The key to a great infographic is the ability to communicate a complex message simply and quickly to your target audience. Of course, creating an infographic is easier said than done. Infographics require extensive planning in order to communicate messages and information effectively and be visually engaging.

While there are some qualities that infographics share with all marketing pieces (follow your brand voice and tone, focus on clarity instead of jargon and provide value instead of just self-promotion), there are several differences too. Remember these 8 elements when creating your next infographic and your project will be much more likely to achieve success.

Element #1: Make Sure to Explain “Why” in Addition to “What”

Infographics are usually loaded with data, but don’t let those numbers steal the show. Be sure to explain the relevance of the data to your reader. The most effective infographics leave the viewer not only with an understanding of the data, but with an understanding of how that data impacts their lives.

Element #2: Plan for Who and Where

After your actual data, the target audience is probably the most import consideration when planning your infographic. Considerations like expected industry knowledge, age and even demographic-based interests will all contribute to the appropriateness of data and design elements of your visualization. It won’t do you any good, for example, to reference Gilligan’s Island in an infographic designed for a millennial audience.

While you’re thinking about your target audience, take a moment to think about your distribution platform too. If the infographic will live on a full-sized web page, maybe it’s ok if it scrolls a few pages down. However, if your visualization will end up on a smaller page, a mobile interface or even print, you’ll want a more concise design.

Element #3: Have an Effective Headline

Just as newspaper headlines lure in readers, so too must infographic headers. Brevity helps here: maybe seven words or so. Try to put yourself in the reader’s shoes and ask yourself: Would this intrigue me? Would I want to read this based off the headline?

Boost Insight: Don’t get too bogged down with SEO considerations in your infographic. You’ll have time to add keywords and modify titles and categorization when you distribute the infographic.

Element #4: Make the Visuals Pop

It may seem obvious, but visual content marketing depends on standing out. If people get bored, they move on. Drab colors, uniform graphics and traditional data visualizations are very likely to be ignored. Take the time to create an infographic with a polished design and striking features so that the data you have to share actually gets noticed.

The way you accomplish this will vary from brand to brand and concept to concept, but a few ideas to consider are:

  • Imagery-based charts and graphs
  • Striking color combinations
  • Multiple font changes

Element #5: Include an “Aha” Moment

To really grab your reader’s attention, offer them a snippet of the data that they’re not expecting. You likely have a bigger story to tell, but by giving the reader a single bit of interesting data, you’ll capture their attention and raise the likelihood that they’ll read through the entire infographic.

Element #6: Make It More Than a List

Be careful not to fall into the “list-making trap” so common to less-effective infographics. Lists are, by nature, pretty mundane. It’s not enough to give your viewer points 1 through 10 if you want them to be engaged and interested.

Amplify the impact of your list with visuals that provide additional meaning. By involving your readers with storytelling – focusing on how this information and data is useful to them – you can create a much more effective visualization.

Element #7: Do Not Lie (Intentionally or Accidentally)

You probably don’t need to be told that lying is bad – but with infographics, it can be easy to do so accidentally. When you create your data visualization, the elements need to accurately portray the numbers they represent.

If your data doesn’t tell the story you want it to, don’t force it through your infographic – take a moment and find a new story to tell.

Element #8: Build it For Sharing

No matter how great your infographic is, if only one person sees it, it’s not very effective. Making viewers want to share your infographic is part art and part science. Start by being sure that you have an engaging story to tell. Ask yourself, why is this information important? Why should my audience care? Then, make sure that your infographic tells the whole story so that new viewers won’t need background to understand what they’re seeing. Finally, be sure that you distribute it on channels that allow for easy sharing so people don’t have to work to get your visualization to their friends, family and co-workers.

Creating an Infographic or data visualization is a big undertaking – why work hard without doing it right?

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