There are no concrete rules or commandments when it comes to creating a great infographic. Many of the best infographics out there show a willingness to experiment and break away from the norms.
While there are no strict rules for infographics, there are some definite do’s and don’ts when it comes to creating something great. Some of these are more important than others, but all can be used together for an excellent infographic.
Do: Find Credible and Compelling Data
Fancy visuals and incredible design go a long way in making an infographic great. However, the core of the infographic has and always will be the data it uses. Failing to make data interesting is a flaw that no amount of design can fully make up for.
Take, for example, this excellent infographic from Info We Trust. It’s far from the most visually engaging infographic you’ll find. In fact, it’s probably on the simpler and less dynamic side. However, the information presented within — breaking down how some of the greatest minds manage their time throughout the day — is incredibly interesting. Thousands of words could be written on the subject. Instead, the designers broke it down into a simple color-coded scheme.
That example goes to show how good research and strong data are the heart and soul of a good infographic.
Don’t: Be Misleading
If there’s a downside to infographics, it’s that they have to distill complex subjects and numbers into short and easily digestible graphics. That means infographics can sometimes be ripe with misinformation, either through malice or outright ignorance. It was the latter in this much-maligned graphic tweeted from Hillary Clinton’s account.
Presumably, a professional graphic designer was completely unable to represent a Venn diagram in a correct way. This misfire was largely mocked amongst design circles. It goes to show that anybody can make mistakes, so be meticulous with both your research and with how you present the data.
Do: Grab the Readers’ Attention
An infographic doesn’t have to be world-changing with its design, as simplicity is often effective. However, it’s not a bad idea to aim high when it comes to design. We’re not all blessed with the skills, the time or the budget from some of the largest companies out there, but we can still learn a lot from a slick infographic.
This infographic about agriculture imaginatively uses the concept of a pie chart to get its point across in a way that looks amazing and also makes the information readable and clear. Always keep your mind open to creative opportunities you can use in your own infographics.
Don’t: Be Too Wordy
Infographics are a visual medium, but text still plays an important part. In almost all cases, no more than a few sentences should kick off the infographic. Anything more than that, and you’re venturing into article territory.
The South China Morning Post did this extremely well with their infographic about the world’s languages. This is a complex subject that could have easily been overwhelmed by text. Instead, the designers had a short paragraph followed by a two small graphics before diving into the largest portion of the infographic. It’s a delicate balance that was handled effectively by the designers.
The amount of text required is always a bit subjective, but it’s best to lean toward brevity and let the rest of your infographic do the talking. After the intro, try to only use a couple sentences at the most in each instance.
Do: Think About Color
One of the underrated aspects of a good infographic is the use of color. Attractive color schemes, such as this one about the effects of alcohol, show how color can be effectively used. A uniform color scheme can help with branding purposes while also conveying different parts of the information.
Just be careful to avoid using colors in a jarring and off-putting way — which will quickly get people to turn away from your information. Using colors in the right way, though, can help make the infographic flow and make it aesthetically appealing. To view the full infographic, click on the image.
Don’t: Forget to Tell a Story
The best infographics tell a story, and the story doesn’t have to be complicated or even exciting. It just has to take the readers on a journey they find interesting.
The Washington Post did this effectively with their infographic about the challenges of finding an airplane’s black box after a crash over an ocean. This could have been a long and complicated story, but this incredibly strong infographic does more than words ever could. By scrolling down the infographic, you see just how deep the ocean is and how impossible it can be to recover the black box.
However, you don’t need dramatic subject material or a lot of writing to tell a story. The Evolution of Video Game Controllers takes you on a journey from the earliest days of video games to the modern era. It’s fun to look at — almost like a video game itself.
Regardless of what you’re trying to accomplish with your infographic, don’t forget these do’s and don’ts to really make your information shine.