How to design the perfect Infographic?

Data Explosion

According to IDC in 2011 we created 1.8 zettabytes (or 1.8 trillion GBs) of information, which is enough data to fill 57.5 billion 32GB Apple iPods. And it’s growing too. By 2020 it will be 40 zettabytes which leaves the problem of how to detect and consume the information we want, without reading everything.


Infographics – here to stay?
Not all Infographics are helpful. If you wanted to start forming your own views, then grab a Smartphone and look at some of the terrible examples on this link. The question is, if a data visualisation isn’t helpful, then what purpose does it fulfil other than just more ‘digital noise’. 

If a data visualisation isn’t helpful, then what purpose does it fulfil other than just more ‘digital noise

So, assuming a well-crafted Infographic, based on actual, insightful data is better than a big spreadsheet or 20-page report, then Infographics are probably here to stay – at least until there are 57.5 billion infographics! 
So, like any good story, the anatomy of a perfect Infographic can be linked to a formula. I’ve studied some of the best (& worst) and refined it into the following 9 easy steps, which go beyond aesthetics™.
Step 1: Question your motivation for an Infographic

A: Are you creating content for your brand to promote through social media, in the hope it will become viral and attract new business?
B: are you visualising a ton of data for an audience who are time poor hoping it will make it easier and quicker for them to digest. 

If it’s A, then consider being a curator rather than a creator. There are plenty of infographics available on Pinterest or through Blogs and by searching on Google Images. The good news is they are for sharing, so find one on your subject and consider creating a Pinterest board which dramatises your subject and then show this to your audience.

If it’s B, ‘a ton of data’, consider who you you’re aiming at, I.e. Who’s interested in the information? What they might need the info for? And how you might want them to act after they’ve studied your visualisation? Maybe describe them at this early stage (i.e. this infographic is for marketers briefing designers…)



Step 2:
Give a nice short account of what your audience will learn after studying your infographic and how long it might take.

Step 3:
Kick off with a big stat. Here you might describe the size of the base or populous (how many people were asked), or the scale of the problem they can identify with (i.e. 40 zettabytes of data and a globe). Be sure to quote the source of the data, it adds meaning and context. Note: most viewers will follow up and verify the data before sharing.
Step 4:
Keep the viewer engaged and not static, using graphical ‘linking-devices’ such as ribbons, arrows, wiggly lines, dots etc. 
Step 5:
Make a comparison. Challenge what they already know and provide some insightful and potentially controversial views. This is a good time to leverage some brands or products the audience will know of – to reinforce the point.
Step 6:

Check your analytics, but its likely your graphic will appear on a smartphone. Think scale. There’s nothing worse than having to pinch and zoom and scroll and double-tap all the way through a page on a smartphone. This can be avoided by ensuring your Infographic is legible at 100%.

Step 7:
If its being read on a small screen, viewers will scroll (if the data and insights are good), but keep any dramatic data as near to the top as possible. If you have to use a paragraph of text, keep the column widths narrow (say, below 28 characters) which is why a condensed font (like Arial condensed) works really well. 
Step 8:
Finish on a positive note. Data can be overwhelming and leave a viewer feeling distressed (“What should I do now, i know all this stuff!”). Like all problems, there should be a solution, otherwise theres no reason to discuss it! 
Step 9:
Next steps: Facilitate sharing, by applying easy visible, and annotated social links. Encourage social sharing further by appealing to their ‘online profile’. I.e. What would this graphic or information or subject look like on ‘their’ profile  if they pin, like or share it on?
I hope this helps anyone considering the process. It not an exhaustive list and I dare say, you can add to it further. If you do have any comments let me know – have I missed anything?
I like to think you don’t ‘need’ to be a designer to dramatise really great information, but if you do want to create something beyond your own design skills, let me know at
Leave a comment below and I’ll respond! Or write to me via my contact page. You can also call on 0203 287 4910 – I’m keen to hear your views (and additions)…
Google charts


By Paul Stratford

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