8 Approaches For Picking Memorable Infographic Ideas [Infographic]

By Eugene Woo, Mar 09, 2017

Infographics: Infographic Ideas

Have you ever published an infographic only to find no one cared?

We certainly have.

Back in the early days of Venngage, we would publish infographics that no one would even look at. They wouldn’t even open our emails in the first place.

We wondered: why doesn’t our audience care about something we’ve put so much effort into creating?

Then we realized: often enough, our infographic ideas just weren’t that interesting.

A lot of people rush into picking a topic. They literally spend 15 minutes brainstorming obvious infographic ideas without giving proper thought to whether the topic will resonate with their audience.

Then they spend the next week researching information, collecting data, and designing their infographic, only to publish it to an audience that doesn’t care.

 

Why Aren’t People Looking at Your Infographics?

We live in an extremely noisy world. We are constantly bombarded by thousands of messages everyday on social media, emails, TV, and anywhere else you’re hooked up.

That means your audience won’t care about topics that are boring, old and don’t resonate strongly with them, no matter how much you try to push it to them.

In fact, we did a content benchmark study last year where we looked at over 100k articles (including text articles, infographics, video posts) to see what content performed the best.

And you know what we found?

The vast majority of them had zero shares and likes. No one cared about them at all.

A lot of people were publishing into the void and wasting their time.

Infographics: Noise

How do you get people to care? How do you get them to click and share?

The first step of creating a good infographic is to choose a great topic. Starting out strong with a great topic ensures that you’ll have an audience.

As obvious as this is, spending time and focusing on picking a great topic is often overlooked.

Think:

What should your infographic be about? What’s the core message you’re trying to send? What’s the main question the topic answers?

In this article, I’m going to share seven approaches you can take to answer those questions.

Here are eight proven approaches for choosing great infographic ideas. These approaches form part of our Marketing Playbook and were created from our own experience of being in the infographic publishing trenches over the last four years.

Infographic: Infographic Ideas

Embed this infographic by copying and pasting the code below:

<img class="alignnone size-full wp-image-3047" src="https://venngage-wordpress.s3.amazonaws.com/uploads/2017/03/infographic-ideas-2.jpg" alt=“Infographics: Infographic Ideas" width="1000" height="4100" /></a>
<p style="text-align: center; font-size: 14px; padding-top: 4px;">See this <a href="https://venngage.com/blog/infographic-ideas/">infographic on Venngage</a>.</p>

 

1. Solve a Burning Problem

A surefire way to get people to care about your infographic is to pick a topic that solves a burning problem.  

That means you have to know your audience and their problems. Again, this is rather obvious but very few people take the time to find out what their audience’s actual problems are.

There are two simple ways to do this:

  1. Ask your audience directly.
  2. Challenge the status quo.

a. Ask your audience directly

How do you figure out what’s on your audience’s mind?

Well…why not ask them directly?

My approach is to send a few select users an email asking them what they are struggling with, and then follow up with a call and see if there are any common problems we can address in an infographic.

Infographics: Ask

Another approach is to send a survey to your audience that asks them questions about problems they face.

We did this when we sent out a survey to marketers asking them what kind of visual content worked best for them in 2016 and which content didn’t.

From this, our team were able to create an infographic that answers the question of which types of visual content were the most successful for marketers in 2016, and where visual content trends are headed in 2017.

Infographics: Visual Marketing



Needless to say, marketers found it very insightful!

b. Solve your own problem

Do you have a problem of your own that you want to solve?

Make that the topic of your infographic. It’s a win-win!

After all, if you’re encountering a problem, odds are other people are as well.

For example, our marketing team were trying to figure out how to create great graphics for our social media channels. It’s a problem a lot of other marketers face, so it made for a relevant topic.

Infographics: Social Media Visual Guide



Together with HubSpot, they created an infographic guide to creating epic social media graphics. Suffice to say, it was a hit among marketers.

Our marketing team also wanted to know how to get a slide deck featured on the front page of SlideShare. They had published slide decks before but never got the reach they wanted.

So what did they do?

They asked a handful of experts on the topic and created an infographic and slide deck out of their findings:

Infographics: SlieShare Tips

The infographic still performs well because it’s one of a kind.

And here are some other examples of infographics that solve real problems that people have:

Infographics: Burning Problems

For example, as someone who isn’t a morning person and has always wanted to be more productive in the mornings, the “Take Back Your Mornings” infographic really resonated with me. The title immediately grabbed my attention.

 

2. Challenge the Status Quo

A lot of us are afraid of upsetting our audience. We think we have to protect our audience, and as a result, we come up with these safe and boring infographic examples that no one cares about.

You need to push the status quo.

Ask yourself:

    • Does your infographic make your audience rethink conventional wisdom?
    • Does it challenge your audience’s beliefs and behaviors?

Here’s a recent example of how we challenged that status quo:

It’s quite a common practice for marketers to use Twitter hashtags as a way of getting more reach and a larger following. We knew intuitively that there are a lot of spam and bots on Twitter that use hashtags to automate likes, retweets and follows.

What did we do?

You guessed it: we decided to challenge the status quo.

We analyzed over 137k marketing tweets and found out that hashtags were, indeed, ineffective, as most of the activity generated was done so using bots and spammers.

The resulting infographic, “Why Twitter Hashtags are Worthless”, generated thousands of real discussions, likes and shares among marketers. In fact, it’s one of our most popular infographics to date.

Infographics: Hashtags



Here’s a simple exercise you can do to come up with original topics:

Think of three things that are a give-in in your job, field or industry. These can be common beliefs or practices that are taken for granted.

For example, if you work as a marketer in an ad agency, three beliefs that are a give-in could be:

  1. Superbowl ads are really expensive.
  2. All companies need to hire an ad agency.
  3. You need to spend a lot of money on social media for it to be effective.

After you’ve listed down the three beliefs that adhere to the status quo, you can start challenging them.

Gary Vaynerchuk challenged the first belief in an article he wrote:

Infographics: Gary V

While everyone was complaining about how expensive Super Bowl ads are, he proclaimed that they aren’t expensive enough! And he backs it up by showing that the audience reach (the Super Bowl bring most watched TV event of the year) and resulting return on investment are well worth it.

 

3. Change the Perspective

There is always a traditional way of framing a story or narrative but you can make it so much more interesting by changing or reframing the perspective.

All it takes is a bit of creative thinking.

Let’s look at an example from the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation:

Infographics: Gates Foundation

One the main focuses of the foundation is to eliminate malaria in developing countries. But how do they get people in the first world to care about malaria?

Unfortunately, there is a huge gap when it comes to malaria and people living in the first world. For most of us, malaria is not a problem we worry about, we don’t see cases here nor do we hear about it much.

So how do you get people to care about it?

The traditional narrative when it comes to diseases like malaria is to show data on the disease itself–the mortality rate, the impact on population, and the success rates of interventions.

Something like the infographic below:

Infographics: Malaria

Source

If you work for a nonprofit, this type of infographic should look familiar. Unfortunately, in today’s noisy world, it’s hard to resonate with a jaded audience that doesn’t worry about Malaria or think about it much.

So how do you reframe this perspective to make it more captivating?

Here’s what they did:

Instead of relying on the traditional perspective, the Gates Foundation created an infographic that focused on the world’s deadliest animal. The infographic doesn’t even talk about malaria directly.

In fact, it’s a simple infographic that merely ranks animals by the number of people they kill each year:

Infographics: Deadliest Animals

A quick look at the infographic will reveal that mosquitoes is by far the biggest killer of humans. The result is a surprising and memorable infographic.

In fact, the infographic went viral and got a lot of people asking how mosquitos could be killing so many people. The foundation was able to connect these people back to their bigger cause to fight malaria.

 

4. Find Origin Stories

For every topic, there is an origin story of how that topic came to be.

Think about it:

Just like the origin stories of superheroes, the origin stories of a field of interest, industry, company or influential person often make for a great infographic.

Infographics: Spider-Man

For example, virtual reality (VR) was one of the hottest topics last year and there were so many infographics and articles about VR. Most of these articles talked about the latest VR headsets and the possible uses of the headsets.

How do you create an interesting angle from a topic that is noisy and heavily covered?

Look for the origin story.

Take this example:

The origin story of VR would’ve made an interesting topic for an infographic. For example, Business Insider published an article about how Apple was an early pioneer in VR and even had a VR product back in the 1980s.

Infographics: VR

An infographic could have easily been made using that information.

Another example is an infographic we made showing the history of the products announced at Google I/O, from the first event in 2008 to this year.

Infographics: Google I/O



Tech enthusiasts liked looking back at the products over the years, to see Google got to where they are now.

 

5. Find Extreme Cases

Another way of choosing a good topic is to look for the extremes.

These are the outliers in your field of interest. In statistics, outliers are often “cleaned” or removed because  their influence on the rest of the data might skew the analysis.

But these outliers are often interesting.

For example, a study of how people use VR on a daily basis found that the amount of time people use VR headsets spans between a few minutes (viewing VR video) and a few hours (gaming).

But there are some extreme outliers here.

Like one person who spent 48 hours in VR.

Infographics: Extreme VR

An extreme example like this makes for an interesting story and, in turn, would be an interesting topic for an infographic.

 

6. Go Outside Your Immediate Field

One of the surest ways of turning your audience away from an infographic is to talk only about yourself and your product.

No matter how you spin it, it will probably sound either sales-y or arrogant.

It’s better to choose a topic specific to your industry or field.

Try this:

Go outside your immediate field. In our case, we create infographics on content marketing, graphic design and data visualization.

All of these topics are beyond our immediate field of infographics but related. But our infographics address problems that our audience faces.

Infographics: Outside Field

We’ve taken this approach for a bunch of our infographics on our blog and the results have been very successful.

For example:

A sizeable portion of our users are startup and small business owners. So we created an infographic about “The Anatomy of a Killer Startup Name” that categorized startup company names based on similar patterns:

Infographics: Startup Names



 

7. Find Niches and Subcultures

Another way of finding angles of interest for topics that are popular and “noisy” is to look for a niche or subculture within that broader topic.

Finding a niche is a strategy that businesses use when they are trying to enter a new market. The same approach can be applied to infographics and content marketing.

You have to find a “beach head” to land your ideas and carve out your own audience.

Here’s an example from Priceonomics:

Music is an extremely popular topic, and infographics about the top X in music charts are common. But the music preferences of a group like hipsters isn’t only uncommon, it also makes for an engaging topic.

Infographics: Hipster Pug

Here’s another example that’s closer to home:

We created an infographic on how to create a popular infographic on Pinterest. Sure, there are many articles and infographics about how to create popular infographics and graphics for social media.

But ours is the only infographic specifically focused on Pinterest.

Infographics: Pinterest

More than two years later, our infographic is still one of our most popular infographics in the marketing category.

 

8. Mash Up Two or More Infographic Ideas

This approach is as straightforward as it sounds–you take two seemingly unrelated topics and mash them up. The resulting topic is usually something viewed with a fresh perspective.

For example, when the new Star Wars movie was about to be released two years ago, we decided to create an infographic for the general public.

But we did not want to jump on the bandwagon and create yet another typical Star Wars infographic covering movie statistics, box office comparisons, or character features.

Then we had an idea:

Seeing as we’re an infographic company focused on design, we decided to combine both design and Star Wars. The result was an infographic called Design with the Force. It was about how Star Wars used design principles in their cinematography that you could apply to other areas of design.

Infographics: Star Wars

The infographic has been shared over 2K times and is one of the most popular infographic on our site to date.

We also used this approach to celebrate the release of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Being big Harry Potter fans, we wanted to create an infographic that would appeal to other fans.

The problem is, there’s a ton of infographics about the Harry Potter movies out there already.

Our solution?

We mashed up two things that we love: Harry Potter and startup culture.

Infographics: Harry Potter

While it might seem like a weird combination, it worked. It’s one of our most shared infographics to date.

 

Are Your Infographic Ideas Exciting to You?

It never hurts to ask yourself if you honestly think your own infographic is worth reading. Because if you’re getting bored looking at it, then you know you have a problem.

But if you know that your infographic is covering a fresh topic, then you’re on the right track.

And if you really have no idea where to start…we do have an infographic idea generator called Klock.Work.

Next time, I’ll walk you through the steps for how to collect data for your infographic. Until then!

About Eugene Woo

Chief Data Scientist and Cofounder