The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly: Infographic Edition

When you need to convey complex data in an engaging and easily understood format, infographics are often a smart choice. The more popular infographics become, however, the clearer it is that not all are created equal. Discover what makes an infographic good, bad, or ugly, and learn how to take your interactive content from terrible to great.

Positive Qualities of Good Infographics

Image via Flickr by AJC1

Not all good infographics look the same, but they do share a few key qualities. From the research process to the design phase, effective infographics incorporate the following.

Targeted Audience

When you take the time and resources to develop an infographic, you’re not typically creating it for just any reader. Take the time to understand what your audience wants, and create a focused infographic that addresses those needs.

Thorough Research

Because infographics tend to be data-driven, they often require an immense amount of research. The best examples do much more than just skim a particular topic’s surface. They highlight in-depth research, but they don’t bombard readers with unnecessary amounts of detail or useless facts and figures.

Simple Design

With so much data to convey, it’s easy for infographics to become information overload. The best examples of this type of content focus on what’s important and display it with simple, straightforward design. That’s not to say good infographics are simplistic, though. Instead, they use images and graphics to tell compelling stories without losing readers in fluff.

Clear Call to Action

Even the best-looking infographics aren’t designed just to look great. Most are key parts of a sales funnel, made to generate leads, drive traffic, and create sales. To check all these boxes, good infographics must have clear calls to action (CTAs). They direct readers to click through, download content, or share on social channels.

Good Examples

Wimdu’s 10 Curious Customs From Dinner Tables Around the World is successful because its topic appeals to its audience of travel lovers, its research is unique and interesting, and it has a simple yet compelling design. Samuel Windsor, a custom tailor, also hits its Men’s Dress Codes Made Simple infographic out of the park, especially with effective CTAs in strategic locations.

Warning Signs of Bad Infographics

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Image via Pixabay by geralt

From tired topics to messy layouts, bad infographics miss the point on several levels. Take a closer look at what makes infographics bad.

Unclear Audience

Bad infographics typically aren’t geared toward a specific group of readers. Instead, their audience members remain unclear and could be almost anyone.

Incomplete Research

From unreliable data to insufficient information, bad infographics tend to lack anything of substance. They might have a point to make, but you’ll never find it mixed in with well-known facts and numbers that don’t quite make an impact.

Unoriginal Design

If the design seems familiar, take a closer look. Have you seen it before, perhaps in another brand’s content marketing strategy? Bad infographics often rely on templates and cookie cutter graphics readily available online. Though using templates might help cut costs, this practice usually has the negative effect of causing brands to produce ineffective and easily forgettable infographics.

Unclear Marketing Plan

Bad infographics often fall flat because they don’t incorporate a clear CTA and aren’t part of a cohesive marketing strategy. Remember that your audience will never see your infographic if you don’t have a plan to include it in blog posts, incorporate it into white papers, distribute it through influencers, or share it via social media.

Bad Examples

As Business Insider explains, generic graphic elements like stick figures with little context can quickly ruin an infographic. Along the same lines, infographics that overuse simplistic pie charts or bombard readers with statistics are bound to fail.

What Makes Ugly Infographics the Worst

Some infographics are more than just ineffective. Ugly infographics misinform, confuse, or mislead readers.

Faulty Research

When you rely on statistics to educate clients, build brand awareness, and drive sales, it’s critical to ensure they’re accurate. The worst infographics highlight outdated numbers and disproven data.

Cluttered Design

The least effective infographics suffer from information overload. Whether they’re too long, lack a solid narrative thread, or pack too much data into a small area, infographics can get ugly quickly.

No Marketing Strategy

The ugliest infographics completely lack a CTA and any recognizable branding. Because they’re not part of a marketing strategy, they might never see the light of day.

The Worst Examples

At a quick glance, this infographic from GOOD seems compelling, but upon closer look, it’s unnecessarily complex without revealing any substantial data. Along the same lines, the tattoo pain infographic from Tatopia fails to use quantifiable data or legible symbols, instead relying solely on an eye-catching image.

How to Make Terrible Infographics Great

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Image via CopyPress

Whether you’ve just realized that your infographic is on the ugly side of the spectrum, or you’ve noticed that it just doesn’t resonate with your audience, all isn’t lost. Follow these steps to turn around a terrible piece of visual content and make it great.

Start With Solid Research

No matter what type of infographic you want to develop, start by understanding your audience. Next, build a foundation of solid, accurate, up-to-date research that’s relevant to your target audience.

Develop an Original Design

To create the most amazing infographics, you’ll need an original design instead of a generic template. Be sure the layout conveys the data in an engaging way, shines a spotlight on the most important pieces of information, and weaves a fascinating story. Leave enough white space to give viewers a chance to breathe and process each piece of information.

Surprise Your Audience

Rather than giving away your entire premise in the infographic’s title, leave some of the most interesting information at the end. Surprise your audience, and give readers a strong reason to follow along through the entire piece of content.

Market Effectively

Develop a marketing plan that makes use of your infographic for several months down the road. Revise or update data as necessary to keep the infographic relevant and effective.

From the underlying purpose to the overall design to the execution, several factors determine an infographic’s impact. Make sure yours conveys data in a straightforward way, has an uncluttered design, and includes a call to action, and you’ll be on the road to greatness.

About the author

Anna Sonnenberg

Anna Sonnenberg is an experienced writer and editor who focuses on digital marketing, travel, and natural products — but rarely all at once. With a background in research and the arts, Anna has a solid sense of the art of storytelling, along with a drive to gather the supporting data.