“Can you create an infographic for this?”
While they’ve grown in popularity over the past few years, not everyone knows exactly what an infographic is or what topics best lend themselves to standalone infographics.
Infographics, at their most basic, are graphical representations of information or data. This means your Excel-created bar chart is technically an infographic – although I’d bet that’s not what you think of when you hear the term.
What we’re usually referring to are the beautiful, engaging editorial graphics that are splashing all over social media and the web. They have a flow to them, tell a cohesive story, and break down a complex idea or topic into digestible chunks and accompanying visuals. The last few years have seen these kinds of stand-alone infographics popping up everywhere, covering all sorts of topics from the irreverent to the serious.
These infographics often attract so much more attention and interest than a well-written piece on the same topic would, so they become a powerful tool. The reason is that they help your audience to battle the information overload we experience each day and understand an idea, process, or concept quickly and easily. Their power is that they can be more engaging, accessible, persuasive, and easier to recall and share than words alone. (Aware of the irony of writing about how infographics are easier to understand than words, take a look here for a great graphic on what an infographic is).
The keys to creating good infographics are largely the same as creating any good communications campaign:
Define your audience/medium
Is the infographic going to be used to raise general awareness of a campaign or issue? Or to drive the audience to take a specific action (e.g. contribute, volunteer, visit your website, etc.?) Is it meant for inclusion in a written report, or exclusively for sharing on your website and social media? These questions will help you decide things like what size you design it, what information to focus on, and what resources to allocate to creating it.
Hone in on your topic and message
Like any other communication tool, infographics work best when you have a clearly defined aim and message. Specificity helps – pick a particular campaign or issue that lends itself well to detailed graphical representation.
Collect your facts to tell your story
Pull together the key facts, figures, and information that will make up your story into a Word or Google document. Keep it simple and limit the amount of information to just what is needed to understand the topic. A few points can be all you need for a compelling infographic.
Create your infographic
- Decide what dimensions to make your infographic – if you’re including it in a print doc you should make it a standard paper size (e.g. A4 or A3), or choose the size that’s right for your website or social media platform (here are some guidelines).
- Loosely draw out the key elements and where you want to represent them – it doesn’t need to be a work of art!
- Break your facts and information down into bite-sized pieces that you’ll illustrate graphically.
- Decide on a look for your infographic by choosing the colours and typefaces to use – it can seem overwhelming, but keep it simple; tie it to your brand where possible.Use no more than two or three colours (you can use shades of a colour to give more variation if needed) and make sure that elements are colour coded consistently throughout. Use a maximum of two to three fonts, using type size and weight to differentiate between different kinds of text.
- Don’t add in a lot of unnecessary flourishes or designs – make sure that everything you add in serves a purpose to keep it clean and easy to understand. Professional designers have a lot of slick tools we can use to create icons, charts, graphs and illustrations to use in infographics, but when you’re pressed for time or money, a free site like Canva is a great place to start, or you can create them in PowerPoint. There are a lot of free resources and tutorials to talk you through how to use the specific programs.
Final touches and sharing
Once you have all your pieces in your infographic, look back over your image and make sure that it tells your full story if it was seen without any other explanatory text. It should also reference your organisation through your logo and web address, and include any references that your audience needs in order to get further information. Note: you might need to resize it if you are planning to share it on multiple social platforms. Then share away!
What, in your work, would lend itself to a compelling infographic? The next time you finalise a fascinating piece of research, or uncover powerful statistics that would engage your audience around your issue, think about presenting the information graphically instead of, or in addition to, your more traditional report.
Free online tools to create infographics:
Two examples of infographics on infographics:
About the Author:
Jennifer Geib is a graphic designer and writer working with non-profits and changemakers worldwide to more effectively communicate their message. For more information on her work and services see www.jennifergeib.com.