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A Guide To Design High Quality Infographics

Infographics have become quite a popular way to present information. And it’s a good thing that they have. 90 percent of all information that we perceive and that gets transmitted to our brains is visual. Especially on the Web, where effective communication is essential, infographics can be a good choice to inform, engage, or even entertain your website visitors.

  • High quality infographics are 30 times more likely to be read than written content.

Customer Magnetism


This sounds reasonable, but what exactly is a high quality infographic? Obviously it makes understanding certain information easier by presenting it in a clear and visual, possibly an interactive way. Infographics can be a simple chart, a complex and detailed visualization of an abstract concept, or even a game that requires active participation in order to retrieve information. However, what really makes an infographic stand out is a design that matches its purpose.

Let’s have a look at different infographics and what you can do to design one that is effective, but also appropriate for both your content and your target group.

Complex vs. simple

Infographics help us to present a topic in a way that makes it easier for people to both understand and remember information. This information can be complex and comprehensive, or straightforward and to the point. It can be very specific or rather general. It might require no foreknowledge at all, or a high level of expertise. In any case, try to keep it as simple as possible and include only information that is really necessary.

Complex information


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The infographic 50 Years of Space Exploration captures the last 50 years of space exploration in one single graph. The graph contains both an overview and very detailed information. It offers insights for both laymen and experts at the same time. The infographic looks very professional and trustworthy.

Simple information


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This infographic on the other hand is very simple and straightforward. The designer Tim shows in a very personal and clear way who he is and what he does: He builds websites for desktop, and mobile screens, and for the heart. Due to the simplicity, you might not even think of an infographic here at first. Yet, it is one because the designer uses visuals to communicate very specific information. At only one glance, this graph tells you about the technical expertise as well as the core value of this designer.

Serious vs. fun

Whether infographics work for you or not does not depend on the nature of your information. You can use a graphical presentation for any sort information from serious to funny. Just make sure you are aware what kind of information you offer, who you present it to, and in which context people will consume your infographic. At times it can be completely appropriate to loosen up dry stats with some humor. Other times it might not be in line with your users’ mood at all.

Serious information


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This infographic by oxfam internationalcovers a very serious topic: Causes of worldwide food shortage and what we can do against it. Yet, the graph itself looks friendly and inviting. Sensitive topics easily scare people off, because they make us feel guilty, or helpless. With a well-structured, but positive design, you can make serious topics more concrete and less daunting.

Fun presentation


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On the other hand, infographics can make a rather standard or boring topic fun. For example this xkcd comic makes it really enjoyable to recall the characteristics of our central visual field. By arranging content around the fovea, the center of our vision, the different concepts that are explained are very easy to understand. Even though this infographic looks like joke, it contains very scientific and relevant information.

Consume vs. engagement

Before you start to design your own infographic, make sure you know what you want people to do with it. You can either offer plain information that you present and they consume, or you can trigger your users to take on a more active role. What your users prefer depends on several aspects, such as your user’s goals, their experience with interactive infographics, and their personal preferences.

Consume


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This graph shows the Twitter activities during the 2012 European Football Tournament. The idea seems simple, but the information carried by this graph, at least when comparing different countries, is quite meaningful. Yet, this graph is intended to educate through observation. By looking at the different colors and identifying the countries that go with each color, you get a good idea of which countries tweeted a lot and which didn’t.

Engaging


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A completely different example is the website Slavery Footprint. It takes you step-by-step through an interactive journey in order to determine your very personal impact on slavery. You are asked to fill in personal information and think about things like clothing or food consumption before further information is revealed. This involvement and individual approach is very engaging and a great way to get people thinking about a topic.

Information vs. entertainment

Just because infographic contain the word info doesn’t mean it has to be be strictly informative. A quite popular way of imparting knowledge actually combines information with entertainment, the so called infotainment. Depending on the medium you use and again, the nature of your information, entertaining information can be a great way to draw people in. Besides, a certain entertaining factor can help your users to keep up their motivation and concentration to focus on your content.

Information


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For example, this poster shows a beautiful infographic about seasonal fruits. The graphic is static and can easily be printed out to hang it up in your kitchen. It doesn’t include any interactive or entertaining feature. The only goal here is to quickly and effectively inform about seasonal fruit.

Entertainment

The website a world of tweets allows you to track real-time geolocated tweets around the world. You can not only change between different views of the world map, you can also watch new tweet fall into place like falling stars. This animation is very attractive and at the same time fun to watch. Besides, when scrolling down the page you get even more insights on current Twitter stats.

Conclusion

Infographics are a great way to help people understand and remember information. Since most of the information that is transmitted to our brains is visual, you might want to consider designing an infographic for your own product, service, or brand. If you do, start by thinking carefully about the kind of information you want to communicate.

In order to design an effective infographic, you need to keep it as simple as possible. That means if you have little information, great! Don’t try to enhance it by making it look more complex than it is. If you have very complex information, take your time to prioritize it and only include what really adds to the story. Then define what you want people to do with your infograph and match the style of your design to both your content and your target group. Last but not least, think about using interactive elements to get your users engaged.


Sabina is community manager, technical writer & UXer @ Usabilla. She is interested in Usability, User Experience, Design, and everything that makes the Web a better place. Follow Sabina on Twitter.

4 comments

  1. Mathias Madsen

    Fine article, but I must disagree on the Simple example by Tim being an infographic. If so, I believe some of the first ads in history is infographics?

    In my opinion I see it as information shown visually (true), but I wouldn’t add the word “graph” to it in any way.

  2. Sabina Idler

    Thanks for your sharing your thoughts on this. You might be right, the example might be too simple and therefore it doesn’t fit the general understanding of a graph. But it is a is a visual presentation of simple information and that’s what I wanted to show; a visual presentation can work for both simple and complex information. :)

  3. Eric Wheeler

    I agree with Mathais. Your example of a simple Infographic was too simple–I didn’t even know what it was about until you explained it. I think an Infographic should have some type of stats or figures in it that makes information easier to digest. Well written blog though.

  4. Rocio Ramos

    I am in the midst of an infographic race track! We’ve stuck to a few items that distinguish somewhat, but there are so many infographics out there right now that I’m overwhelmed. As always your posts are very helpful. Thanks.

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