Powerful, well-done infographics are similar to what I wish meeting someone for the first time was like: simple, straightforward, and it would be amazing to know everything about them at one glance.
Hence, for graphic designers, an infographic is quite the test of skill.
Shouldn’t Simplicity be Simple?
If only that were true. For designers, the most simplistic designs can be the most trying.
It’s a lot easier to complicate something than it is to break it down to its bare bones, and make something pretty out of it.
And it is! Take writing, for example. What if I were to task you with writing a short story. Say, around 2,000 words. Easy enough, right? There are endless options, and the ideas (should, anyway) flow easily.
Now, what if I asked you to create a simpler story — an informational piece using the least amount of words possible (that is still compelling!), with content that is easily digestible. Oh, and I need a child to be able to understand it.
While the second example should be more simple since it requires less words, the process of shrinking something down takes quite the amount of thought and effort. Not to mention all of the second-guessing that ensues.
Value is Key
If you replace writing in the example prior with visuals, you’ve just gotten a description of an infographic. And if i’ve learned one thing about infographics, it’s that value is the bare bones of it all.
Every element within your piece needs to have definite value.
Value speaks louder than pretty visuals; value is the purpose of creating an infographic in the first place. Someone is looking at an infographic with the goal of understanding a concept — and they want to understand in a quick, simple manner.
What Exactly is an Infographic?
Prior to my employment at MindTouch, I had never worked on an infographic. My knowledge was only as vast as Google images and Wikipedia allowed it to be. So, you can imagine what went through my mind when I was asked to create one — for a high traffic blog post that contains three of our main KPIs, nonetheless.
What ensued was an immense amount of research, walks around the neighborhood, and talking through my design to others — it helps, I swear. And when I looked over my final product, I noticed three things: 1) my perspective on infographics had changed drastically, 2) I felt more confident in my design skills, and 3) I had gained the ability to truly boil something down, rip it apart, and make it appear better than it had initially.
5 Tips for Building an Infographic
The. Flow. Is. So. Important. Think about it — if you were looking at the visual are you being shown where to look next? Does your eye naturally follow an invisible guide line?
Numbers are important, and important things should be big. Don’t allow data to get lost. Statistics and numbers make your piece more credible.
Color choice could be the difference between someone simply reading the title and sticking around to view the whole piece. If your visual isn’t visually appealing, would you want to take the time to view it either?
Consistency is key. Make it cohesive.
And lastly, understand what you’re building. If you’re boiling something down, having a solid grasp on what your point is should be an understatement.
Getting back to this whole value thing — it’s the most important part!
Ask yourself: “Will my infographic make sense with [x] in it? Does it provide value to what my topic is?” If your answer is yes, then absolutely keep it. Similarly, if your infographic would not be affected by the absence of [x], kill it. Don’t even hesitate.
This applies to everything within your visual. Every single word of your copy (which should already be sparse) needs to have a reason for being there. Each visual element should make absolute sense — right down to a line or color.
In my infographic, I needed to define a break because I was introducing a new section. I created the navy bar (as pictured above) to contain the title. Then, I thought: “Could this infographic make sense without the navy bar?
What is my infographic really gaining from this?
Nothing would really be affected in its absence, right? The new question became: how can I tie this bar into the theme?
Thus, I added the stat bars to the side of it. This added a visual style, while pertaining to CES. Would my infographic be as strong without this? Nope. Easy, simple, done.
Benefits of an Infographic
If you’re thinking about strengthening your graphic design portfolio with an infographic — absolutely, 100% do it. You will learn your weaknesses and strengthen them in the same project. I can’t think of a stronger piece that you could have on your portfolio.
If you are building an infographic for your company or client, put yourself in their shoes. Imagine that you have no earthly idea of what your topic is about, and your only means of understanding is your infographic.
And, finally, here is the infographic that I created for Customer Success:
Customer success is fascinating to me, so I’m honored to have had the opportunity to work on this visual. Be sure to check out the full blog post that this visual was featured on. And a special shoutout to Jen; without your feedback and advice, I wouldn’t have learned nearly as much.
If you’re interested in seeing more of my design work for MindTouch, be sure to check out my portfolio. I find that I get inspiration from seeing others’ work, and maybe you will, too.
Thanks for reading; now, get out there and be an infographic pro.
Or, continue the conversation with me! Let’s talk design here: