Infographics are an effective tool for marketers to communicate complex ideas in a visually appealing way. They can help engage audiences, build trust and even drive conversions. But creating an infographic isn’t as simple as it may seem; it requires careful research, analytical thinking, creative execution, and eye-catching design. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll provide you with the information and insights you need to produce high-quality infographics that will make your marketing efforts stand out from the crowd.
What distinguishes an infographic from other graphics?
An infographic is a visual representation of information or data, used to make complex information more easily understandable and accessible. Infographics are often used to simplify and clarify data-heavy or technical subjects, such as statistics, scientific data, or financial information — and when done right, they can help hold the reader’s attention and make the information more memorable. With their ability to convey information in a visually compelling and easy-to-understand format, infographics have become a valuable tool for many businesses, organizations, and individuals looking to communicate complex information to a mass audience.
How do you know when an infographic is an appropriate format to use?
Consider creating an infographic when you have a large data set or complex process that needs to be distilled into an easily digestible format. Infographics can be especially useful for simplifying and visualizing data-heavy subjects, such as statistics, scientific data, or financial information, but can be used to explain or illustrate anything that is difficult to communicate with text alone, such as trends, processes, patterns, or relationships.
Basic principles of creating infographics
Let’s start with an introduction (or a refresher) to four core principles used across infographic design.
1. Brevity. You’re already facing a complex topic, so try to use only the text necessary to communicate the point. Too much copy can overwhelm the reader and turn them off before they’ve even begun.
2. Hierarchy. The design should be structured in a way that guides the viewer’s eye through the information, highlighting the most important points first. We’ll talk about this more later, but the goal is for your audience to see right away what’s most important.
3. Contrast and balance. An artistic eye will help you here. Simply put, use contrasting colors and design elements to call out differences, disparities, notable increases and decreases — any notable comparisons that help strengthen the story. Then take a step back and make sure the components aren’t competing with each other.
4. Consistency. Be consistent throughout the infographic — pick your typefaces, fonts, colors, icons, and stroke widths before you start, then stick to them.
Following these principles will help make your infographic easy to read, and increase the likelihood that your audience will remember and share it.
Keys to making infographics attractive and effective
A strong narrative is essential for an effective infographic. Without a story, you’re just beautifying data. Start with an outline, just as you would with a blog post or article, and organize the data in a way that guides the audience through it, making clear the relationships between the different data points. Another way to think about it: Make sure there is a clear beginning, middle, and end. This likely will come naturally for infographics around processes (e.g. how a shoe is manufactured, or how cardboard is recycled), but it can be a challenge to find the right narrative for something like annual report data. Those challenging data sets are when a story is most important — you need to show the audience why it matters, and why they should care. Look for cause and effect, incremental changes, or changes over time to connect the dots for your audience.
Another key is making sure your infographic can be easily read on any device — especially mobile. Since 2015, web traffic on mobile devices has risen from 31.1% to 58.9% of all traffic. This means an infographic that cannot be easily read on mobile is eliminating nearly 60% of the chance someone will engage with it. So keep a close eye on font sizes and contrast, but also interactivity. If you’re creating an interactive infographic, be sure to test it before you publish to ensure the functionality works easily on mobile.
How can marketers use infographics in their content?
Infographics can be used in almost any visual format and channel. You’ve probably most often seen infographics on article pages, blog posts, whitepapers, reports — any longer-form piece of content that references large data sets. These use cases are straightforward, just remember to include alt-text that helps explain the main takeaways for the visually impaired.
Some channels, however, warrant additional considerations:
1. Landing Pages. Typically your landing page serves as a hub — a place the audience can quickly get a sense of all the content on the site, and a central navigation terminal. A large infographic runs the risk of damaging the experience. If you believe your infographic must live on the landing page, just pay close attention to the UX to ensure the graphic compliments, not confuses, the intended experience.
2. Social Media. Infographics rarely read well on social media, however, a “social cut” can be a great way to promote your work. See if you can find a section of the graphic that could be modified to make sense on its own, then use that to pique interest in your infographic.
3. Email. Most email campaigns are designed to drive the audience somewhere else. By putting the entire infographic in an email, you run the risk of giving it all away. Instead, consider using your social cut, mentioned above, or pull out a single compelling data point and use that in your subject line, or opening line of copy.
When to include animation in an infographic
There are several situations where animation can be an effective addition to your infographic:
– Show a process or progression: Things like timelines of historical events or the steps in a process could lend themselves to animation to help guide the reader through the story.
– Visualizing impact: Imagine an infographic showing how different fuel types can improve mileage, or showing the physiology of running strides of various animals — animation could go a long way in showing the impact various factors can have.
– Adding interactivity: Making certain elements interactive can dramatically improve engagement. Just be sure to not have too much information hidden behind interactivity, as too much work can discourage the user from engaging with the full experience.
– Making the information more memorable: This can be subjective — after all, we should never animate for animation’s sake. However, sometimes animation can bring complexity to life. A great example is this animation infographic by Vox that shows embryo and fetus development from fertilization to birth.
It’s important to consider the audience. Animation can make the information more engaging, but it should be used in a way that supports the overall message of the infographic. It’s also important to keep in mind that animation can be more resource-intensive than a static image, so it should be used judiciously, and the file size should be optimized for the web.
4 common mistakes when making infographics
It’s a complicated process, and the following mistakes can be easy to make if you’re not careful:
1. Overcrowding. Including too much information in one infographic can make it cluttered and difficult to understand. Filtering, sorting, then organizing your data around a narrative before you start designing is as important as the design itself.
2. Lack of focus. The reader should immediately be able to tell where their eyes should go. In the western world, our eyes tend to follow a “Z” pattern when we first see content: We look across the top (headlines, decks, categories), scan diagonally toward the bottom-left corner (landmarks, labels, direction indicators), then finally across to the bottom-right corner (takeaways, conclusions). This is certainly not to say that every infographic should be designed in a “Z” shape, but knowing this can help you know where your audience will quickly look first.
3. Complex design: Less almost always is more. Prioritization is key — not every bit of related information and data is worthy of the infographic. Just like when writing a longer article or thought leadership piece, consult the narrative then remove anything that doesn’t support or further that story.
4. Poor use of color. It’s tactical, but crucial: Identify a cohesive and limited color palette, then do not stray from it. If you find yourself “needing” more than a handful of colors, that can be a red flag that you’ve got unnecessary content in your infographic.
Let Imprint help you create your next stellar infographic
If you could use some assistance creating your journey map, or are curious to hear about the other components of our content strategies, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us below. We’d be more than happy to get on a call to learn about your business, as well as discuss how content marketing could help you leave your mark.