So you want to become an expert at infographic design?
In this guide you will learn 13 qualities that will lead to designing better infographics:
- Planning your infographic design
- Visualizing Data
- Infographic Design Elements
- Negative Space
People have been going nuts about infographics since the infographic design boom of 2012. No, really, that was a thing--between 2010 and 2012, searches for infographics increased by a whopping 80%. Since then, infographics and infographic design have become a standard form visual used in content across niches.
That's because infographics can communicate information in a condensed and highly visual way--when designed well. The problem is that for every well made infographic published, there are a handful of poorly produced infographic designs circling the web. Poorly designed infographics can skew and obscure information, rather than make it easier to understand.
Creating a beautiful and effective infographic design isn't hard, it just takes a basic understanding of infographic design best practices, and some practice. This is your crash course to effective infographic design. Let's get started.
1. Planning Your Infographic Design
a) Find a story
In every set of data there's a story. Before you begin designing your infographic, think of the story you are trying to tell. The angle you choose will help you determine which information to include. Because infographics allow for limited space for content, the purpose of your infographic should be focused. That's why the layout of your infographic should not only reflect the theme of your information, but also enhance the communication of it.
For example, if the data you are collecting is about how coffee changed America, you could use a timeline infographic template.
Or for a informational infographic about the earth, you could use a sectional infographic template to both list and demonstrate the different layers of the earth.
Start off strong with a bold header for your infographic, using bolder typefaces and colors. If you have a wordy title such as “Dynamically Generate URLS in Excel or Google Sheets”, extract the main idea from the title to “Generate URLS” and create a typographic composition highlighting the main idea.
Grids and wireframes are the structural base to any design. Designing on a grid allows you to easily organize elements and information. Grids also play an essential role in keeping objects and elements aligned. For example, when aligning icons in a list, you can reference the same vertical grid line and then space the subtext of each list item accordingly.
For your infographic design, use a grid system to create margins. It's good practice to keep enough space in between your elements and the edge of your canvas to avoid visual tension. A design can potentially have any size of margin you desire but it's important to keep the margin consistent all the way along the edge of your canvas. A good rule of thumb is to keep all objects and elements at least 20px (one square on the grid) away from the edge of the canvas.
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Select a layout for your infographic design that best suits your information. There are hundreds of possible infographic templates out there to choose from. For example, you could use a one column layout for a minimal infographic, or create a list infographic by spitting the layout into two columns. You can read a more in-depth article on selecting the right infographic template for your data here.
5. Visualize Data
Pro tip: always start your infographic planning with pen and paper. This way, you can work through concepts and designs roughly before finalizing a digital copy.
a) Choose the right chart types
The type of data you are trying to convey will determine which chart type you choose. To decide which type of chart would best convey your data, you first have to determine what kind of data you want to present: a single important number? A comparison between data points? A trend over time? An outlier?
The types of charts most commonly used in infographics are pie chart, bar graphs, column graphs, and line charts. For example, a column graph is one of the easiest ways to compare data.
And to convey a trend over time, the most common type of chart to use is a line chart.
But if you think of a more unusual chart that would convey the data effectively, don't be afraid to get more creative. For example, you can identify and show the trends such as sales over time, correlations such as sales compared temperature or outliers such as sales in an unusual area.
A good rule of thumb is that your charts should be easy enough to read that it only takes readers ten second or less to understand. You can read a more in-depth article on choosing the right chart type here.
6. Infographic Design Elements
Typography is a very important element for infographic design and your one way to explain your ideas and information when images, graphs or icons can’t. That being said, try to limit the amount of text you include on your infographic. The best infographics have visual impact, with the text acting as a secondary explanation for the visual content.
First and foremost, make sure your type is legible. In most cases, avoid decorative or script type as it tends to be hard to read. If you have to use small text, use it sparingly, and it always helps to increase the line height of bodies of small text if it starts to become hard to read.
To keep infographic designs cohesive, limit your use of fonts to a maximum of three types, but also don’t stick with just one. A tasteful use of two fonts can create a nice dynamic and hierarchy of information. For example, a number or statistic in one font type next subtext in another creates a hierarchy of information.
The use of photography can be tricky if there is not a photographer available to take the shots of exactly what you need. There are ways to work around not having a photographer at hire by using royalty free images from places like Pixabay or Unsplash. The only risk is that using stock images can look uncreative and, frankly, cheesy. That's why you need to take care when deciding which images to use.
Be sure that the photos you use have a consistent style and lighting. Try to pick photos with the same lighting effects, same backdrops, same amount of dark areas, etc. It is important to stick to a certain style as images that clearly don’t fit the set will distract from the information being communicated. If you're going for a simple modern use of photography, use only images with flat colour (or white) backdrops. If you're going for a neutral newspaper approach, use only black and white images.
Photos that take up a majority of space in your infographic, which can distract from information. This issue can be solved by using a cropping such as circle frames.
8. Contrast In Your Infographic Design
Contrast creates visual impact by placing two strikingly different elements beside each other. If an infographic has a light background with bold colored shapes, our eyes are immediately attracted to the bold colors. This allows you to organize information by having a certain element more prominent than another.
a) Contrast Using Color
Try pairing complementary colors to make your headline pop. One of my favourite combinations is a darker blue with a brighter color like orange which makes your headline stand out.
b) Contrast Using Typography Sizes
A header is usually the largest text on an infographic, followed by the subheader and then the body copy. The header should pretty much always be the largest point size so that the viewer knows the subject of your infographic right off the bat.
c) Contrast Using Imagery
Use a tinted image contrasted with a chart overtop to add context.
9. Balance (Symmetrical and Asymmetrical)
An infographic with visual balance is pleasing to the eyes because everything fits together seamlessly. A balanced infographic keeps the entire composition cohesive, especially in a long form infographic. If there are heavy visuals on the top of an infographic, you should keep the flow going right to the bottom. There are two types of balance: symmetrical and asymmetrical.
Symmetrical balance is when each side of the composition has equal weight. This layout is effective in a comparison infographic.
Asymmetrical balance is more natural and less uniform than a symmetrical composition. It creates a more complex relationship between objects. It can make an infographic more dynamic since the composition is not repeated excessively. For example, if you are creating a timeline, alternate text between both sides of the timeline for a balanced composition.
Decide on a color scheme before creating your infographic. A good rule of thumb is to design your infographic with two or three main colors, and to use minor color accents.
When choosing your color scheme, decide on the tone of your infographic. Is it a business infographic? If so, try using neutral colors like blue or green, or, of course, your brand colors. For fun, eye popping infographics, use brighter hues, but be careful not to use large amounts dark or neon colors as they can be straining to the eyes when viewed on the web.
Color can also be used as a sectional tool. Add blocks of color to section your infographic, giving the eye some breathing room as viewers scroll down.
Here are a couple of helpful tools on the web to help you choose a color palette:
In order for your infographic design to flow from start to finish, the design elements need to be consistent. If you are using icons that are filled in, rather than line art icons, then keep using the same style throughout the entire infographic.
The same goes for the style of images you use, the font style, and the color palette. This will prevent your infographic from looking cluttered, and will actually make it easier to read.
In the example below, the same handwritten style font and realistic style of images are used throughout the infographic.
12. Negative Space
Negative space is the blank space surrounding objects in a design.
Negative space has a big impact on your design. If your infographic is too crowded, it can overwhelm readers and make it difficult to read the information. Creating space around the elements in your design allows readers the breathing room to process the information. Pro tip: if you are using a 16pt size, the line height should be no less than 1.2.
Leaving negative space can be as simple as making sure there is enough space between lines of text. Just look at the difference that a little space makes in the example below:
13. Practice, practice, practice.
This is going to sound cliché, but when it comes designing infographics, it will probably take your a couple of goes at it to get the hang of it. You will need to figure out what works in a design and what doesn't. Luckily, this learning process is made a lot easier by infographic templates and guide. And there are certainly a lot of examples out there for you to draw inspiration from. When in doubt, ask someone else to look over your design before you publish it--they will be able to tell you if there is any information that is unclear, or if there is any way that you could make your design even better.