Choosing an Infographic Style: Timelines

Infographics offer a powerful medium for sharing detailed information with your readers, giving viewers a sleek visual that’s far more intuitive than a lengthy article. The most important part of designing an infographic is choosing your style. Carefully consider the purpose of your piece so you can select the colors and layout that best fits your information. If you’re covering events that have taken place over a period of time, a timeline infographic may be the perfect pick for your needs.

Timeline infographics are an engaging option for any piece that includes times, dates, or years. Even if the date itself isn’t the most important feature, you may find that the visual elements of a timeline are the best way to keep your information organized. Engage your audience with the neat features of an infographic timeline.

What Timelines Tell You

A timeline is a valuable tool that provides a visual framework for what might otherwise be a complex and confusing set of information. Timelines answer the what, when, and where of a series of events. This type of infographic is used for everything from a broad view of key moments in a historical figure’s life to the progression of cell phone technology.

Timelines work on any scale, so you can use this layout to cover thousands of years or just a few hours. Regardless of the scope, this style offers insight and detail in a digestible way. With a clean structure and smart chunks of information, timelines are just what you need when you’re translating a series of events into infographic form.

Timeline Layouts

You may picture timelines as long vertical graphics with neat tick marks along the line marking important events. This is how they probably appeared in your history books or high school classrooms. However, the modern timeline infographic takes on many shapes and forms, adding visual interest and deeper levels of detail while maintaining a simple layout that’s easy to understand.

The infographic timeline is more likely to appear vertically than horizontally. This allows your viewer to scroll down through the series of events, making the graphic mobile friendly. There’s no limit to the length of an infographic, but your width is set. If your graphic gets too wide, viewers have to scroll horizontally which isn’t as intuitive and can be frustrating.

If a strictly vertical timeline doesn’t appeal to your aesthetics, however, there are several ways to play with the layout. This timeline infographic covering the history of ice cream features a meandering path that runs back and forth across the layout. If you have only a short series of events, you may also opt for a horizontal timeline incorporated into a larger infographic that features other information as well.

Giving Your Timeline Personality

The beauty of the infographic is that it can give your information more interest and appeal than it would carry in written form. Even without imagery, your infographic sets a certain tone. Your choice of colors is the first step in giving your timeline a personality. If your brand has a highly recognizable color palette, you can use this to add instant branding to your piece.

Typography is a valuable tool as well. A font with a handwritten feel makes your infographic feel more laid back and playful. Bold, blocky fonts offer a powerful air. Try a script for an infographic that appeals to a primarily feminine audience, or a neat, minimalist font for easy readability with bigger chunks of text. Giving your text the right look adds instant appeal to your piece.

Visual Extras That Pop

Reading through a series of events is dry and boring, but seeing pictures pulled from historic occasions helps bring them to life. Infographics go beyond the text-only timeline and make your information engaging and understandable on a whole new level.

This infographic covering the evolution of cell phones wouldn’t be nearly as interesting without the fascinating imagery showing cell phone styles past to present. Any time you’re depicting visible change that’s developed over time, adding accurate depictions to your timeline infographic is essential. A timeline about fashion through the ages or the changing shape of video game controllers will have more images than text, yet still sends a very strong message.

Your imagery also makes the timeline easier to scan. Most viewers won’t take the time to read through every entry in your infographic, particularly if you have a decent amount of text. They will, however, scroll through looking for points that catch their interest to investigate further. Whether you choose stylized graphics, real photos, or even cartoon panels, the right images bring your timeline to life.

Adding Important Data

Image via Flickr by Bennett 4 Senate

Infographics seamlessly blend events on a timeline with statistical data that’s relevant to your story. You don’t have to stick to the what and when on a timeline infographic. Consider this timeline of the Top Five Medical Discoveries. The years listed along the far left side are so subtle they could almost be overlooked. What’s more readily seen are the details that define each event. From the magnification of germs at 270x to intuitive icons that detail what various discoveries can treat, the true value of this timeline is in the extras that go with each event.

There’s no limit to your scope with a timeline infographic. You can minimize the dates to let the more relevant details shine, or keep the spotlight on hours and minutes if this is more relevant to your purpose. This type of infographic offers incredible flexibility so you can use it for extremely diverse purposes simply by tailoring the design and facts to meet your needs.

If your information suits the format of a timeline, start sketching out the details and see just how far this layout takes you. For more help translating your data into design, consider reaching out to an experienced infographic team that puts professional writers and designers at your disposal to pull all the pieces together and engage your audience.

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.