6 steps to creating a great infographic

Make sure you don't contribute to the 'infographic plague' with our 6 best-practice tips

 6 steps to creating a great infographic

Plan your goals, check your data and use an original, topical idea to give your infographic maximum impact…

A good infographic combines the visual appeal of an illustration with the informative power of a research report, helping users understand complex issues in one quick, easy hit.

But infographics have received some bad press recently, with suggestions that they distort data to suit sponsors or use facts from unreliable sources. Here are 5 ways to help you make sure that the story you want to tell lends itself to this form of information design, and that you’re not adding to ‘the Infographic plague’…

1. Work out what success looks like

If you decide to produce an infographic, establish your aims first. Your goal might be generating sales leads for a certain product, or driving downloads of your latest report.

Having a goal means you can measure your infographic’s success and the ROI it might give you. And it helps you avoid producing an expensive asset just for the sake of it.

2. Make sure function is aligned with form

A user needs to understand instantly what your infographic can give them and what scope it covers. 

So think about how you could organise your information in its most simple, digestible form. Ask: What do I want my reader to get from this graphic? What will the reader try to do with it?

Says information design expert Alberto Cairo: ‘An infographic should be thought of as a cognitive tool for understanding, an extension of our visual system: a consequence of this is that its form (or forms) should match the tasks it is supposed to help me complete.’

3. Choose an original way to present your data

With a creative approach and an engaging narrative structure, even a complex infographic can be entertaining.

For example, this graphic for Curry’s/PC world by the Press Association brings together two unexpected sets of data, showing you how many calories are in your Christmas dinner, and how long it would take you to burn those calories off using different types of exercise.  

4. Check facts and data rigorously

Infographics depend on good-quality data from reliable sources. You can source data in lots of ways: by conducting surveys and interviews, sending a Freedom of Information request to the Government, or pulling some stats from the Office of National Statistics. For more specialised data, ask a press contact to provide some figures.

Above all, never pull data second-hand from the internet without double-checking it elsewhere. If you re-publish inaccurate figures, you could damage your credibility.

5. Time the launch for maximum impact

Launch your infographic at the right time to give it maximum reach. For example, an infographic about the history of horse racing will do best for search and shares if you release it around the time of the Grand National. 

Of course this is probably why you created it in the first place, but it takes careful planning to make sure your work is ready in good time to maximise that window of peak interest.

6. Think about the user journey to and from the infographic

Think about which channels you will use to seed interest in your new release. Are you supporting your infographic with blog posts, articles, relevant product pages?

Consider, too, your infographic’s place within your wider content universe. Once a user has found you through your infographic, where can they go next? Are there related items of content they can be directed to? Can they subscribe to a Twitter feed or email newsletter to be alerted when you create more great visual content?