What Is an Infographic?



March 1, 2021 (Updated: May 4, 2023)

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Although it may seem like a contradiction in terms, visual communication tools are becoming increasingly popular in the information age of today. When one thinks about it, however, this makes sense. In the world of today, people are being exposed to overwhelming volumes of data, with the effect that they no longer have the time to read through long and complex texts. Visual communication tools provide a welcome alternative. In this article, we chat about infographics and provide a step-by-step guide you can follow to create your own exciting infographics.

What Is an Infographic?

Image via Flickr by librariesteam

An infographic presents complex ideas and data in a visual format through the use of patterns, imagery, charts, icons, diagrams, and text. The term “infographic” has its origin in two words, namely “information” and “graphic,” which allude to both the informative and visual aspects of this form of communication. Infographics have become very popular because they provide an easy-to-understand overview of complex information and topics. Especially since the explosion of data creation the world has experienced in the last few decades, communication tools such as infographics offer a quick and clear representation of large volumes of information.

People generally find it easier to quickly comprehend the information supplied by infographics, as the human brain recognizes visual patterns faster than text. Whereas the eye reads one word at a time, it’s able to scan multiple images simultaneously, which allows one to understand more information faster. Over the years, the definition of what constitutes an infographic has become diluted to mean almost any text and image combination. To help you determine the difference between an infographic and a pseudo-infographic, you can remember these general characteristics of a real infographic. An infographic:

  • Contains fewer colors than many other visual communication tools.
  • Shows only relevant illustrations.
  • Contains empty spaces.
  • Provides a coherent icon style.
  • Has a clear, unified visual structure.

How Infographics Differ From Data Visualization

Both infographics and data visualization are tools that represent data visually. Although people tend to sometimes confuse these terms and use them interchangeably, they describe two distinct visualization tools that one uses for different purposes. Here are some of the main differences between these two communication tools:

  • Scope of information: Whereas a data visualization is a visual representation of a limited dataset, an infographic typically represents a complex or comprehensive topic and a large volume of data.
  • Storytelling: Infographics tell a premeditated story and guide an audience to arrive at a specific conclusion. In contrast, data visualizations provide objective and quantifiable information, which allows an audience to interpret the data as they wish.
  • Design: You can easily generate data visualizations by using relevant software programs, which offer handy charts, plots, and graphs. Infographics require far more work and input, as they contain many different elements and provide a narrative summary of a large and complex collection of data.
  • Interactive elements: Infographics are typically static, two-dimensional visual representations. In contrast, data visualizations are increasingly becoming interactive in nature.
  • Infographics contain data visualizations: Whereas infographics can contain various data visualizations to communicate statistical data, data visualizations can never contain infographics.
  • Purpose: You can successfully use infographics to create blog posts, resumes, marketing content, and case studies. Data visualizations, on the other hand, are best suited for highlighting statistical information in reports, newsletters, dashboards, blogs, and infographics.

Types of Infographics

There are various types of infographics, which are categorized according to variables such as types of objects used, the purpose of the infographic, and the flow of the information. Although in the real world, you’ll often find that an infographic contains elements of more than one type of infographic, it may still be useful to learn about the different categories of infographics:

  • Informational infographic: This type of infographic contains more text than other types. Despite the emphasis on words, however, informational infographics still include graphics like icons and graphs.
  • Timeline infographic: Timeline infographics are useful when you wish to present events or information in chronological order. You can use a timeline infographic, for instance, to visualize a historical trend or a product’s development.
  • Chart infographic: This type of infographic typically contains a chart as a centerpiece, while other elements, such as icons, shapes, and texts, provide added information and functionality to the infographic. A chart infographic can be useful when you’re performing a comparison of items, such as the number of people above a certain age in various cities.
  • How-to infographic: A how-to infographic provides a step-by-step guide on how to achieve a specific goal or outcome. Whether you want to list steps explaining how to grow a watermelon or how to assemble a DIY lounge suite, a how-to infographic is a useful tool for educating an audience on a specific topic.
  • Statistical infographic: If you wish to present data from multiple sources, or visualize survey results, you may want to make use of a statistical infographic design. This type of infographic focuses on data and can contain charts, timelines, icons, and eye-catching fonts.

Related content: An Inside Look into Technology Infographics

How to Create an Infographic

You don’t need to be an expert to design your own effective and visually appealing infographics. Simply follow these steps:

1. Ask Yourself What the Goal of the Infographic Is

Before you start planning the visual aspects of your infographic, such as the layout design or which charts to use, you need to first determine exactly what it is you mean to achieve with your infographic. In other words, deciding on clear and achievable communication goals is the first step of the creation process. You can ask yourself whether your aim is to educate or entertain, and what exactly it is you wish to convey.

For instance, do you want to explain a new technology, build awareness for your brand, or communicate the most important ideas of a philosophy? If you have existing data around which you need to build an infographic, you need to clearly define what direction your infographic will be taking. Veer away from trying to incorporate too many ideas into one infographic. For an infographic to be effective, you want to determine a clearly defined topic and one overarching idea.

2. Determine Who Your Target Audience Is

An important aspect when you’re deciding on the goals of your infographic is determining who your target audience is going to be. Pinpointing a target audience will help to set the tone for your copy and will also influence design aspects, such as the colors you choose to use or the dimensions of the infographic.

Secondly, you need to ask yourself whether your infographic is on a topic that will either appeal to your target audience or may provide a solution for an issue or question they might have. In short, your target audience must gain something specific from reading your infographic, and you need to establish what this is before you continue with the next steps of the infographic creation process.

3. Do Your Research and Gather Relevant Data

If you already have data around which you’re creating an infographic, you typically won’t need to conduct much research. In other scenarios, however, you want to ensure that you gather relevant and correct information from credible sources. Good sources of information include:

  • Published books.
  • Peer-reviewed academic journal articles.
  • Recently published surveys or polls.
  • New press releases.
  • Government and other official websites, such as the United States Census Bureau, the World Health Organization, and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Apart from ensuring that the data you use comes from a reliable source, you also want to consider the relevance of the data. In general, aim to use the most recently published versions of data and try not to use data that’s more than one to two years old. If you do choose to incorporate older data, be transparent about it and provide your audience with relevant dates. Also, it’s best to stick to a few good and relevant sources. Using a lot of sources can complicate things and may prevent you from conducting in-depth research.

4. Decide on the Visuals

Once you have collected the data you require, you can start planning the visual aspects of your infographic, such as your choice of fonts, colors, icons, images, charts, graphs, and so on. Other considerations include sizes, shapes, placement, textures, and depth. At this point in the process, you can also decide which type of infographic you think is most relevant to get your ideas across.

The kind of information you’ve chosen for your infographic will guide you in this respect. For instance, if you’re focusing on trends over time, you may want to use a timeline infographic, which features line charts and timelines. Or, if your infographic is about the latest Covid survey results, you can opt for a statistical infographic design.

5. Add the Text

Once you’ve decided on your key visual elements, it’s time to enhance the narrative flow of your infographic by adding supporting text. Keep in mind that the visuals are the main components of an infographic and that any words you choose to incorporate merely serve to enhance and support the visuals.

First, you need to write a compelling title, which will immediately draw the attention of the reader and motivate them to read further. Next, you want to draft subtitles that are concise and informative. They should provide a succinct summary for the reader so that they have a clear understanding of what the next section is about.

Other textual elements you want to incorporate include titles and labels for data visualizations, such as charts and graphs, to ensure that the reader understands the flow and the meaning of the content clearly. You should also add a short introduction to provide the context of the infographic, and you can end with a conclusion that contains a call to action. In addition, you want to add sources and informative footnotes.

5. Conceptualize Your Design Layout

Your next step is to decide on a design layout for your infographic. Most infographic designers do this by using a wireframe, which is basically a visual representation of the skeleton framework of the infographic. You don’t need any fancy programs to draft your wireframe; a piece of paper and a pen will do. Think of your wireframe as a map that clearly shows the flow of your composition and how the individual elements come together to create a meaningful narrative.

On your wireframe, you want to specify the type of visualizations you’re using for each data point and where they’ll be located in the infographic. You also need to indicate where the textual elements will go, and you can also supply information regarding aesthetic elements, such as color and font.

6. Make Your Infographic

At this point, you’re ready to create your infographic. You can either outsource this task to a professional, or you can create your own infographic. Fortunately, there are many great software packages available that provide professionally designed infographic templates and useful tools. These applications also allow you to customize templates to suit your needs by selecting your choice of icons, images, and other elements.

Tips To Remember

Here are a few tips to consider when you’re creating your next infographic:

  • Focus on the story: One of the exciting and compelling aspects of an infographic is that it tells a story. This is also one of the key aspects that distinguish an infographic from other forms of visual communication tools. Although your infographic may be based on statistical data and figures, you need to find a way to turn this factual information into an interesting story.
  • Keep the design simple: An effective infographic typically boasts a simple design that doesn’t contain too many colors or visual aspects. Ideally, you want to use no more than three primary colors and two accent colors throughout the infographic. In this way, you ensure vibrancy and consistency. Also, don’t be afraid to leave white spaces in your infographic. Doing so improves readability and prevents cognitive overload.
  • Always remain within context: One of the most common mistakes that people make when they design infographics is to forget the context of the infographic. When you veer off into too many directions, you run the risk of providing too much information and losing the interest of your audience. Keep your infographic succinct, clear, and to the point by only focusing on your main topic.

Infographics provide you a cheap and effective way to communicate ideas and facts to a target audience. Learning how to make your own infographics is a valuable skill that can help you raise awareness for your brand or successfully communicate complex ideas to your students. What’s more, you don’t need to be an expert to create effective infographics. Start by following the step-by-step guide we provided and learn as you go. In no time, you’ll be churning out great infographics with captivating stories.

Author Image - jross

CopyPress writer

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