How to structure your content for creating an infographic
How to structure your content for creating an infographic
January 14, 2020
Everyone loves an infographic. Well, more accurately, everyone loves a GOOD infographic. The world is very visual. That’s why internet memes spread like digital wildfire, there’s a fashion industry, and art museums exist. Infographics embrace this truth and use visuals to serve information to audiences in a very palatable way. And they can be an incredibly helpful tool for any B2B marketer. You’re already an expert on a variety of topics. Infographics provide you with an opportunity to turn that knowledge into some great content.
But how can you ensure your infographics are successful—providing your audience with an enjoyable piece of content that transfers what’s in your (or your subject matter expert’s) head into theirs? In short, it’s all about investing the time up front to make sure your designer has what they need to do great work. Read on to learn how.
Early work sets the table for success
Abstract concept or existing piece of content—which works best? Valid question. But here’s an annoying answer: Either or both. The reason we’re being non-committal is it's less about what you start with, and more about the quality and thoroughness of what you end up giving to your designer.
So how can you ensure you’re providing your creatives with the material they need to work their magic in a way that maximizes your infographic’s potential? Spending some time at the planning stage before charging forward is always a good idea. Measure twice, cut once. Look before you leap. Read the instruction booklet first. Etc.
Infographics are no different. So to help prevent unwanted results, here’s a short list of what you can do early on in the process to set your infographic up for success:
Get clear on your audience. Without a doubt, the best infographics are geared for their intended audience. How much knowledge do they have on your topic? How is the information (to be relayed in the infographic) relevant to them? What types of visuals will they find engaging?
Know your perspective. Think through where your company is coming from in regards to this information. Is your business an expert? Is it something you researched or ran across and decided to share with your audience? Are you borrowing from another source? The answers to all these questions will affect how your infographic comes together.
Understand how it will be used. Will it be printed or digital? Emailed, posted on Pinterest or your web site? Overnighted in a proposal, or handed out as a standalone? All of this matters and will help determine things like length (can the audience scroll or not?), amount of information, whether there can (or should) be interactivity or animation, and more.
Static Shmatic Who says infographics need to sit still? Not Aislinn Barry. SketchDeck’s Production Director believes digital infographics provide a unique opportunity for interactivity—or even animation! As you work with your designer, discuss if there might be tasteful and strategically sound ways to do this. It could make your next infographic a standout.
Embracing best practices
Now let’s start thinking more specifically about the approach. And although you may be tempted to start the process at this stage, try not to skip the previous steps because if you do, you might find yourself heading down the wrong road as far as your audience and your infographic’s intended use are concerned. For example, you may have a great set of data your CFO loves that everyone agrees could make some awesome visuals. But if your audience isn’t interested, or the infographic’s intended to be digital and the data is too detailed for easy viewing on a mobile phone, you’re starting at a disadvantage. (BTW, if you’re thinking web delivery, you should be thinking mobile first).
But assuming you’ve done that important preliminary work, let’s get a little more grounded:
Be as concrete as possible. Abstract ideas can be a great starting point, but as mentioned earlier, they need to come down to earth. The “info” part of infographic stands for “information.” So without real data, you’re creating an “ideagraphic”—which not only sounds dumb, it won’t perform very well.
Keep it simple. Don’t make us remind you what “graphic” stands for. Too much information, or too many words, will lose your audience. In fact, the more general your intended audience is, the more you should be boiling things down to the basics. You might be able to get away with using acronyms and industry jargon if you’re positive your audience understands them—but always build your infographic to the knowledge level of the person who will be viewing it (see “Get clear on your audience” above).
Tell a compelling story. SketchDeck’s Production Director, Aislinn Barry, has created many infographics in her time, and she eloquently describes them as “visual stories that lead your audience to understanding.” She suggests thinking through how your “story” will progress—from A to B, then B to C, etc.—until it eventually concludes with the audience “getting it.” Therefore, think through the most logical progression of the information you’re relaying, including any natural breaks that might occur—especially if there’s a lot to say. Also, always lead with something compelling that grabs your audience’s attention, and keeps hold of it. Don’t allow them to lose interest and decide to put your “book” down (in favor of refreshing their Twitter feed).
"The best infographics are visual stories that lead your audience to understanding." —Aislinn Barry, Production Director, SketchDeck
Add data points. If the information you want to relay has available data points (and if they’re relevant to your audience, as mentioned above), use them. They can help ground more abstract concepts, and they can also lead to very compelling visuals. Charts, graphs and the like help people digest numbers much more easily (and enjoyably) than dry, tasteless text.
Let your designer design
Now that you’ve done the preliminary work, it’s time to organize, distill (if needed) and relay the information to your designer. This is a crucial step because no matter how thorough your prep efforts were, if you don’t successfully transfer what you’ve assembled, it will have all been wasted time and effort. Do not wait until you see Version 1 to (finally) relay what you should have communicated at the outset. That will be frustrating for all involved, and it will likely cost you money you didn’t have to spend.
But fear not! If you adhere to the guidance below, you’ll set your designer up with the background and direction they need to deliver their best work.
Remember, the designer is not an expert. In some ways, the designer is your first audience. So you need to ensure they get what you’re ultimately trying to relay with your infographic. Otherwise, it will be lost in creative translation. It would be like that telephone game kids used to play, except the person repeating the message in the middle doesn’t speak the same language as the originator and person at the end of the line. Nicht gut.
Explain things in the most simplified way. This is a result of the work you’ve put in up to this point. Yes, definitely supply all the background materials as well, but don’t make the designer do the distillation for you, as that’s not their forte. The more they “get it,” the more they can get creative and deliver something special. If it’s possible, given the information you’re sharing, boil the content down to a series of linear steps (see the Story bullet above) or a flow chart. What they receive should closely represent the text they’ll put on the page to minimize confusion when translating between expert and designer. Also, highlight key points and information so they have some direction in terms of visual hierarchy.
Provide examples of what you like (and don’t like). These can not only help spark ideas, but they will also steer your designer away from creative inspiration that might not be your cup of tea.
Don’t forget brand guidance. If your designer isn’t already well aware of your brand, remember to provide them with your brand guidelines and alert them of anything they need to avoid (based on your experience and/or the stakeholders you’re managing). And when providing examples (see the point above), definitely include any branded infographics that already exist.
Go do great work
The information provided above isn’t rocket science by any stretch. You’re already an expert, and in many instances, you know what you want to say. So invest the time to be thorough and diligent in ensuring your designer has what they need to do their best. If you do, the chances of you not only getting an infographic that you and your stakeholders love, but one that also resonates with your audience and “leads them to understanding,” will increase dramatically. Go forth and do great work.
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I'm a content professional who migrated to Northern California a few decades after graduating from the College of Communications at the University of Illinois. I market and I write, but I'd rather be biking.