February 1, 2018 (Updated: May 4, 2023)
Infographics have become so popular that nearly anyone can create their own. Just because you can do something, however, doesn’t mean that you should. Approaching infographics in a haphazard manner without a thorough understanding of how these pieces are designed can leave you with a confusing or even inaccurate item that won’t reflect well on your brand.
Watch out for these common design mistakes in your infographics. Avoiding these pitfalls can help you elevate your work to the top of the pack, garnering the sharable attention that you’re after.
Image via Flickr by Alan O’Rourke
The purpose of an infographic is to make complex topics easier to understand. Many include graphs, charts, and other visuals that convey important numerical data. Done well, these can make an otherwise confusing statistic into something you can grasp at a glance. Unfortunately, some designers don’t do it well, using graphics that blatantly misrepresent the data.
If you’re highlighting that 40 percent of Americans are obese, you must call out four of the ten figures on your infographic. If you depict five or six of the ten as obese, your graphic is clearly off course. Simply showing four individuals without featuring the other six who are not obese is misleading as well.
How to Fix It
Make sure you have a thorough understanding of the different types of charts and when to use them. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution for data visualization. You may love pie charts, but they’re not appropriate in all situations. Double and triple check all numerical data representations and make sure you’re using tools that are reliable and accurate, so 60 percent truly is 60 percent — not a rough estimate of just over half the circle.
Good infographics tell a story. What is the main point that you’re trying to make? What overarching story are you trying to tell? Viewers want to walk away from your imagery with the solid sense that they’ve learned something. They don’t want to waste time musing over a haphazard collection of facts that lack cohesiveness or purpose. The former is satisfying, while the latter is just frustrating.
How to Fix It
Sum up the point of your infographic in a single sentence. If you can’t do this, go back and refine your ideation. Once you’ve identified the purpose of the infographic, analyze each section to make sure it serves the greater message or follows a cohesive storyline. Ask yourself why each fact or data point matters. If it takes more than a sentence to answer that question, nix the info and try again.
Crafting a good infographic is a careful balancing act between visuals and verbiage. While your infographic shouldn’t have large blocks of text or read like an article, it does need enough to explain what’s going on. Many common infographic design mistakes relate to the use of text in the piece, with designers either opting for full paragraphs that overwhelm the viewer or neglecting text entirely.
Accurately depicting important data points is only half of the job. You also need to explain why the viewer should care, as well as how this relates to your story as a whole. You can accomplish this with just a sentence or two in each section, but make sure those sentences are there, or your audience is likely to get lost.
How to Fix It
Eliminate any blocks of text that read like paragraphs. Keep it concise. Divide your infographic into sections that break down your story or organize your data. Use informative headlines to emphasize what each part is about. View these sections as stand-alone pieces and see if they still make sense. If the data becomes confusing when it’s pulled from the title, consider adding a few small talking points to clarify your message.
Infographics are the perfect medium for branding your content. You can incorporate the company’s signature colors, typography, and style. While you may want to tweak your design slightly to better coordinate with the infographic’s theme, you shouldn’t depart from your branding too far. If you start from scratch and choose imagery and typography based solely on the graphic’s message, you may end up with a piece that inadvertently matches a competitor’s colors and branding more than your own.
How to Fix It
Define your corporate branding clearly for use in all your marketing materials. What’s your brand voice? What key phrases best define your products or services? Specify your colors down to the hex codes and know the names of all typography that you turn to for your materials. Make sure you’re using consistent graphics styles across your website and other content, whether that’s vivid lifestyle photography or colorful cartoon characters. Stay consistent with your design so your pieces reinforce your brand as they’re shared.
Some designers get so caught up in the creative freedom available in an infographic that they go too far with the design features. Do make your product engaging, but don’t overwhelm the graphic with unnecessary details like drop shadows or purposeless imagery. Watch out for typography as well. A heavily embellished heading can provide an engaging introduction to the piece, but using decorative typography for every piece of text is overwhelming for the viewer.
How to Fix It
Keep your embellishments to a minimum and make sure you can justify those that you do choose. Imagery should serve a purpose beyond pure decoration. It’s valuable when illustrating a point, but excessive when you’re adding flowers just for their ornamental appeal. Use simple fonts for subheads and any basic text in the piece. Include plenty of white space so the eye can travel comfortably from one point to another without getting overwhelmed along the way.
Though infographics may seem straightforward, falling short of the mark in clarity, conciseness, and overall design can be disastrous for the finished piece. When in doubt, turn to a professional designer and writer for an attractive piece that sends your message clearly without any miscommunications along the way.
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