Content marketers know that visual content is, in many cases, the content of choice. Virtually every company is incorporating visual content in their content marketing strategy.
But small companies don’t always have designers readily available for every piece of visual content they need, leaving content marketers to try and come up with their own designs–to varying degrees of success.
That’s why sites like Venngage that offer templates for graphic design are so handy. Admittedly, though, the template can only get you so far, especially if you want to customize it to fit your brand or specific occasion.
You don’t have to be a designer to make beautiful infographics, but you do need to keep some basic design principles in mind. Here are 5 essential infographic design tips for content marketers.
1. Use negative space in your layouts.
It’s easy to get carried away trying to pack as much information into your infographic as possible. The result is an infographic that is cluttered and hard to read. How do you avoid overburdening your infographic with tightly-packed content? Respect negative space.
Negative space is the empty space around a defining object. When objects are positioned too closely together, they become more difficult to distinguish from each other. Surrounding each object with some negative space gives readers pause to process a point before moving on to the next one.
Let’s take another look at my first infographic:
There’s a lot going on in such a small space. I tried to cram a bunch of text and icons together in close quarters, and as a result, the infographic is cluttered and confusing. Spacing out the content will lend to a better flow of information and a more organized design.
Because you have a limited amount of space, every piece of information on the infographic should say something important. This may involve cutting down your information, but this is actually a good thing–editing your content to highlight only the important points will make your infographic more effective.
2. Contrasting colors get attention.
You might find yourself wanting to splatter more and more color onto your infographic until it looks like a totally rad Jackson Pollock painting. The problem is, that motif doesn’t translate well to infographics.
While you definitely want to make your infographic exciting and visually interesting, the primary purpose of an infographic is to make information easy to understand.
As a rule of thumb, stick to using 2 – 4 contrasting colors in a given section of the infographic. Any more than that will be overwhelming for the eyes. What’s more, if your infographic is divided into sections, make sure that the color schemes for each section don’t clash. You can make your color scheme cohesive by carrying one color from the previous section into the next section as a connective link.
If your infographic is not divided into sections, then you will want to apply the rule of only 2 – 4 contrasting colors to the whole infographic.
This doesn’t mean that you should avoid using bright colors and choose only muted backgrounds and accents. It’s about finding a balance. You can use a bright color like orange as a background as long as your text or visuals are in a color that won’t be drowned out, like purple. If you are unsure of which colors go well with each other, it’s a good idea to consult a color wheel. Colors that are opposite each other on the color wheel contrast well.
Another rule of thumb: avoid using dark colors on a dark background, and light colors on a light background. This is especially important when it comes to choosing a color for text, as text with a color too similar to the background will be hard to read.
3. Be mindful of text and fonts.
Similar to how you don’t want to overburden your design with too many contrasting colors, be mindful of how many different font styles you use. As a rule, your infographic design should be consistent. Using a different font for every point will distract the reader from the actual information and will give your design a cluttered and incoherent look.
Generally, use a maximum of 2 – 3 different font styles–one for titles, one for subheadings, and one for body text. Or use only one font style and vary the font size between titles and body text. The route you take is up to you, but whichever one you choose, make sure to keep it consistent throughout the entire infographic.
Shall we take another look at my unfortunate first infographic?
I’m counting at least seven different fonts here, including the YouTube logo, which, yes, does count when it’s part of the design.
4. Choosing icons.
Oh, icons. Those cute little adornments that have the power to transform your infographic from drab, to dazzling, to dreadful, all in a matter of minutes. When using icons, it’s important to stop yourself from going overboard like a kid with a sticker book.
Remember that icons are meant to complement the text without detracting from it–except in cases where easily recognizable icons replace text, like if you were to use a sports team logo or a social media site logo. The key is to make sure that the icons you use are relevant to the text and are used sparingly.
When used well, icons can make an infographic look more fun, more professional, and more visually interesting than an infographic without them. You can read a more detailed guide for using icons in infographics here.
5. Pay attention to page parameters.
Returning to the principle of respecting negative space, it’s a good idea to leave a margin around the content in your infographic. Content that presses right up against the sides of the infographic lends to a more cluttered, unfinished appearance.
As a rule of thumb, leave at least a 20-pixel margin around the content of your infographic. That’s one square on a standard design grid.
This means that if the template you are using isn’t big enough to accommodate your content, you might have to adjust the dimensions. If that’s the case, it’s generally better to make your infographic longer than wider. Instinctively, people scroll up and down because of how web pages and smart phones are designed, so having a long infographic that requires scrolling up and down will feel more natural than one that requires scrolling left and right.
Most infographics are about 816 pixels in width and over 1500 pixels in height. If you find that you have too much information to fit into an infographic of a comparable size, you may have to consider cutting down your content.
A bright future ahead of you!
Remember, the purpose of an infographic is to communicate information in an engaging and easily digestible way, using a visually interesting design. It’s better to create an infographic that is plain and a bit boring but easy to read than one where the information is overpowered by too many gaudy visuals.
With some practice and careful consideration of the 5 essential infographic design tips outlined in this article, you will be able to create infographics that are both easy to read and easy on the eyes. Trust me, I know.
Below is an infographic I made that summarizes the points in this article.