Technical Infographics: Learn to Create Like a Pro



May 23, 2018 (Updated: May 4, 2023)

Two women laying out data for technical infographics on a whiteboard in red marker.

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Technical infographics range from simple to complex and are invaluable for presenting complicated concepts and processes in a visual way that’s easy to digest. Infographics are used to illustrate statistics, show a timeline, present charts in an appealing manner, or illustrate a process.

Infographics about technical topics appeal to a wide variety of people, including different age groups from young children to adult professionals. They can bring non-technical kinds of people up to speed on interesting and useful information or developments. They can also encourage young people to pursue STEM careers, which may be the best use of all.

A Look at Technical Infographics

Charts have always been direct, visual ways to display data. For this reason, chart-centered infographics are popular and effective. However, there’s more to it than just plopping a chart onto a page. Readers of infographics appreciate the lack of “filler” that charts can deliver, but also expect them to be attractive and relevant to the theme. For example, if you use a bar chart to illustrate popular candy, you could make the bars into actual candy bars.

Choosing the right type of chart to illustrate your information is vital. Some tips include:

  • To show how data changes over time, use a line chart, area chart, or timeline.
  • To compare items or categories or show composition, use a bar, bubble, pie, or stacked bar chart.
  • To inform readers about a single data point, use a donut chart or pictograph, or just one bold number.
  • To show relationships including distributions or correlations, use a scatter plot, histogram, or multi-series chart.
  • To organize data into rankings, groups, or processes, use lists, flow charts, Venn diagrams, tables, ordered bar charts, or a pyramid diagram.

Comparison Infographics

When you need to contrast or compare different types of information or items, comparison infographics are one of the handiest technical infographics. With this type of infographic, you can help readers choose between options, show various pros and cons, and illustrate differences and similarities. It’s a great way to discuss two sides of an argument in a logical manner.

Comparison infographics need to have a central thesis or a point you intend to make. They also need a way of dividing the two (or more) sides you are comparing. To avoid clutter, try to only include the most important and convincing points. Here are some tips:

  • Visualize the pros and cons or other differences by first writing them down. You can then place the lists side by side and divide them into categories if needed.
  • Create a comparison table that is visually appealing using contrasting colors and relevant, theme-related icons.
  • Compare fact to fiction or myths vs. truth by showing them side by side.
  • Venn diagrams are useful when there are overlapping points between the two sides.
  • Use bold fonts to highlight important numbers.
  • If you are comparing four things, consider dividing the infographic into quadrants.

Geographic Infographics

Illustrating technical information sometimes requires the use of a map. The result: a geographic infographic. You can use the map either as the central feature of your infographic or as a supporting addition. Maps show location-based information. Some examples include weather statistics, the location of earthquakes, health information such as disease outbreaks or vaccination percentages, and more. Tips for doing this effectively include:

  • Provide context by framing the problem or question the infographic illustrates. Although description needs to be short and concise, it is important.
  • Include a clear map legend, diagram, or another method of explaining what the map represents.
  • Make sure the map graphic is large enough to show your data.
  • Use contrasting colors or shading to highlight important parts of the map, such as states with higher or lower numbers of your data topic.
  • Avoid clutter.

Hierarchical Information Infographics

Technical Infographics

Image via Flickr by Brilliant Forge

If your project involves information that is organized into different levels, a hierarchical information infographic might work best for you. As well as showing different levels of information, it also demonstrates how the levels are connected to one another. Pyramid charts and flow charts are examples of this type of technical infographic. One of the most well-known examples of this type of chart is Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Company organizational structures are also a good fit for this type of illustration. Tips:

  • Information in hierarchical infographics should never overlap.
  • Show the information’s level of importance with background shapes, icons, images, and fonts in different sizes.
  • Make sure each point in the hierarchy is labeled.
  • Provide a concise explanation at the infographic’s top or bottom to include the context of the information presented.

Informational Infographics

While every infographic is intended to provide information, an informational infographic communicates text-based information in a visually engaging way. This structure lends itself to many different purposes: brochures, reference guides, informational posters, lists, and even resumes.

Although the information presented could also be communicated in text form, such as in an article or on white paper, not everyone wants or needs such detail. Many readers will appreciate a quick summary covering key points with a graphic design that makes it easy to follow. Tips:

  • Arrange information in a hierarchy using bullet points or icons.
  • Use headers and subheaders that introduce topics, sections, or steps.
  • Write body text that is short and concise, explaining each header point.

Process Infographics

A process infographic is used to break down a process into easy-to-follow steps for the reader. They show a series of tasks or actions in chronological order. If you want to teach your reader how to accomplish a goal, this is the illustration to use.

There are many purposes for a process infographic. You can use one to explain a marketing strategy from start to finish or for the hiring and onboarding of a new employee. These infographics are also useful for showing a customer how to install an electronic device such as a cable box or Ethernet router, or how to put together a piece of furniture. You can also use them for recipes. Tips:

  • Use a structure that is easy to follow from start to finish, such as a numbered or bulleted list.
  • Anchor each step with relevant, theme-related icons.
  • Make sure each step is clearly labeled with headings or subheadings.
  • If each step uses body text, break it down into bullets or numbered items also.
  • Use contrasting colors or gradients to make the information easier to follow and the infographic attractive.
  • Alternatively, color-code the processes, so each step has a different color.
  • One way to save space in your process infographic is to use an S-shaped format, like a child’s board game.
  • You can also organize steps into a circle, which is helpful when the process involves repetition.
  • Use real photographs of items as well as icons to aid in comprehension.
  • If appropriate, include a photo of the finished product.

Statistical Infographics

Technical Infographics

Image via Flickr by cambodia4kidsorg

Infographics focused on statistics are among the most popular types of technical infographics. You can use statistics to back up your opinion or argument. However, it’s often difficult to visualize statistics in real-world terms, especially when they involve very large or very small numbers. In order to grab people’s attention, presenting these statistics in a visually engaging manner is vital.

Statistical infographics don’t just present data; they use it to tell a story. Useful methods to do this include charts, graphs, or attention-grabbing numbers. Some tips for doing this:

  • Choose relevant icons to emphasize important statistics, particularly those which match the theme of the information presented. For example, use a fish icon to illustrate statistics about fish.
  • Use bold, contrasting colored blocks to divide and organize statistics into sections.
  • Focus on one surprising statistic and illustrate it using pictograms, which are icons that represent one unit. Make sure to include clearly descriptive text.
  • If you use charts to present statistic, use more than one type for visual variety.
  • Provide context by framing the problem or question the infographic illustrates. Although description needs to be short and concise, it is important.
  • Use contrasting colors to illustrate important points.
  • Use directional cues to direct readers’ eyes to where you want them to look next, such as arrows or lines.
  • Avoid clutter. Often, a minimalist design is best.
  • Number your list of statistics, so it’s easier for readers to follow. For example, use a number in the title, such as Five Most Popular Pizza Toppings.

Timeline Infographics

Technical Infographics

Image via Flickr by mraible

Commonly used to share the history of a company, development of an item, or another process that requires demonstrating the passage of time, timeline infographics are popular. You’ve seen them in school history textbooks to help students understand historical events as they relate to other events in the same period. Timeline infographics tell a story.

The first step in designing a timeline infographic is to create a plan. Consider who will be using it and how it will be distributed. Next, decide what period of time it will cover. Depending on the topic, if there are too many points to include in too long of a time period, you may choose to split it up into multiple infographics instead of cramming it all into one that’s hard to read and follow. Also, knowing how many points you will be including and how much text you will include with them aids in creating the graphic layout of the piece.

Decide how graphics-heavy you want the infographic to be. It may include illustrations or simple icons to illustrate your story. Your layout not only depends on the infographic’s complexity, but it also depends on how you intend to publish it. Horizontal layouts work better for printed pieces, while vertical layouts are recommended for mobile and desktop use. Here are some more tips:

  • Show each point on the timeline using headers.
  • Icons should be used to emphasize individual points and draw attention to important information.
  • Use different colors and fonts to distinguish point headers from body text.
  • Use contrasting colors to separate sections and enhance readability.

How to Create Infographics

Once you’ve decided what information you would like to include and have chosen the best type of infographic in which to present it, your next concern is figuring out just how to get it from your pen-and-paper or white-board sketch and onto a computer screen, ready to print or publish. Fortunately, there are many options.

The simplest option is to use an application such as Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, or Photoshop. This is fine if you want something basic for internal use, but these rarely have the professional look many people are hoping for. Unless you are a professional graphic designer, there are more efficient ways to go about it.

Infographic templates are available from many sources, either for free or for a small fee. These pre-designed fill-in-the-blank templates work with common applications such as PowerPoint, Illustrator, and other software used for design. Along with these templates, you can download vector illustrations for design elements such as icons, charts, and backgrounds to place in your infographic.

Online services such as Piktochart, Canva, Venngage, and many others allow you to use their templates and graphic components to build and customize your infographic the way you like. These services are generally free up to a certain point but offer premium graphics or premium templates for a fee. Some offer monthly subscriptions which include extra tools to give your infographics an extra polish.

However useful as these tools may be, there’s no comparison to hiring a professional infographic designer to do the job. Professionals with experience in producing technical infographics can advise you every step of the way, from which layout is best to what colors to use and even how much content should be included. Furthermore, since your time is valuable too, hiring a pro can chop hours, days, or even weeks off the design and production process.

There’s no doubt that infographics are exploding in popularity. They are attractive and engaging when properly designed, and can communicate a wealth of information quickly and efficiently. This is especially important for technical topics, whether you are explaining statistics, providing instructions for using or creating something, or offering consumer information. Technical information can be daunting to many readers, but infographics are a superior way to bridge the divide between industry professionals and the average end-user.

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