Visual communication is nothing new. More than 5,000 years ago, ancient Egyptians used pictures instead of words to relay complex information about their life and culture. Today, we call them infographics.
Infographics made their way into the modern lexicon in the early 2010s with the rise of the Internet. Now they’re as ubiquitous as the Internet itself. It’s impossible to scan your Facebook newsfeed, read an online article or even flip through a newspaper or magazine without running into several infographics clamoring for your attention.
And why not? Humans are visual creatures. Studies show that people remember 10 percent of what they hear, 20 percent of what they read, and a whopping 80 percent of what they see and do.
With so much visual information out there, it’s important to consider what separates a helpful, valuable, well-designed infographic from a poorly executed, confusing or downright misleading one.
Infographics: The good, bad and ugly
A good infographic is simple and clear. It distills complex ideas into visual forms with a minimal amount of copy.
A bad infographic is poorly researched, contains incorrect data, sensationalistic information or un-cited sources.
An ugly infographic is cluttered, crowded, complicated, text-heavy, hard to read or difficult to view and share on a digital platform.
Tips for a better infographic
If a picture is worth a thousand words, an effective infographic can tell a whole story. Designers, take note of these tips before diving in to your next infographic assignment.
Start with the audience and message
Think about your end goal. Who do you want to reach? Do you want to inform, persuade or entertain? What main message do you want to convey? These questions will help you create an outline, plan and style.
Say more with less copy
Infographics are a form of visual communication, so save the long-form writing for your next whitepaper. Your copy needs to pack a punch in as few words as possible.
Start with strong headlines and distill information into a handful of bullet points. Remember: quality over quantity is what’s important here.
Achieve balance and flow
If your infographic needs to communicate information in a sequential order, be aware of how the information is presented. A viewer should intuitively know where to look first before moving on to the next section or image. Use visual cues, directional lines arrows or other design elements to indicate movement.
Take care to achieve a balance between text, graphics and white space so your infographic doesn’t appear overcrowded or overwhelm the viewer with information.
Be creative, but clear
Infographics give designers the ability to be creative with how they visualize data and information. However, remember your objective and don’t sacrifice clarity for style. Data should be easy to understand at a glance, so if it’s not, go back to the drawing board.
Make it sharable
A stylish, informative infographic with compelling data begs to be shared. Make it easy for your audience to pass your infographic along to their network.
If it’s part of a blog post, use social plugins. When sharing on social media, make sure it’s sized correctly for the platform. This may mean parsing the data into bite-sized graphics.
When designed with the audience in mind, infographics are an invaluable tool — not only for marketing, but also for other communication objectives like advocacy, public affairs and community engagement. What is your favorite application for infographics?