Want a summary of this post? Check out the infographic!
Infographics are playing a larger role in visual storytelling efforts. When they are thoughtfully designed, they provide attention-grabbing visuals that also help the reader better comprehend and remember the message. This added value to the reader often encourages further engagement and sharing.
Based on my experience creating infographics that are used in PR Newswire’s press releases, blog posts and presentations, here are some best practices for designing infographics that drive results:
These tips can be applied to any design process to get the best end result.
- Sketch first, polish later. Before you hop into Photoshop, Illustrator, etc., sketch out your ideas on some old-fashioned paper. My process often starts with a roughly drawn outline of grouped ideas. Once I get that initial visualization of my own thoughts, I can make quick adjustments in another layout sketch before I start work in Adobe’s finest.
- Solicit feedback. As with most creative endeavors, having your work colleagues review your design can help you make the piece even stronger. I will often ask my non-designer teammates for their opinions early on in the process to make sure the concept is being clearly conveyed. I circle back to them again at the end on for fine tuning.
- Start in high resolution.You can always scale down the image, but scaling up takes additional time and resources.
Infographics can take on many forms and be used in multiple channels. Accounting for this early in your design process will save you some time and money.
- Align to your story.The first thing to consider is your reason for creating this image – to support the story in an email campaign, blog post, press release, etc. The information you share in your visual should closely align with the accompanying text of this primary placement. Be sure the terms, structure and tone are consistent to provide cohesive support to your written story.
- Strengthen it to stand alone. You probably want your users to share your image on social media, so it needs to make sense without the accompanying text of your written story. Be sure to include a clear title of what a reader should expect from the graphic. If you’re targeting a niche audience, make sure you clarify this context in the title and/or subtitle.
- Plan for alternate uses. We all have limited resources, so you won’t want to spend extra time reformatting your amazing design after the fact. Be aware of common re-purposing and plan accordingly.Generally, I’d say you should always be prepared for these two scenarios:
- Presentations: Someone in your organization will want to include it in a PowerPoint deck at some point. I always make sure that the featured data of my infographic is in a landscape layout, which can be easily cropped and dropped onto a slide.
- Print-friendly PDFs: Whether for use as sales collateral or an event handout, it’s likely that someone will want to print out your rockstar infographic somewhere down the line. Bearing this in mind, I begin all my layouts in standard paper size (8.5 in x 11 in) in high resolution, allowing for a minimum 0.25” margin of white space.
The trend of long-scrolling, everything-and-the-kitchen-sink data visualization has come and gone. Readers are looking for shorter bursts of visual content .
- Narrow your focus. Keep your audience’s limited attention span focused by narrowing your visual scope to the core of your message. Your ultimate goal should be to clearly convey one idea. If there are additional thoughts and ideas that you want to include, consider the following options:
- Supporting items should take a visual backseat to your key point. The reader’s eye should clearly flow from the title to the key idea first.
- Similar but equally strong ideas might benefit from their own separate graphics. Why squish everything into one, when you can create a short series.
- Perhaps a single infographic is not the best visual solution for your message. For compound, complex ideas, a video might be a better fit to clarify your message. Or, to unify a series of infographics, consider creating a Slideshare presentation and/or a PDF.
- Cut excess words. Infographics should always be easy to scan—and understand—quickly. Limit supporting text to a single sentence whenever possible. If it takes a paragraph to explain a visual, it probably isn’t the right visual to use. Even if you’re creating a visual list, brevity should still be top priority.
Audiences are spending more and more time on their smartphones and tablets, and that includes viewing your infographics. Make sure it’s just as easy for them to view on smaller devices.
- Avoid tiny text. Don’t make your mobile audiences squint. As a rule of thumb, I try to keep my detail text at or above 12pt (in the original 300 dpi source file).
- Account for retina displays. Even though screens have gotten smaller, the resolution has doubled. Ensure your work doesn’t look blurry or pixelated on high definition tablets by doubling the standard length and width of the 72 dpi specs.For example, if you are posting a graphic to your blog where the standard image size is 500×250, you’ll want to save your image to 1000×500 with 72 dpi.
Now that you’ve created your wildly successful infographic, be sure it gets the attention it deserves by promoting it across all “PESO” channels – Paid, Earned, Social & Owned.