So you want to create an infographic, and you’ve stumbled upon our tool. You’ve seen some examples and you’re ready to go. Do you really need to read yet another guide on how to make an infographic? I’m going to be honest and say, no, if you know what you want, and you have a very clear picture in your head of what you want to create, then go straight ahead and just do it.
But if you’re the kind of person that appreciates learning about the creation process or you have about 15 minutes or so to kill, then I think it will be well worth your time. We will try and make it less painful with plenty of practical pointers and real life examples.
We use a 5 step process when we create infographics:
- Select a story for the infographic
- Choose a type of infographic
- Get the relevant data
- Design the infographic
- Promote the infographic
1. Select a story for your Infographic
This is the hardest part. What should your infographic be about? What is the core message you want to deliver? For us, this is a discovery process. There are two approaches:
Data driven approach – this is where you already have data and you want to tell the story based on your data. Essentially, you use the data to drive the storyline. While it may seem obvious that you should always look at your data to outline your story, we argue that there are many pitfalls to this approach and is often the #1 mistake everyone makes when creating infographics. When is this approach relevant? When you have a unique set of data, or if you’re part of a data science team that has uncovered news worthy insights from your data.
Problem/Question approach – this approach requires you to first think about the problem you’re trying to solve or the questions you’re trying to answer with your story. This usually requires you to put yourself in your readers’ shoes to discover an impactful story angle that has the following properties:
- Solves or helps a burning pain. Example – Take back your mornings
- Provides useful and practical answers/solutions to everyday questions. Example – What’s the best sleeping position for you?
- Reframes conventional questions differently. Example –Why Austin sucks
- Challenges popular beliefs or the status quo. Example – Superbowl ads aren’t expensive enough
- Provides an unconventional answer to a common question. Example – How colors affect conversions
If you want to dive deeper into how to discover great stories, read 3 Powerful Questions to Discover Your Infographic Story. Regardless of the approach, your story should provide some practical utility, surprise or challenge to the reader.
At the end of this step, you should have a subject of the story and some points or questions your infographic addresses. Something like this:
Subject: Teens and social media usage
As a marketer, I'd like to know how teens are using social media. I've heard that Facebook is not as relevant for teens as they are for adults. How big are the other social networks compared to Facebook?
Questions answered: Which social media networks do teens use the most? Is there a difference between different groups of teens? Is there anything surprising about teen behavior vs adult behavior on social media? Are Snapchat and Instagram that big among teens? What insights can marketers gain from this data?
2. Choose the type of Infographic to visualize your story
You’ve got your story. Now you have to choose the type of infographic you want to use. Wait, there are different types of infographics? In fact, there are loosely 10 different types of infographics. Before you roll your eyes, here are all 10 types:
Statistical Infographics – shows a summary or overview of data with one or more graphs, tables or lists.
Timeline Infographics (time-oriented) – shows progress of information over a chronological time period.
Process Infographics – demonstrates a linear or branching process as a how to, teaches the workings of an object or flow chart showing choices in a decision process.
Informational Infographics – are most likely a poster that summarizes topic with some extra bits of information.
Geographic Infographics – displays data with a location map.
Compare/Contrast Infographics – illustrates notable similarities or differences as a “this versus that” infographic or as a table or simple list.
Hierarchical Infographics – demonstrates a chart with levels.
Research-based Infographics – similar to the statistical infographic, but based on research. Can be used to compare unlike items with popular sets of data
Interactive Infographics – gives viewers the control to modify the infographic and is web-based.
Word cloud Infographics – displays a cluster of words to show associations between words and concept.
How you want your story to be told determines which type of infographic you should choose. Want to visualize a story about running barefoot in the ruins of a lost civilization in Mexico? You can use a timeline infographic if you want to focus on the history of running barefoot. Or a compare infographic if you want to focus on comparing running barefoot versus running with shoes. Or a statistical infographic if you want to just focus on the benefits of running barefoot with data or numbers.
At the end of this step, you should have a good idea of what type of infographic you want to create.
3. Get the relevant data for your story
More boring stuff next – getting the data. There are 3 approaches to getting your data to make your infographic.
Your own data – if you took the data driven approach to infographics, you are probably using your own data. Even if you didn’t, your organization or company may have data on the subject or story you want to write about. Ask around. Send some emails.
Original research – OC (original content) is king! Nothing beats OC. You don’t need a research team or a data scientist for this. And unless you’ve got a big budget don’t even think of paying a research or marketing firm for this. You can roll your own survey research with a tool like survey monkey or Google Forms. Or with manual coding of data. We’re writing an article about how we do our own research. I’ll add a link to it here once it’s done.
Data sources – there are plenty of public and private data sources out there. Here is a short list:
Data.gov – this is the US government’s open data website. You can search for all kinds of public data from healthcare data to economic data. It takes a bit of digging to get the datasets, but worth exploring.
UN data – UN data is international/world data on a variety of subjects such as employment, poverty, population, export/import numbers, growth,..etc. There are 34 databases in total and you can filter by country.
Google Public Data – Google has a search engine specifically for searching publicly available data. This is a good place to start as you can search a large amount of datasets in one place.
Pew Research Data – Pew Research is think tank that does a lot of research and polling in the areas of public interest such as internet, science and technology trends, global attitudes, religion and public life, and social and demographic trends. This is one of my favorite places to visit. They also publish excellent reports and make all their datasets available for download.
World Bank – The World bank has a lot of financial and economic data. Great if you want high level data.
World Economic Forum – WE forum has more nuanced data on a variety of topics. Their data are embedded in their reports.
Statista – this is data aggregator that has thousands of data sets. It is a paid service though you do get some interesting data sets unavailable publicly.
The rough guide here is to find at least one data set or number per story point. At the end of this step, you should have all the data you need to start putting your infographic together.
4. Design your infographic
Ok – you’ve got the story, the type of infographic and the data. Now you have to put them all together into an attractive looking infographic. I’m not going to lie. For a non-designer, creating a beautiful infographic from scratch is not easy. I’m sorry if you were led to believe that you can click a few buttons and magic appears.
Personally, I’ve been doing this for years and I still kind of suck at it. My infographics still look amateurish. How did I get better? By looking and copying the best infographics out there, and by using ready made templates. That’s why Venngage has templates – to inspire and hopefully make your job easier.
Here is the hack I still use today:
- Go to Pinterest and search for “Infographics”.
- Go to the Templates page of Venngage (you have to be logged in).
- Pick one or a few you like. Then use that as the base style.
- Create an outline of the infographic with all the charts and elements (on paper)
- Create the infographic on a tool like Venngage (using the outline and template)
- Change the color, fonts and other elements to create your own style derivative.
On color schemes:
The best way to pick a good color scheme is to look at other infographics for inspiration. Or if you like a particular color, you can use Color Lovers to find color schemes that match a particular color. It’s a great tool. I use it all the time.
I’m not a big fan of using many different fonts. Two is often enough. Stick to one type of font – either Sans Serif types or Serif type fonts, for consistency. What’s the difference?
A lot of people will tell you to use Sans Serif fonts for a more modern digital look and Serif fonts for more traditional print look. I think it depends on what you want and your style. My go-to font is Helvetica or Arial but that is because I’m a minimalist. But I recently read an article on the NYT about how Sans Serif fonts makes us believe something is true. People trust old school fonts more for conveying information. Go figure.
Pick a layout and put everything together. Stick with a simple grid for symmetry and ease of reading. I’m a stickler for symmetry and uneven margins bother me more than they should. The infographic should be well balanced. If you stick to a grid system, you should be fine. If you’ve created an outline or picked a template, you should just follow that layout.
On chart types:
Most people have the tendency to think that data visualization has to be big and complex in order to deliver an impact. How many people actually know how to interpret a dense network diagram or something like a chord diagram?
Stick to charts you would expect in an Excel spreadsheet – bar, column, line, pie or bubble charts. Or better still, just use words and numbers if charts aren’t necessary. Tell your readers the story point instead of expecting them to interpret the data.
It’s all about readability. In the age of newspapers, editors used to tell their writers to stick to a grade 5-7 readability level when writing articles. Keep the charts simple, guys.
Before you dive into actually creating the infographic, it is a good idea to create an outline on paper. It helps with organizing the flow of the story. Here’s an example of one we recently did. (This one has a bit more detail than the usual outline, but you get the point)
Lastly, you use a digital tool to get it all together, with a proper headline, sub headers and additional information such as sources and a call to action. For example, from the outline above, we created this (click on it to see the full infographic):
5. Promote your infographic
Congratulations! You’re finally done with the infographic. Not really. If you’re creating the infographic for marketing purposes, you’ve got one more step, and that’s promoting it. After all, there is no point creating content if no one sees it, is there?
Here are some methods on how to promote your infographics:
- Share on all your social channels
- Send out an email newsletter. Check out how to make emails more engaging with infographics here.
- Ask your advocates to share explicitly.
- Post it on social discovery sites like Stumbled Upon, Reddit, Imgur..etc.
- Outreach – find bloggers who will benefit from sharing your infographic. I wrote a bit about this in How we got 200k signups with an Infographic.
If you’re not a big brand with a large following, you’ll get limited mileage on most of these methods without determined effort on outreach. Outreach is an unavoidable necessity. It’s like cold calling and door to door selling. It works, but usually not how you would expect it to. You have to start small, at the bottom of the influencer pyramid and work your way up.
That’s it. Thanks for making it this far. Hopefully this was somewhat useful. Let us know if you need more details on any of the steps above. Comment below or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.