Creating an Effective Infographic – Part 1

How do I create an effective infographic?

Whether you are an infographic newbie or seasoned infographic designer never stop asking yourself that question. A good designer never stops learning, experimenting and revising. Even the most refined project or process in your portfolio could be improved upon in some way.

Over the past few years I have thoughtfully devised, tested and refined my infographic design workflow. I can confidently say my workflow consistently enables me to create effective infographics that please clients and readers.  Even yet, I still have room to learn and improve.

Over the next week my goal is to share my workflow with you in hopes that it will assist you in either (a) getting started on your first infographic or (b) refining your own workflow.  Today’s post will cover (1) Ideation, (2) Gathering Data, and (3) Finding the Narrative.

effectiveIGjosh2.251. Ideation

Effective infographics are created on the foundation of an interesting topic and solid supporting information. Coming up with a great topic can be the hardest step in the workflow. As you begin brainstorming for a topic ask yourself the following:

a) What message, process, dataset or product do I want to explain?

b) What feeling do I want to evoke within the reader?

c) What action do I want to drive the reader to take?

Use your answers to those questions to guide your brainstorming session, make sure the topics you write down are in harmony with your goals.

Brainstorming as a team is always best. If you are a one-man-band then once you have a good list of potential topics read them to your friends, family or whoever is around and see what they find the most interesting.  You may not always agree with their responses and you are the ultimate judge, but they may spark a thought that could dramatically improve your initial direction.

brainstormjosh2.25Once your topic is decided, do some quick Googling and make sure your idea is realistic and you can find supporting data. If you can, then it’s time to pitch your idea to your client or manager and get approval.

HELP! MY ASSIGNED TOPIC IS SO BORING THAT EVEN I’M FALLING ASLEEP…

Do you currently have the assignment to put an interesting spin on a boring topic like accounting or home insurance? Although it isn’t easy, it can be done! Check out this eBook “Click it with Feeling: Driving Traffic through Emotional Responses” for practical ways to help you put interesting spins on boring topics by appealing to human emotion. Yes, this was written by my talented coworkers and I am honestly impressed by the content. Read it, apply it to your project, be happy.

2. Gather Data

bookstolaptopjosh2.25Research can be a daunting task for a designer. Internally we have researchers who take over at this point in the workflow. I asked one of our writers, Michael Purdy, for some tips on finding timely and accurate data. The following list is a compilation of free, credible sites she commonly uses that you may find helpful:

Univeristy Sites – almost always research-dense publications by professors (e.g., brown.edu/…)

Government Sites – awesome list of every agency you can use: http://www.usa.gov/directory/federal/index.shtml

CIA World Factbook – https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/index.html

US Census Bureau – http://factfinder2.census.gov/faces/nav/jsf/pages/index.xhtml

Federal Statistics – http://www.fedstats.gov/

Agencies providing stats: http://www.fedstats.gov/agencies/

Work/Employment Info – http://stats.bls.gov/ooh/

Science-y Sites – NASA, NOAA, Science.gov, etc.

When Googling for data make sure to use Google Search Tools to refine your search and find relevant, timely data. The “Search Tools” button is located at the top of the results page under the search text field and to the right of the “More” button.

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3.  Finding the Narrative

An effective infographic is more than a compilation of randomly placed facts and impressive graphs. Your information needs to be thoughtfully organized into a story and just like any well written content it should provoke thought and action. Don’t get overexcited and jump right into the design stage.

This step is critical.

You may have huge sets of numerical data, a list of interesting facts, maps, diagrams and charts or a combination of all these.  No matter what kind of data and information you have, the concept is the same. You need to thoroughly read it, analyze it, and understand it. Ask yourself the following:

a) What story does it tell?

b) Do you find that story interesting?

c) Will people want to share it?

Until you can answer yes to questions b and c you should probably keep digging through your data. If you can’t ever answer yes to those questions try putting an interesting spin on the topic or pick a new one altogether.  What you don’t want to do is alter the data and convey a false message.  If a client asks you to do so, it’s time to find a new client.

josh2.25storySummary

These first few steps should be enough to get you going, once you have completed these steps you are ready to start planning the look and feel of the infographic. My post next week will cover the remaining steps in the workflow: (4) Planning the look and feel, (5) The Design Process and (6) Going Live

About the author

Josh Kunzler