WHAT ARE INFOGRAPHICS AND WHY USE THEM
According to the Cambridge dictionary, infographics are “a picture or diagram or a group of pictures or diagrams showing or explaining information”. Based off of just this explanation, it can be a little hard to understand what exactly an infographic is. Fortunately, you have already seen them. They are everywhere and have been around since the 1700s. “Data made visual” is an easier definition to understand.
To give a little history of it, you have William Playfair, who “invented” line graphs, pie charts, and bar graphs. And when I say invented, I mean he is the founder of graphical methods of statistics. “William Playfair invented four types of diagrams: in 1786 the line graph and bar chart of economic data, and in 1801 the pie chart and circle graph, used to show part-whole relations.”
APPEARANCE OF AN INFOGRAPHIC
The more creative, new, and visually unique an infographic is often the most effective. The reason for this is because it grabs attention! Crazy colours, bright photos, and large fonts are constantly bombarding us from all sides. As such, seeing something unique and different draws our attention. But outside of that, an infographic needs to not only grab attention but also keep it! Otherwise, the most important thing for an infographic is the content.
It doesn’t matter how visually appealing or beautiful an infographic is if the information it has to say doesn’t come across. The main point of an infographic is to convey information or data in a visual way that is easier to take in than if it was all in text. This means you have to use a combination of text, images, icons, colours, fonts, and data to inform and engage.
WHY USE INFOGRAPHICS
Infographics can be useful in pretty much any industry. They are used to make it easy to take in, understand, and remember complex information and large amounts of data. Infographics help provide someone with a quick rundown on information that will otherwise take a long time to explain.
The most common uses for an infographic are…
The visual breakup of large amounts of text
Visual display data, findings, or research
Quick overview or summary of a topic
Explain and simplify a complex process
Compare, contrast, or relate multiple views
TYPES OF INFOGRAPHICS
Based on what I’ve read online and seen from various online providers in their categories, there are 5 general categories…
Informational infographics are text-heavy and work best without additional info around them. They summarize and provide explanations. An example of this type of infographic can be a summary of a blog post or a book. Typically, an informational infographic is divided into sections with descriptive headers, so there isn’t one giant flow of the text.
Statistical infographics focus on numbers, charts, icons, and data. They contain much less text, have a more freeform outline with no specific flow, and make statements with facts. They are most common to display results and statistics. Key statistics can be easily set out against the rest or all data can be displayed equally.
Flow infographics include timelines, steps and process, journeys and paths, lists, and hierarchy. These infographics are meant to show data that flows together and has a process from point A to point B. Numbering, arrows, or a line flowing through each section helps your infographic design flow. Use headings or labels to differentiate each step of the flow.
Geographic infographics are exactly what they sound like. Your best bet for displaying information dependant on location is a geographic infographic. For example, you can use this infographic to show how different industries are populated around the world. Geographic infographics compare data by region or demographic through heat maps, series of maps, or labels.
Comparison infographics focus on providing information to help readers choose between multiple options. It is very important that comparison infographics are either unbiased (meaning, splitting each section equally with space, graphics, and information) or completely biased where you make sure your reader focuses on what is most prominent.
FIVE THINGS TO KNOW TO MAKE INFOGRAPHICS
Let’s start with a few basic questions to help you make an infographic…
1. WHAT IS YOUR INFOGRAPHIC PURPOSE?
This one, I think, is the most important step and the first question to ask. Do you want to condense information for easy reading or just have something break up your text? As mentioned in my previous article, the most common uses for an infographic are, a) visual breakup of large amounts of text; b) visual display data, findings, or research; c) quick overview or summary of a topic; d) explain and simplify a complex process, and; e) compare, contrast, or relate multiple views.
You can have multiple reasons for creating an infographic, but I’ve found it’s a good idea to find one and stick with it. This is one of those cases where choosing multiple reasons leads to a jack of all trades, master of none scenario. If you are thinking you want it to be a visual breakup, you may focus more on the aesthetics than the actual data. In contrast, if you are more focused on the data, it may turn out to not be so visually appealing. There is a fine line that you will need to straddle here.
2. WHAT IS YOUR INFOGRAPHIC DATA?
Generally, I break down infographics into 5 main categories with their own functions and reasons. To quickly summarize my previous article information infographics are text-heavy and summarize or provide explanations; statistical infographics focus on numbers, charts, icons, and data; flow infographics include timelines, lists, and hierarchy; geographic infographics are for information dependant on location, and; comparison infographics help readers choose between multiple options.
As such, make sure your data is relevant. Do you need to display it visually? Can your audience understand the content better as a graphic or as text? Will displaying a book summary as a line graph make sense to your audience? You need to take all of this into account when planning out your category. Also, you need to make sure that whatever information you are displaying has a prominent message/data point. What do you want people to take away from this graphic?
3. WHO IS YOUR INFOGRAPHIC AUDIENCE?
This one is nice and sweet, and I am going to use icons as an example… some readers may be more likely to understand photos or even detailed graphics of an object over a stylized icon. I am embarrassed to admit that it took me a long time to realize what the sharing icon on mobile devices represents. It is your job to know your audience and match their needs. You have to understand though that the simpler a graphic is, the more interpretations people can make of it.
At this point, you need to draw out a rough sample and show it to someone unfamiliar with the subject. A fresh set of eyes are always the most honest… if your reader doesn’t understand it, you have to change it. This is also really good if you have a specific message you want your reader to walk away with. If someone unfamiliar with it looks at the graphic and remembers a specific data point, make sure it’s the one you want them to remember? If not, change things around until it is.
4. HOW WILL YOU DISPLAY THE INFOGRAPHICS?
For me, this one is extremely important. I will never create an infographic without know where it will be displayed and how. The first thing to look at here would be digital versus print. You can obviously use the same one for both, but knowing your limits is important. For example, if the graphic is meant for a full page in a 9 x 12 portrait textbook, I will not make it in landscape format. Additionally, when going to social media I always go with square proportions.
Additionally, what will be around the infographic? Will it be displayed by itself on a white poster board or in the middle of a page full of paragraphs of text? All of these factors help determine what your graphic will look like. In this regard, we are linking back to the category slightly as well, some infographics need to be displayed as an extra emphasis on the already provided information, while others work better without having additional text or graphics around them.
5. HOW DO YOUR INFOGRAPHICS LOOK?
Firstly, how does it look before you make it? Do some research and take note of how others are displaying similar information. If you see a pattern, it may be there for a reason. Remember, it is always good to think outside the box, but you must know where the box is. If every single infographic in the world displays a timeline as a line, maybe it’s not such a good idea to do it as a square (unless that is what your information is trying to prove).
At this point, you will also need to think a bit more outside the infographic itself and back into its context. Does it follow your company brand? Should it? Are the fonts used for the infographic easily paired with those used in the content around it? Are the elements used seen in other areas of the content? An example of this is a textbook with graphs… if every single graph used in the book is a bar graph, don’t create a line graph. Let everything flow together.
WHERE TO GET PRE-MADE INFOGRAPHICS FROM
Infographics are data made visual and can be extremely useful for multiple purposes. Those include visually breaking up text, displaying data, and providing a quick overview or summary of a topic. You can also use infographics to explain and simplify a complex process, or compare, contrast, or relate different views. If you are interested in using pre-made infographics instead of making your own, there are many sources online where you can find them.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN PRE-MADE INFOGRAPHICS
Firstly, answer the same questions as if you were making the infographics yourself.
What is the purpose of using an infographic?
What is the data you want to display?
Who is your infographic audience?
How will you display your infographic?
How does your infographic look?
Although, I will emphasize the second question here as it is the one that is most important for pre-made infographics. When looking for pre-made infographics, you have to remember that you will have limited editing capabilities. As such, you will need to make sure that the amount of data you have matches the pre-made infographic. If you can edit it, then have fun with it. What I mean by this is, don’t grab a 3-tier triangle to display your company hierarchy if you have 5 levels. Simple.
HOW TO MAKE PRE-MADE INFOGRAPHICS YOUR OWN
The most important thing to keep in mind when using pre-made infographics are editing capabilities. When looking for anything pre-made you need to make sure you can make it your own. The last thing you want is for your audience to have already seen that same graphic with those colours, fonts, and styles in your competitor’s materials. As such, make sure you read all the details before purchasing and testing everything you download.
The things you need to do be able to change to make pre-made infographics your own are the fonts and colours to match your brand, proportions and dimensions to fit your needs, and shapes and empty slots to match your data.
WHERE TO FIND PRE-MADE INFOGRAPHICS
Let’s get down to it! I am going to give you 5 main sources where to find pre-made infographics. Even so, make sure you know what you are looking for and how you plan to use it before downloading anything.
Usually, I like free. Who doesn’t? But in this case, my number one option is Venngage. It has everything I could ever need when it comes to infographics. Hopefully, it has everything you could ever need too. It also has enough inspiration to help you out, if you ever get stuck on a project. The pricing isn’t even that bad if you make infographics often.
This is a rather new platform for me. But I was very impressed with it when I came across it first and there are more and more things about it that keep impressing me. One of them being the infographics section. The best thing about this one is that (other than being free) you make edits right online. Note. There are some paid features.
Although there aren’t that many options available, the ones that are there are extensive. Here, you can find full packages of pre-made infographics. This can be especially helpful when you know you will be needing multiple infographics and you want them all to follow the same style and basic concept.
4. BUSINESS PRESENTATIONS.
For this one, I am not providing a specific location or link, but I will lean towards DesignCutsand CreativeMarket. Business presentations are always a good source for editable pre-made infographics, as they are usually part of a pitch-deck. Find some presentations, flip through them, and you will probably have the software required to use them yourself.
This last option here may be a bit of a surprise but it is the one I use 99% of the time when making infographics. This is mainly because I prefer not to use any pre-made infographics but to make my own from scratch. Unfortunately, I am not an iconographer and have found it is easier to get my icons from other places.