How to Make Infographics

Infographics are becoming increasingly popular for sharing massive collections of data in compact and highly visual ways. Infographics are intriguing to look at, easy to digest, and highly shareable. It can be ponderous to read through large amounts of facts and numbers, but translating information into a collection of charts, graphs, and other visuals can make it delightfully fascinating. If you’re looking for a fast way to add punch to your data, understanding how to make infographics is a great way to do it.

Infographics are so popular now that they’re part of nearly every well-cultivated content mix. If you’re ready to jump on the bandwagon and add your own pieces to the mix, you can get started in just a few steps. Read on to learn everything you need to know about how to make infographics organized, informative, and engaging.

Define Your Audience

Image via Flickr by Kennisland

The first step in any type of content creation is defining the audience you’re creating that content for. Who are you hoping to engage with this piece? An infographic aimed toward young single men will look very different from one catering to working moms or empty-nesters. Build a comprehensive persona for everyone in your target audience so you can develop content with those key individuals in mind.

Understanding who you’re developing your infographic for will not only help with ideation but will also be useful when it’s time to choose the appropriate visualizations. A younger audience will have a stronger connection with pop culture references, while an older target might enjoy retro references that hearken back to their youth.

Choose Your Topic

When you’re ideating for an infographic, it’s important to choose a topic that has a lot of data to support it. Topics that are best presented in narratives with a lot of verbiage aren’t best for this format. Look for a concept that’s heavy in measurements, percentages, and other types of numerical information. If the topic is fascinating in concept, yet difficult to grasp when you’re reading through it in print form, it’s ideal for an infographic.

As you’re considering ideas, think about how you’ll break the data down. Can you divide your topic into three or four subsections? Does it follow a natural progression or flow? Does it lend itself well to comparisons that help clarify the issue? If you can answer yes to these questions, you’re on the right track. Flesh out your idea, and get ready to move on to the next step.

Collect the Data

Understanding how to make infographics centered around data is important. Collecting data is easily one of the most labor-intensive parts of infographic creation. If you’re working on a team, you should designate your best researcher to this task. You don’t need writing skills or graphic design expertise at this point. The most important talent is simply a knack for finding fresh approaches to hard facts.

Make sure your information is from a reliable source. Personal blogs are poor choices when you’re sourcing for an infographic, as you’re typically covering a fact-based topic, not personal opinion. Look to government surveys, medical studies, Pew Research reports, university research, and other highly regarded sources. Avoid using an infographic to source an infographic. The deeper you have to dig for your data, the more original your ultimate fact-finding will be. If your most compelling facts are buried in a dry white paper, you’ll have something fresh and original that your viewers are less likely to have seen.

If you’re drawing comparisons across two or more topics, make sure you have comparable data to present on each. Don’t compare the average income for one occupation with the median income for another, because this paints a very misleading picture. It’s important to represent data equally across all the points you’re comparing.

Develop a Story

You can design infographics in a variety of formats. Provided you have a solid collection of data, you should have no trouble choosing at least one of these popular options for displaying the information. Infographic styles to consider include:

  • Maps – for explaining geographic relationships, spatial concepts, and locally based phenomena
  • Charts – for comparing and contrasting large sets of data across similar points
  • Timelines – for demonstrating the evolution, progression, or timeliness of a topic
  • Flowcharts – for decision-making with multiple questions and a set of endpoints
  • Listicles – for large concepts best represented in a series of visuals
  • How-Tos – for step-by-step instructions and DIY projects
  • Chain Reactions – for progressive events or developments that change gradually over time
  • Stories – for topics that follow a story arch with rising and falling action toward a satisfying conclusion
  • Data visualizations – for fact-heavy topics with many numerical data sets
  • Mind maps – for following the flow of thought to one or more conclusions
  • Survey results – for sharing data specific to a poll or survey
  • Structure and parts – for identifying the parts of an object in a clearly labeled manner

Choose the best format for your topic, and begin fleshing out the story. How does your data fit together best? Working with your infographic at this point is much like putting together a puzzle. You don’t want to force a fact to fit in an area where it’s not intuitive, but you do want to pull together a cohesive picture that includes all the essential information.

Don’t be surprised if you have to throw out some of your research at this point. You might find that you can’t draw proper parallels between some of the facts you dug up. Other tidbits might not serve your bigger picture and add a sense of confusion rather than cohesion.

Group your research loosely into sections that fit the theme and format of your infographic, and you’re well on your way toward a completed piece.

Write Your Content

The skills needed to write an infographic are different from those needed to design one. An infographic team will often include both a writer and a designer so each individual can focus their efforts on the area they’re most skilled in. A key part of understanding how to make infographics is understanding who’s best-suited for each role in the creation process.

Writing an infographic isn’t the same as writing an article, but it does have many parallels. With the data and infographic style in hand, your writer can craft the available information into a smooth story that flows seamlessly from one point to another. This includes crafting a compelling title, drafting subheads, and writing a brief but pointed introduction and conclusion.

The writer should also include a small amount of verbiage throughout the piece to enhance the flow and presentation. The right titles and labels for charts, graphs, and other data visualizations will help ensure the content is clear and understandable. When the writing phase is complete, you’ll have a written outline for your infographic. All that’s missing is the visual dressing.

Choose Graphic Visualizations

Graphic visualizations are at the heart of making a good infographic. These are what will essentially transform your piece from an article to something more. You can visualize data in a number of ways, including:

  • Pie charts
  • Line charts
  • Bar charts
  • Pictorial charts
  • Scatter plots
  • Venn diagrams
  • Maps
  • Timelines
  • Gantt charts
  • Arc diagrams
  • Circumplex charts
  • Tag clouds
  • Tree maps
  • Bubble charts
  • Heat maps
  • Hierarchical visualizations

In some instances, the appropriate visualization will be obvious. However, you will also find places where you might use several options, such as a pie chart or pictorial chart with equal accuracy. In these cases, it’s important to consider the overall aesthetic of your piece. Using a variety of visuals will keep it interesting and prevent your points from blending together.

If you have text in your infographic, you’ll need to select the best way to represent that information, as well. While you can certainly include it as plain text, you might also want to consider treatment options such as icons, badges, or speech bubbles.

Wireframe Your Infographic

Wireframing is an important step in infographic creation. This is the stage where you create a rough draft of the final visualization. At this point, it’s best to consult with all your key decision-makers before proceeding. It’s easy to move information from one section to another on a wireframe, but it’s considerably more difficult when you’re dealing with a completed graphic.

Your wireframe should specify what type of visualization you’ve chosen for each data point, how the text will read, and where each element is situated. You don’t need to worry yet about the finer points of design, but you might want to deliver notes on aesthetic elements with the wireframe if you’re passing this draft along for approval from outside sources. Keeping everyone informed throughout the creation process is the best way to make sure all parties are satisfied when the infographic is complete.

Select Your Style

Once the wireframe is approved, you can proceed to fleshing out the graphics. At this point, you’ll want to pull in your branding elements to make sure the infographic is in line with other products presented by the company. Using the appropriate typography, colors, and design style can make a dramatic difference in how the final product is received.

While you might want to use flashy typography for the heading of your piece, stick with simpler fonts for the majority of the infographic. It’s important for your text to be readable, particularly if you have small print on charts or in captions. Consider your colors carefully here, as well. If there isn’t enough contrast between the text and the background, you might leave your viewers squinting to decipher what they’re viewing.

Incorporating graphics and other imagery is a valuable way to give your infographic character. This might include photos, cartoons, sketches, or other types of pictures. Make sure you’re using these in a sensible manner. The best possible way to use imagery in your infographic is to tie it into your data representations. For example, you might shade the outline of a ship to indicate the percentage of the vessel that was occupied.

You can incorporate a few images purely for their decorative appeal, but don’t go overboard. White space is a valuable asset in an infographic. The eye needs room to move, rest, and absorb data. Watch for cluttered areas, and shift your content as needed to maintain easy viewing that won’t overwhelm your audience.

Cite the Sources

The last step in infographic creation is giving your sources credit at the bottom or end of the piece. Cite all sources of information for your infographic so viewers can fact-check as desired. While this might seem like an unnecessary step, it’s crucial to maintaining a sense of reliability in your field. You want your audience to view you as a reputable thought leader. The best way to achieve this is to always indicate where your information came from.

Choose Your Tools

The best tools for infographic creation are professional, high-quality software suites designed for this purpose. The Adobe Creative Cloud is packed with essential tools such as Adobe InDesign, Adobe Illustrator, and Adobe Photoshop. If you don’t have access to these products or you’re not ready to make the investment, you can also work with online tools such as Piktochart, Venngage, Infogr.am, and Easel.ly.

Professional infographic design is another option you might want to consider if you’re looking for high-quality pieces to fulfill your content marketing strategy. You can outsource some or all of the infographic design process, from ideation to fruition, taking as active a role as you’d like in the creation and completion of an engaging infographic for your brand.

Infographics will help you display your information in a fresh, new way that’s sure to enchant your audience and further your brand. The next time you have a complex set of data to present or you want to add some spice to your content mix, try your hand at infographic creation. Understanding how to make infographics is a valuable skill that will serve you well through all your future content marketing campaigns.