8 Rules for Creating Effective Infographics

An infographic is 30x more likely to be read than a text article.

That’s certainly one of the main reasons we create infographics. People are visual. They process visual information better than text. They also remember it better, and they share it more often. In fact, infographics are 40x more likely to be shared than other collateral, making them the perfect way to gain exposure for your brand or what you do. However, this also means there are a lot of infographics out there — and not all are good.

So how do you cut through the noise and create an infographic that’s actually good? Here are 8 simple (yet critical) rules to follow:

RULE #1: FIND DATA

At its core, an infographic is a visualization of data. You can’t just take any story and make it into an infographic. If there is no data, it’s just an illustrated story, not an infographic. A 10-step instructional article does not an infographic make, just because you added some pictures, boxes, and large numbers for 1 through 10. The best infographics gather data from a wide variety of reputable sources, or from an original study or survey.

RULE #2: CREATE A STORY

This should be a given for any piece of collateral you produce. We shouldn’t even have to explain that good storytelling is the backbone of good marketing, and yet, we see so many infographics (and other resources) that don’t have a story. Good short stories start with a hook. They have a beginning, middle, and end. They are focused on a single, interesting topic. Your infographic should be no exception.

RULE #3: GET INSPIRED

There are lots of great infographics out there that can open your eyes to new ways of visualizing data. We’re not saying you should copy them, but if creating infographics is something you do often, then you should also know what else is out there. What new, interesting things are being done? Visually and Pinterest are both great places to find inspiration.

RULE #4: WORK TOGETHER

The best infographics happen when a Creative team gets together to brainstorm at the beginning. You shouldn’t first have someone go gather a bunch of data, then have a Copywriter write some sort of story around it, and then pass it off to a Designer to be designed. Then it just becomes another series of illustrated data points that look the same as any other infographic. The best infographics start with a story — and a team of Creatives that gets together to brainstorm about the type of concept and execution that would bring that story to life best. Sometimes, the first thing you’ll create is a pencil sketch. Then you can go gather all the right data points and write the copy for it.

RULE #5: DON’T WRITE TOO MUCH

Nobody wants to read an infographic that’s text-heavy. That kind of ruins the whole point of having an infographic in the first place. People like to scan and look at pictures, so why would you make an infographic that forces them to read? According to Siege Media, the most shared infographics have just 396 words. As perspective, this blog post is weighing in at around 900 words. Don’t have this many in your infographic!

RULE #6: PICK THE RIGHT VISUALS

Different types of data are suited for different types of visualization. Just taking a phrase like “50% of people do this,” and using different font sizes for every part of it — does not constitute a good infographic element. For example, when you’re comparing data in different geographic locations, you could use a map. When comparing data over time, maybe a line or bar graph. When comparing percents, maybe pie charts. There are hundreds of different options — so just think about what will work best for the point you’re trying to make with each data set.

Take a look at this cool visual from Funders and Founders for examples of just some of the ways you can visualize data:

33 ways to visualize ideas

RULE #7: TAKE PEOPLE ON A VISUAL JOURNEY

I know that sounds ambiguous, but there’s a way to do it right and a way to do it wrong. Having no white space is wrong. Dividing content into sections and giving it breathing room is right. Using a consistent color palette that complements your topic is right. Using visual elements to guide your viewer’s eye in the direction of the flow of the story — that’s what a well-designed infographic should do. Cramming as much data as you can into an 8.5×11 piece of paper — that’s not what an infographic is all about.

RULE #8: MAKE IT EASY TO SHARE

One of the reasons for creating infographics is to have them be shared. So make sharing them easy. Include “Share” buttons on the page where your infographic lives (don’t forget about “Pin This” buttons for Pinterest). Or even go as far as to give people short, 140-character snippets of interesting data that they can simply click to “tweet this” (instructions here). You can even include images in “tweet this” links — which is important, since there are numerous studies that will tell you that adding images has a huge impact on clicks and retweets. (Buffer Social conducted an A/B test that showed that tweets with images receive 18% more clicks, 89% more favorites, and 150% more retweets.)

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