative writer can take the possibilities well beyond circular objects and pie charts. The options are nearly limitless, but regardless of your direction, they must remain imaginative and engaging.

Easily Comprehensible Data

Collecting data is an essential step for any great infographic. You will obviously want a solid base of statistical information in support of your story, but this is only the beginning. The goal of a good infographic is to reframe data in a new and interesting way. Your presentation should spark new ideas, offer a fresh approach, or utilize unexpected comparisons.

Consider an infographic on blogging that compares various types of posts to food groups, offering advice on creating a balanced blogging diet. This approach bends the mind a bit, taking you away from the more traditional approach to the topic. Comparing the various types of posts to food products reframes them in an interesting way that makes the overall points more memorable.

You can also challenge your viewers’ thinking by comparing your topic to something unexpected. Bill Gates made waves with an infographic highlighting malaria deaths. Rather than focusing heavily on malaria data, the infographic explores the deadliest animals in the world. Sharks are at the very bottom of the scale, responsible for only 10 deaths per year, while man’s best friend accounts for 25,000 due to rabies transmission. Mosquitos are at the head of the pack, with 725,000 deaths hammering the point home about malaria.

Outstanding Shareability

You’ve pinpointed an interesting topic, gathered your information, and put it together in a compelling design. All that’s left is spreading the word. Before you send your infographic out to fend for itself in the wilds of the internet, you need to make sure it has all the right tools to cut through the online clutter and climb to the top.

Size is a major factor in shareability. An oversized infographic is difficult to view and even harder to share. Optimize your infographic for all types of viewers, from visitors on a smartphone to those using a desktop computer.

Increase the ease of sharing by cutting your infographic down into chunks. Post a teaser on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter with a link to the full piece. Create a compact version that fits the parameters for Pinterest. Consider all the places your audience may wander on the internet. Embed your great infographic in relevant blog posts with added commentary.

The internet is flooded with mediocre infographics patched together by amateurs. Make sure your graphics stand out by using a professional team dedicated to research, writing, and design. With a studied approach to infographic design, you can pull together a piece that tells a compelling story and leaves your readers fully engaged and ready for the next step.

About the author

Mandi Rogier

Mandi Rogier lives and writes in central Indiana. Over 8 years of freelance writing, she's covered everything from finance and business to culture and crafts. She spends her free time traveling, hiking, and exploring the Midwest with her two sons.