4 keys to creating a good infographic

02 August 2016

4 keys to creating a good infographic

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Infographics and data visualizations have become new buzzwords in journalism, analytics, and communication. Visuals grab more attention, they are popular, and help you reach bigger audiences more effectively than a long textual report or article.

However, as the world sees more and more static, interactive, and animated infographics (including gifographics) coming out daily, we should ask: do these visuals really achieve their goals and reach more people? Do they  communicate complex information in an easier way and are effective as the means of communication?
Not always. Just because a piece of work is called an infographic, it does not make it a good one.

Here are 4 things you need to do to create a good infographic:

  1. Tell a story

Tell a story that the audience cares about. Instead of simply presenting statistics or bunch of numbers, explain to your viewers what they are looking at and why they should care. For example, if you just show the number of car accidents in a country, it might not say much to a person who doesn’t know a lot on the subject. For them, the statistic will just be a number triggering the question: “So what?”  One way to convert pure statistics into a story is to put them into context. Going back to our example, if you show your audience that the number of car accidents has been on the rise in recent years, or that the country has the highest number of car accidents in the region causing preventable deaths, then you have a story that the audience will understand and care about.

  1. Make your visualization functional

Once you have a story and message you want to communicate, you must choose the most effective format for it. How can you help your viewer understand your story easier? Think about how your audience is going to use whatever visual material you are creating. You need to answer the questions: what should your viewer see from the visual and how will they use your visual content? Choose the graphic form that helps the reader see the story, trend, or pattern that you want to show them, whether it is proportion, change over time, etc. For example, if we want to show that the number of car accidents has been increasing, a line graph might be the most effective way to show the change over time.  There are some recommendations to decide on which chart type you can use to communicate a certain type of data or message. For a start, have a look at our blogpost about 5 most common chart types and when to use them.

 

  1. Make it sticky

As your audience is exposed to more visual material now than ever, competition for their attention is very fierce. To succeed, you need to make your infographic sticky, so it not only grabs your viewer’s attention instantly, but also stays into their mind. There are 3 important steps to take to make your visual story sticky:

  • Make it simple

You should try to simplify not only design, but the information you’re conveying through the visual. Do not try to put too much data in a single visual. Remember, the viewer’s attention is limited. If we show the viewer too much, they will see only part of it. If we simplify the visual material, the viewer will perceive it completely and chances are higher that it will stick in their mind for longer.

  • Involve emotions

As I was taught in Journalism school, people care about stories that touch either their hearts or their pocket. Explain to your audience why they should care about a certain issue and trigger their emotions.  

  • Be clear and honest about sources to gain credibility  

People get sceptical about the surprising material they come across daily. You need to be very clear and honest about the sources of your data to gain credibility and convince your viewer of the truth of your story. Sometimes creating an infographic involves complex calculations and methodology, so  especially in those cases, you must clearly define the way you reached your results.

 

  1. Use a simple and clear design

To grab a viewer’s attention, your infographic should be well-designed. However, a good design does not necessarily involve complicated or fancy graphics. Simplicity works best. Creating a good design is not an easy job, but it is definitely possible to develop an eye for design. [Read our designer’s blogpost to learn more.] here are certain steps you can take to have a better design:

  • Choose colors carefully

Don’t use too many colors in a single visual. Choose complementary color schemes. You can do it using many tools freely available online (ex., coolors.co), or by picking colors from an already-designed infographic that you like using a color-picker tool (ex. Chrome’s eye-dropper).

  • Plan your space

Complicated visuals can tire out your eyes, making it less likely you read and understand the content. Through a well-planned layout, you can give your viewers enough space to relax their eyes. Also, use space to separate sections, charts, and texts from each other, including along the margins. Plan your space so that it will guide your viewer and help them focus on the important part of the visual.

  • Delete all extra elements

If a graphic or text element is not vital for your viewer to understand the infographic or provokes strong emotions in them, delete it.  Very often, elements like this are the grids in charts, which are rarely useful and can be deleted to make design cleaner and simpler.

Remember, nicely designed visual will grab a viewer’s attention. A poorly (or overly) designed visual can easily intimidate and alienate your reader.

 

So, next time you sit down to create an infographic, consider all the above-mentioned recommendations: tell a story, keep it simple, make design clean and functional.  Share your good infographics with us on Facebook or LinkedIn!

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