If your marketing strategy could use a bit of a lift, or if you have an important concept to communicate, you might consider using infographics. While they are hardly new — they have been used as illustrations in books and magazines for over a century — they are being put to new and innovative uses. Putting together a great infographic isn’t something just anyone can do using Photoshop. Also, using a poorly-made or mediocre infographic is even worse than none at all. So where do you turn? An infographic design agency has the expertise to create polished infographics that get results.
What Is an Infographic?
Image via Flickr by Design Feast
Simply put, an infographic is a visual image that represents information. It can be a pie chart, a diagram, flowchart, map, or any combination of graphic elements that communicate data. Since most people find it easier to absorb information when it is presented visually, infographics are effective strategies to use in marketing campaigns or education.
It’s estimated that infographics are 30 times more likely to be read than plain text. High-quality infographics are visually engaging, using color effectively. They present information in a simple fashion, with neither too much nor too little data, and ideally include information that people find interesting.
Why Use Infographics
Every day, we are deluged with data and content. We face the challenge of sifting through all of the information to find what’s useful and discard the rest. Infographics help with this process, giving us just what we need to know in a simple, stress-free, snack-size serving.
Also, some concepts are difficult to understand due to their complexity or abstract character. Infographics break it down into easily digestible bits. They can show, in an attractive, colorful format, how a complicated mechanical or electronic gadget works.
Infographics can be used to promote a cause by demonstrating in a visual manner exactly why the cause is important. They can pass along consumer information, such as nutrition and calorie content. Infographics are even being used as creative resumes for job seekers.
Questions You Need to Answer Before Designing an Infographic
Depending on the information you wish to communicate, the audience you want to reach, and the result you’re trying to accomplish, you may find certain types of infographics more appropriate than others. Some factors to consider:
- What is the age level of your audience? If you are designing infographics for children, they should be simple, focusing on images rather than blocks of text. You might also want to use a playful, fun theme.
- What is the topic? Infographic designers often use themes and images that relate to the topic, such as simple illustrations of people to compare population or number of visitors to various places.
- How much data do you need to present? Infographics should not try to present an overwhelming amount of information crowded onto one design. If you have a lot of information to share, consider splitting it into more than one infographic.
- What type of information are you sharing? Is it better to present it chronologically, in categories, by hierarchy, alphabetically, or in some other way?
- How will your infographic be distributed? Your presentation and design may be different if the infographic is to be placed on a web page, shared on social media, or printed as a poster.
- What do you want viewers to do after seeing your infographic? Always keep the end goal in mind.
Types of Infographics
With these points in mind, consider the different types of infographics to choose from. This is just a sample of the most common ones; many infographics combine two types or more.
- Chart infographics use various charts, such as pie, graph, or bar charts to show data.
- List infographics use mostly text to provide information.
- Timelines show how a topic has changed with the passage of time, or how it is expected to change in the future.
- How-to guides demonstrate how to accomplish something step-by-step.
- Flowcharts start at a single point, such as a question, and include the points that branch off in different directions based on decisions.
- Location-based infographics use maps to help readers understand geographical information.
- Hierarchical infographics use stacked items to demonstrate various levels.
- Visualized-number infographics use images to make statistics more engaging and appealing, and easier to understand.
Hiring an Infographic Designer
As you can see, designing a successful, polished infographic that gets the results you intend is not an easy job. Although there are several applications that can help you do it yourself with a minimum of graphic design experience, they have limitations. If you use a template, your infographic will not have that creative, one-of-a-kind look that professionals need.
When you begin your search for an infographic designer, it’s important to understand the difference between an infographic designer and a graphic designer. A good infographic designer understands the “info” part of “infographics,” and instead of just creating a piece that looks good, knows how to interpret the data visually.
Anytime you are hiring a creative professional, you need to check out their portfolio of previous work. Make sure the designer has infographics in their portfolio, not just terrific examples of their design skills. If you are working with an agency, you need to make sure their infographic samples were created within the last two months, and that the person who created them is still around to work on yours.
Finally, it’s usually acceptable to ask the designer to work on a small sample project or a small part of the infographic you have in mind before hiring them for a large project. Expect to pay them to do this, of course.
Infographic Design Agency vs. Freelancers
You have two basic options when it comes to hiring an infographic creator: an infographic design agency or a freelancer. A freelancer, of course, is someone who is self-employed, works independently on a contract basis, and may have many other clients besides you. An agency, on the other hand, has a team of employees who may bring different skills to the table. There are advantages and disadvantages of each.
The biggest reason many businesses select freelancers to do creative work is that they want to save money. Freelancers typically charge less for their services than an agency would charge. However, paying less doesn’t always mean getting great value for your money. An agency may be able to do the job more quickly, without endless rounds of revisions. It might also be able to provide advice on other aspects of your project as well.
Quality is another factor in your decision, but neither agencies nor freelancers have a distinct advantage in this regard. An agency might have more experience and more resources at its disposal to create a top-notch infographic. Freelancers, however, may be more eager to build their reputation by creating something spectacular. There are bad agencies and bad freelancers as well as stellar examples of both, which is why you need to study their portfolio.
Workload capability, or how much work can be handled at any given time, usually gives agencies the edge over freelancers. If you have a large business or require multiple infographics to be produced over a short period, a freelancer may not be able to provide the amount of work you need to get done. He or she is only one person, after all, and creativity takes time. An agency, however, can assign multiple employees to your account if needed. They can also subcontract to freelancers, in which case the agency is responsible for quality control, time management, and payment issues.
Agencies usually have more experience in creating infographics, which means they are a great choice for people who aren’t familiar with the process, aren’t sure what they want, and don’t know where to start. This applies to a large percentage of companies who need infographics. A good agency knows the steps to walk you through every step of the process.
An agency has copywriters on staff, too — or at least can subcontract to a good one, so you won’t have to look for one yourself. Even if you plan to write the text for the infographic yourself, a copywriter can help you polish it and make suggestions for improvement. At an agency, the copywriter and designer will work together; they are accustomed to doing so. Agencies also have copyeditors, because the only thing worse than a low-quality infographic design is one that’s riddled with typos.
Finally, consider that infographic creation is only one part of your larger marketing plan, and many agencies can provide many additional services. Choosing an agency with multiple capabilities is a smart choice even if you only need infographics. They can handle the print production of your infographic, help you promote it on social media, and even track its success as a marketing tool by measuring traffic, conversion, and other metrics.
Your Creative Brief
Before your agency or freelancer designs your infographic, it needs a creative brief. This is another area where an agency can help you out — if you don’t know how to write a creative brief, they can help you produce one. Often an agency will have a template you can use instead of starting from scratch with a blank piece of paper or Word document.
Even if you think your infographic will be simple to produce, you still need a written creative brief. Your infographic will pass through many hands along the way: project manager, designer, copywriter, and so on. Taking the time to write a creative brief helps you distill your own ideas to make sure you’re on the right track.
It’s even possible you will discover you don’t need an infographic in the first place, but another format entirely. Your goals might be achieved more efficiently by designing an e-book, an interactive presentation, a video, a diagram, a poster, or a photograph.
A good creative brief should have the following parts:
- A descriptive title.
- A brief overview describing the project, along with its place in your overall marketing campaign.
- Your objective, focus, and goals you hope to achieve with this project.
- Your budget.
- The projected timeline for the project including start date, completion date, and any other important milestones along the way.
- A detailed description of the audience who will be using your infographic.
- The current perception of the topic, which may be the way your audience sees your brand, the level of knowledge they have about the data you will present or the opinions you wish to sway. Include any problems your audience have that you are planning to solve with the project.
- The primary message you will be sending with the infographic.
- If your infographic is for marketing purposes, include your value proposition — the unique benefits your company, brand, or product offers to your audience.
- The tone of the project. Will the infographic be playful, humorous, or more serious and traditional?
- The metrics that will be measured to evaluate the success of the infographic.
- Other projects that have been created that are related to this infographic, both current and recent, if any. If this infographic fits into a larger campaign, describe its place within the whole.
- The specifications of the infographic, such as your desired width, length, orientation (landscape or portrait), whether it will be printed or placed online, and other relevant details.
- References and inspiration for the project. Are there other infographics you have seen that you particularly liked and thought the elements, layout, or concept would work well for this one?
- Any other information you consider important to the project, such as your company’s competitors, past experiences, etc.
- All contact information for people who will be involved in creating the infographic project.
Infographics can be incredibly effective at communicating information to your audience. They can distill and clarify complicated concepts, improve retention of information, and build brand recognition, just to name a few benefits. However, infographic creation is an art, and it’s worthwhile to invest in hiring a professional with experience like an infographic design agency. Agencies are your best bet because they have access to all of the resources necessary to create a top-quality infographic, and can help you achieve your other marketing goals as well.