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March 21, 2018 (Updated: March 26, 2020)
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Welcome to the only resource on how to create infographics that you’ll ever need. Infographics are a stellar way to engage with your audience and promote sales, conversions, and more, often combining multiple forms of data visualization together in one attractive package. If you want your business to thrive through sharable, attractive visual content that educates your customers about complex ideas, infographics are worth the effort and are often less complicated and more consumable than videos. Get started today so that you can get to work on your business’s first high-performing infographic.
An infographic is a piece of visual content. So you might wonder how to create infographics with great visual design. The first half of this guide, “How to Create Infographics,” will be dedicated to designing those visuals. If you aren’t a designer and will be outsourcing this side of the process, don’t worry. Graphic design may look complex and intimidating, but as long as you acquire the basics discussed below, you’ll be able to help direct an experienced designer and explain to your designer what you want. You’ll also be more prepared to review mockups and make decisions on design elements.
Image via Flickr by Manel
The human brain is great at understanding that one item means something else, an understanding that’s best exemplified through symbols. A skull and crossbones, or something as vague as a biohazard or radiation symbol, is not the same as the word “danger,” yet we can interpret it in that way without failure. Using symbols, especially in large text such as headings, can highlight particular ideas. A heading that says “Why We ♥ Dogs” will place special emphasis on the implied word “love.”
Consider ways of not only using symbols in your text or graphics, but also organizing information into symbols. You could have a flower with a point on each petal to emphasize why something is lovable or natural, or you could squeeze text into two sections with a hard line of contrasting text to literally convey that the middle information is dividing or in the way of the ideas above and below it.
You’ll also want to come up with a specific color scheme to suit the tone of your infographic. If you are alerting readers to risk, yellow and black will draw associations with caution signs. If you want viewers to be relaxed, consider a blue or green scheme. Research the associations drawn from each color. Once you have a general idea, Canva’s color palette generator is a great free way of developing color schemes. Take a beautiful image that inspires you, or use a picture of something closely associated to your business, and use it to help you discern the predominant colors.
Typography plays a critical role in how your infographic looks and how it reads visually on screens. You may want to go with sans-serif fonts, as these fonts do not have the pointed letter ends called serifs. Sans-serif fonts read best when you intend the text to be large and pop out at the reader. Tightly packed or small text is generally easier to read in serif fonts.
Apart from simply choosing or creating fonts, you must consider the tones of the fonts you used and be certain that they not only fit the parts of the infographic in which you use them, but also match with each other and flow together. Jumping from serious Garamond-style fonts to a melodramatic Chiller variant may be too jarring. Test multiple fonts, their spacing and alignment, and their readability from a zoomed-out, thumbnail viewpoint.
Finally, be certain that any fonts you didn’t create are ones you have the right to use in an infographic, which could be considered a commercial application. Buying paid fonts or using free fonts with proper attribution will keep you out of trouble — and it’s the ethical thing to do.
When learning how to create infographics, hierarchy and layout are important. Hierarchy makes infographics flow. Your text, images, and other elements must have a hierarchy established. Let no single aspect be of equal size to the ones around it, unless you have a reason to do so.
For example, an infographic should start with a large title, dominating the top, followed by a smaller subtitle. You could apply different treatments of headings, subheadings, and baseline text for the different sections. Don’t take this point to only be about size, though. Hierarchy should be established in the eccentricity of the fonts, the brightness and contrast of colors, the harshness or attractiveness of shapes, and anything else that you can think about as you envision the final product.
This level of thinking is what it means to be fluent in the language of design. Even if you learn and practice everything else, a sensible, creative, and consistent application of design hierarchy makes the difference between a clumsy, amateur infographic and a professional one.
If there’s one point to remember when you’re in doubt, it’s this one: Design is meant to convey information. The text should only be present to state the information, but clever design should be used to take it into something beyond prose.
Image via Flickr by culturadered
We’ve covered design first so that you can brew up some good ideas for using those elements of infographic creation. Now it’s time to tackle the other half of how to create infographics: coming up with ideas and writing a concept that has real potential, both for a designer to bring to life and for an audience to love and share across the internet. Writing material for infographics is as complicated and as skill-based as designing them; treat this side of the job with an equal level of attention.
Good online business sense will set you on the right path as you begin to develop ideas for infographics. Who is your audience? What types of ideas would they find interesting enough to want a further understanding? Do they have any particular challenges or pain points that you can help them with through an infographic? Do they have a particular opinion they share that you can help bolster?
Researching keywords can help you get an idea of what people are looking for online, and if you see a promising search term with no ranked infographics already, you may have a eureka moment. Be certain the keywords you base ideas on are not too high in competition, but still have a respectable amount of regular searches.
You’ll have to broaden your thoughts with your keywords, however. If “avocado health benefits” ends up being a viable keyword, the first idea may be to make an infographic outlining these benefits. But that rather elementary concept has likely been done. You can presume with your research that many people searching for that phrase are interested in avocados, so perhaps you could come up with an entertaining infographic visualizing and describing the most interesting and strange moments in avocado history.
Once you have an idea that you know is fascinating, entertaining, or compelling to your target audience, you need to come up with a general framework, a design-free prospect for how the infographic will be structured. Consulting infographic layouts should give you a picture of what works and doesn’t work for your concept.
If you won’t be designing the infographic yourself, but coming up with the idea and layout, then you’ll need to have a clear vision that you can convey to the designer. This stage is where you try your best to convey your image of the finished product to the designer. If you don’t accurately explain the important design motifs you want, you won’t see them in the mockups, and you will waste time asking for revisions.
A great title is a must, and hopefully, you can get the title to include one of your best keywords. From this point, break the script into clear sections based upon the order that you intend for the readers’ eyes to follow from start to finish. In your first section, create a powerful intro. The beginning is where you have some leeway to use more text. A conclusion is also possible, and in general, people are more generous with their attention spans the earlier you introduce something.
Do not swamp the designer with huge paragraphs detailing every aspect of the visuals in each section. This overabundance of details will disrupt the intended flow and hamper the designer’s understanding. Use brief but detailed descriptions of what someone is essentially supposed to see around, on, or within the text that will be placed in a particular spot. About two or three brief sentences per section is best.
Use all the tools available to you in word processing. Organize the text for headings into actual headings, and shade the text that you want to color. Emphasize the text that you want emphasized using bold, italic, or underline styles. Learn about and use use alt codes to indicate where you want symbols instead of letters or numbers. Use bulleted or numbered lists if you want them in the design. Essentially, make sure that you’ve done everything you can, barring making a rough design yourself, to show how the infographic should be constructed.
You can also change fonts to the types you need for each section. You don’t have to hunt down the final fonts either; use a font already on your device as a temporary font. It’s fine to use fonts that normally require attribution or noncommercial use (as long as free personal use is allowed). However, make a note that you need a different font or that you need to pay for usage rights for the finished product.
Many infographics deliver a great deal of information, and you need to cite the sources upon which you’ve based the information in a resource section of the infographic. Usually, a list of URLs is acceptable, with the title of the source, publication, and author names, if applicable. While citing resources for infographics may differ slightly from citations for academic works, the basics of attributing information remain the same.
Good research naturally follows once you’ve developed an idea, or it sometimes happens around the same time. Find primary sources, sources that are the authority references on the topic and not ones referring to information found somewhere else. Scientific studies hosted on a database for a related institution, for example, are primary sources, while news articles referring to their findings are secondary sources and not professionally viable for infographics. Have your sources numbered. When you reference the data from one, place the number of the source in brackets. Asterisks are acceptable as well if asterisks happen to be a better visual match with the design.
In addition to using primary sources, be careful that the sources you choose are credible. If you are presenting an idea that is controversial, or that goes against conventional wisdom, be sure to present as many sources as possible to support the position. It should be easy for people who are unconvinced or interested to learn everything they could reasonably know about the topic by following the sources you used. Most of all, never misconstrue the data and conclusions a source provides. State only what the source states, and do not force conclusions or assumptions.
Some infographics may not be based on research and sources. In that case, you should still be certain that you are not presenting any information that you can’t back up with sources. Make sure everything you present is accurate or you could get into trouble for spreading false or inaccurate information — intentionally or not.
We hope that this guide has made you confident navigating the complex waters of infographic creation, from graphic design and information charting to communicating with a designer. Don’t be afraid if all of this information doesn’t sink in the first time. You’ve now become familiar with how to create infographics properly, and you can check back in again by using this guide to brush up on any sections you need to review. Get creating and good luck!