How to create the best infographic

The popularity of infographics has grown over the last few years. They can be a powerful marketing tool, if used well. Easy to understand and share, these can be used to explain many complex concepts.

So what is it that makes them work so well? And why do we seem to like them?

We are visual beings. For example, did you know that 50% of your brain is involved in visual processing? AND we can get a sense of a visual scene in 0.01 seconds! That's far less time than it takes to read words and assign them meaning.

This infographic gives a more detailed overview of the science behind this format.

How should you use infographics as a business and how do you do it well? These nine best practice guidelines and our favourite examples will help you.

1. Know your audience

This is very important. It won't be a shock to you that the most successful products appeal to a target audience. The same applies to infographics. Before you start, useful questions you may want ask are:

  • Who do I want to reach?

  • What information am I trying to convey?

  • Do they need it and will it be useful?

Stay focused on that target group - designing for everyone doesn't work.

2. Show, don't tell

Let the “Viz” in “data viz” do the talking for you. In the early stages of design see if your infographic is still understood with all the text missing. If not, keep going until it is.

3. Get your flow on point

You want your infographic to flow both cognitively and visually. They should flow from the top down if vertical or left to right if horizontal. There are numberous design elements you can use to improve the flow, including:

  • borders

  • numbering

  • different background treatments

  • headlines

4. KISS - Keep it Simple, Stupid

Keep the visual design elements simple. Limit the number of the following:

  • colours

  • fonts

  • image styles

The same applies to your content. Less is more. No one likes overcrowding.

5. White space

Following on from the above, any good piece of graphic design allows for negative space. It helps guide the user through the other visual elements and allows for breathing space.

6. Length

Yes, infographics can be to be big, but if you go too big, you will lose people. It's best to keep infographics more focused. If you find that yours is too long, consider splitting it into two or three separate infographics.

7. Have an eye catching headline

The headline is very important to your infographic as it is your one chance to grab the users' attention. Good headlines:

  • Clearly describe the infographic

  • Engage the reader

  • Are short and snappy

  • Can be understood at a glance

8. Data and sources

Make sure your facts and figures are accurate and cite your sources. Your data should be as current as possible to avoid looking out of touch.

9. Promote it!

Many infographics get hidden away in a PDF inside website copy. Make sure you promote yours! Don't let your infographic die. Get it out there.

These form the basics of good infographic design. Below, we look at some good examples of data visualisation.

This is visualising their growth through data - showing not telling. It has a good flow for both content and visual elements and is easy to read. The colour scheme is simple but visually appealing.

Why it doesn’t:

Heavy on self-promotion - infographics tend to work best when they help people understand a complex set of data relevant to their industry. If it is simply about the company that created the infographic it lowers the user's interest. That said, AirBnB as a tech unicorn may be an exception to this.

This infographic was created for an agricultural holding company. Its aim is to provide statistical information to prospective investors fast.

Why it works:

It is a clean design that uses mixed media very effectively. The layout is simple so as not to over crowd the design. Achieves the objective of showcasing statistical information about the company at a glance

Why it doesn’t:

Even though this infographic is stunning and very well designed it could do with a headline.

Based on an article on the same subject, it has a great balance of slight tongue-in-cheek backed up by robust data.

Why it works:

This is another example of how mixed media can be very effective. This particular example showcases how photography can enhance a very simple concept. If used well.

Why it doesn’t:

Nitpicking here - some of the text is quite small and hard to read. The order could be changed to further emphasise the "big payoff”. This is the key stat on the page but doesn't have key emphasis.

This piece of joy went viral at the time of its release because of the fantastic content. It dared to people to prove it wrong.

Why it works:

The colour scheme is beautiful and easy to navigate. All the information is presented in perfectly digestible segments. It is a great example that how the idea and execution can be everything.

Why it doesn’t:

Reluctantly suggesting that the static version may be a tad large.. but we’ll let them off.

 Oscar Dresses Graphic - The Big Group -  View it in full

Oscar Dresses Graphic - The Big Group - View it in full

This infographic was so successful it sparked a new trend in infographics. See: Most Popular Holiday Toys from the Past 50 Years. Since then, they have done an iteration every year including an interactive version.

Why it works:

It went super viral on initial release. It has a clear focus and subject matter making it easy to promote as well as being a great talking point for people. It is a simple yet engaging idea executed well, with a clear flow of information and beautiful design.

Why it doesn’t:

It is already quite large and it is only going to get bigger. A layout rethink could be beneficial. Which they might have done for the 2018 version - we'll have to wait and see!

The key things that all the above infographics show are: idea, execution and promotion. All of the above stick to a specific theme and are well thought-through. Get these elements right and you're on to a winner!