Infographic Design: The Tips and Tricks

If you want to attract a larger audience, reach consumers organically, and elevate brand awareness, consider creating infographics. The following tips and tricks will help you avoid the common pitfalls and embrace infographic best practices.

Start With Data

Image via Flickr by Eric Fischer

Before you even think about design or copywriting, process and sort your data. If you’re using your own research, take the time to thoroughly comb through the information in search of patterns and outlying examples.

For data you’ve collected elsewhere, verify it through other sources and track down the originating point for each piece of data. For instance, one website might share another source’s data, so keep backtracking until you find the original.

Data can go deep. Don’t just look for surface-level information or big numbers. Instead, try to find the unique pieces of data that tell a new and intriguing story.

Find the Theme

The best infographics tell a compelling story. They follow a narrative from beginning to end, sticking to the same theme throughout.

For instance, Harmony Enterprise’s recycling infographic uses the theme “Good, Better, Best” to drive its narrative. The infographic tells the story of recycling across the world.

You can follow a storytelling format for every infographic you create:

  1. Introduce the problem.
  2. Suggest a compelling solution.
  3. Back up your suggestion with data.
  4. Reveal the predicted outcome.

Every infographic demands special attention, but that format can guide you toward a logical flow for your image. As you create the graphic, keep your theme top of mind.

Introduce One Big Statistic or Data Point

Every story has a protagonist — the hero or lead. This person drives the story home and carries the reader with him or her on adventures. In an infographic, the protagonist becomes your most shocking, revealing, or interesting data point.

You might make this statistic larger than the other graphics to emphasize its importance. Giving one element more visual weight helps distinguish it from the rest.

Additionally, your main data point should drive home the theme and support the narrative. In other words, the primary data point should directly impact your story’s outcome, conclusion, or resolution.

Format Other Data Points According to Importance

If you view infographics, you’ll start to notice a pattern. Designers create a visual hierarchy of data. The most important points are larger than the lesser data points. This is intentional. Infographic designers know that a visual hierarchy sends subtle messages to the viewer.

If you’re driving down the highway and see a billboard, your eye will automatically drift to the largest element on the board. That’s natural because our eyes seek out the largest or most emphatic things first.

Take advantage of this human tendency by emphasizing the most important parts of your infographic with larger fonts, darker colors, more contrast, and other visual cues.

Use More Visuals Than Text

When you state a specific statistics, represent it visually as well as in numbers or words. Marketers use infographics because people often respond more strongly to visuals than text, so if you’re typing some numbers over a background image, you lose your advantage.

You can illustrate a number in several ways:

  • Bar graph
  • Line graph
  • Pie chart
  • Icon clusters
  • Map
  • Sunburst
  • Histogram
  • Funnel

Combining several different illustrations can help move the viewer through the image and create more visual interest.

Unite All Elements

Common features should unite all of the elements in your infographic in a compelling way. One obvious example is the color palette.

You don’t want to use every color of the rainbow in a single infographic. Instead, create a palette of three to five colors and stick to them. If you want more diversity in the image, use different shades of two or three colors. The image will still look cohesive, but you’ll have more artistic freedom.

You can also unite all elements through font choice, type of design (e.g. flat, minimalist, hand-drawn), and dividers or other visual elements that break up the image.

Leave Some White Space

White space is critical to any design, whether you’re writing an article or creating an infographic. The eye needs room to “breathe,” so don’t cram all of the elements close together.

Other colors can take the form of “white space.” For instance, if your infographic’s background color is blue, you can refer to it as “blue space.” Whatever the case, separate your graphic elements and text so they’re easier on the eyes.

Provide Plenty of Value

Infographics might be pretty, but they also need substance. If yours doesn’t provide any value to the reader, why should people share it on social, recommend it to their friends, or embed it on their sites?

To make sure you’re providing value, come up with three or four takeaways from the text. You don’t have to add them to the image itself, but if you know what people can derive from the infographic, you’ll know whether information belongs on it or not.

Infographics can draw attention to causes, illustrate a hypothesis, or provide a tutorial. As long as you’re imparting value, your image can find an audience.

Limit Your Use of Text

In an infographic, text usually takes the form of headings, subheadings, and supporting information. You don’t want to use text as a crutch, though.

Instead, use text when you can’t illustrate something through imagery. Don’t worry about writing in complete sentences or spelling out every data point. Let the graphics speak for you.

Text-heavy infographics often turn off consumers because the image looks too cluttered and intimidating. After all, one of the benefits of infographics is that they’re not text-heavy. Viewers can ascertain information faster than by reading.

Think About Tone

An infographic conveys information through fonts, colors, images, data points, and more. You set the tone when you choose those elements.

Let’s say that you’re creating an infographic about poverty. A bright color palette, funky fonts, and cheesy graphics would set the wrong tone. You might even offend your audience.

Let the theme, topic, and narrative inform your visual choices. Lend gravitas to a more serious infographic with subdued colors and formal fonts. If you’re addressing a light-hearted topic, feel free to get more creative with your choices.

Use a Wireframe

The best infographics often start out as simple wireframes. A wireframe creates a template that uses vertical and horizontal lines to represent text and images. You can use wireframes to decide where every element of your infographic will be placed. That way, you’ll know it’s visually pleasing before you start the design process.

If you’re not skilled with Photoshop, Illustrator, and other professional design tools, consider outsourcing the project to an agency. Professionals can create your infographic from the ground up so you don’t have to worry about the smaller details.

Surprise the Viewer

Many infographics take the same approach to data visualization. While there’s nothing wrong with using best practices, you might gain greater visibility by shaking up the standard format.

For instance, you could break up parts of the infographic into three or four columns. Alternatively, perhaps you’ll present your data horizontally instead of vertically, or maybe you can use a circle or globe to present your data.

Interactive infographics have also become increasingly popular. Viewers can click on elements within the image to produce new information.

While they’re more difficult to create, interactive infographics might get more shares and inbound links because of their originality. One infographic, posted in 2017 by Social Media Today, received more than 40,000 shares. That’s pretty impressive.

When you use data visualization in unique ways, you automatically demand attention. By now, consumers have seen lots of infographics, so anything you can do to surprise them might make your content more shareable.

Make a Statement With Your Title

The title should appear at the top of your infographic. As with articles and other online content, you need a good hook to get the reader interested.

Clickbait headlines can work well for infographics, but only if the tone and theme warrant it. You can also capture attention by using a headline that asks a question, presents a controversial hypothesis, or promises desired information.

In some cases, the simplest headlines work best. You can let the rest of the image speak for you. However, remember that many people will post screenshots that may include the title and part of your infographic.

Guide the Viewer Through the Infographic

Flow represents one of the most important design elements of data visualization. Good flow helps the reader move through the image from one point to the next.

You can use visual triggers to improve flow. For instance, arrows that point from one piece of the puzzle to the next can work well. Consider incorporating leading lines in other ways, too. Dotted, dashed, or double lines can intersect the design elements and show the viewer where to go next.

Avoid Data Overload

If your infographic starts to look cluttered or overwhelming, you might have stumbled across an accidental problem: data overload. It’s tempting to include every piece of data your research has uncovered, but resist it.

Lean infographics tell more compelling stories. If your viewers get lost in the data, they’ll also lose sight of your main points. That can diminish the value they take away from your image.

When you’re illustrating a point, choose the most compelling piece of data. You don’t have to stuff everything into a few thousand pixels of imagery.

Edit Your Infographic

Once you’ve created your infographic, edit the text. Look for missing or misplaced punctuation, improper spelling, poor grammar, and typos. Mistakes can hurt your credibility.

Edit the imagery, too. Remove any elements that distract from your main points or that doesn’t contribute to the tone, theme, or story. It’s tempting to retain an illustration you love, but don’t keep it just because you love it. Instead, save it for a future design.

Include Source Material

At the bottom of your infographic, list URLs and other sources of information you included in your image. If you don’t cite your sources, you’ll lose credibility — and risk an angry email from the person or company that produced the data.

This part of the infographic doesn’t have to be ugly or draw attention to itself. A simple list can work well.

Near the source material, you can also include your company’s logo, tagline, and URL. Branding your infographic helps viewers trace it back to the source even if someone embeds it without including a link.

As mentioned previously, try to find the original source for all data. You don’t want to link to a roundup post that cites data from other sources. Even if you found the information in a gated document, include the URL to the landing page.

Test and Refine

You probably won’t want to create just one infographic. Over time, you might create dozens or even hundreds. However, if you don’t learn from the past, you can’t gain more visibility.

Test your infographic over time to see how well it performs. How many shares does it get on social media? How much engagement do you get on your blog from posting the infographic?

When you look for patterns in your own analytics data, you can create increasingly compelling infographics. Maybe you’ll discover that certain color combinations work best for your audience or that your target consumers prefer infographics that incorporate interactive elements.

You can’t rely on other companies’ research. You have a unique audience that you’re destined to serve, so collect your own data. Who knows? Perhaps you’ll decide to create an infographic about your own infographic data.

Infographics can elevate brand awareness, boost traffic, increase conversions, and attract inbound links. However, designing the best infographic can prove tricky if you’re not aware of best practices.

Use the tips and tricks above to create your own infographic or to inform your client brief when you hire an agency to do it for you. The more information you have, the less guesswork you’ll have to make as you design your graphic.