Business Technology

How to design a shareable infographic

5 min read

25 September 2013

Over the last couple of years, infographics have grown from a niche SEO technique into the backbone of successful marketing campaigns.

By telling a story using a combination of text and visuals, marketers can turn what would have been a dull, static blog post into a hugely shareable image.

But a bad infographic has the potential to do as much damage to your brand as a bad advertisement or misguided tweet, making it vital that you avoid the common pitfalls of infographic design and make something that’s truly special.

Creating a great infographic can be broken down into three simple steps.

1. Pick the right concept, and the rest is easy

Have you ever found yourself browsing a social website for articles about one of your favourite hobbies, even if you aren’t learning anything new? We’re drawn to content that we find interesting, especially if it tells an interesting story.

Are you a social media guru? Here’s an amazing infographic telling the story of the growth – and eventual $1bn acquisition – of Instagram. It’s the classic success story with a modern twist, and an awesome picture-to-picture presentation.

Beyond the story and the presentation, however, there’s a great topic. Millions of people love Instagram, and hundreds of thousands of those users are interested in the website’s success story because they are a part of it!

Remember, the hardest, and most important, part of infographic design is finding a great narrative.

2. Research and find little-known, compelling data

There’s a simple litmus test for working out whether data is good enough to use in an infographic: does it make your jaw drop? If you can come across a statistic, date, or figure that amazes you, it’ll probably have the same effect on your audience.

Try to follow a three-step process when you’re researching for an infographic that goes something like this:

Find data, verify data, and then find unique and compelling supporting data.

Try to avoid settling for basic information or obvious facts that people already know about, as these will cause readers to give up on your infographic once they’re just a few lines in. Don’t go overboard, either – light, easily digestible information is best.

Finally, make sure that you double check everything. Even if 9/10 facts you use are correct, a single mistake compromises your infographic’s authority and makes it far less effective at impressing its audience.

3. Create a design that does your data and story justice

Even the most compelling data will go ignored unless it’s paired with a design that inspires and engages readers. Humans process images 60,000 times faster than we process text, making it important to focus on the visual as much as the content.

Don’t treat your infographic like a big, image-heavy blog post – that will just cause readers to close the tab. Instead, use graphic elements like charts and headings to make complicated data easier to digest and understand.

If you can, find images that illustrate your point in a striking or memorable way. A great example of an image that’s perfect for an infographic is this striking dual shot of Shanghai taken twenty years apart – the perfect visual for a growth infographic.

Sometimes, using a creative or topic-relevant layout is the key to drawing readers into your infographic. This carbon footprint guide uses a giant graphical footprint, which is a much more interesting choice than a bland, boring pie chart.

Keep it simple and don’t try to visualise something that’s too complicated – that’s when things start to go wrong. A good strategy is to pick one statistic that can be visualised well, and then use the rest of the infographic to back it up with data.

Limit your text to short snippets, footnotes, and summaries. The more text your infographic includes, the closer it comes to turning into a blog post. Keep it light, simple, fun, and whenever possible, focused on keeping users interested.

Matt Fielding is SEO manager of Custard Online Marketing.