Creating engaging infographics isn’t as simple as gathering up a few facts, cutting and pasting clip art, and throwing them up online. While there are plenty of free tools you can use to create your own online, the infographics that get high engagement and shared online typically take a lot more effort. Companies often take weeks to get things exactly right to appeal to their target audience.

Content Research

The best design in the world isn’t going to capture people’s attention for more than a glance if there isn’t solid and informative information behind it. Gathering the information, sorting through it, and figuring out concise – and visual – ways to display it will take time.

During your research, you’ll likely gather a lot of facts that may be common knowledge or don’t represent significant aha moments. Dump those. You want the information to impart knowledge the user doesn’t already know, or they’ll just skip past it.

Check Your Sources

The effectiveness of your infographic can be derailed quickly if you aren’t using credible sources. Since you’re using it to show industry leadership or thought leadership, less-than-credible sources can damage your reputation.

It’s important to also fact check the sources, especially if they are linking to other data sources. Drill down until you find the original source and decide whether it will appear credible at a glance. Like the game of telephone that you might have placed as a child, often facts get altered or evolve as they get farther away from the original source.

Any good infographic will note the source for any information they’re quoting or haven’t created themselves. Typically, this will be noted either in the graphic itself or denoted as a footnote.

Define Your Target Audience

Just as important as the content itself is the audience it’s meant to attract. It’s difficult to engage someone until you understand who they are and what they might be interested in.

This sounds easy but in practice, too many infographics are designed for the designers and company stakeholders and not for the target audience they’re trying to reach.

Decide Your Intent

It’s also important that you know what you want your infographic to accomplish. Is it brand recognition?  Are you trying to position your company as a thought-leader?  Are you trying to go viral or are you trying to get clicks or conversions?  Each strategy might be a little different.

Set Up Your Measurement Process

Once you know what you want your infographic to do, it’s time to set up the metrics to measure its effectiveness. You can’t declare success without measuring its impact.

Keep Things Simple

Mark Twain is often acknowledged as saying if he had more time, he would have written a shorter letter. What he actually said was this: “If you want me to give you a two-hour presentation, I am ready today. If you want only a five-minute speech, it will take two weeks to prepare.” Twain knew the power of words and how difficult it was to find the precise words to communicate complex thoughts in short periods.

The same applies to creating engaging infographics. Spend the time you need to create powerful infographics by editing your text and design until it’s simple and easy to read. The less text you display, the easier it will be to discern the important information at a glance. If you just want text, write it out and don’t spend your time on an infographic.

A lot of marketers tend to jam in a ton of data or info into a small space. This clutter makes things difficult to read and less visually pleasing. Infographics that appear simple are often the result of a significant effort to refine the process to find the right balance between information and design.

Use Effective Storytelling Techniques

Effective infographics appear simple and stay focused on one topic. If you start to stray or throw in additional information – no matter how interesting – you run the risk of confusing the user.

It helps to think of your infographic as a story. What takeaway do you want the reader to get when they’re done?  If facts or figures don’t support the story you’re trying to tell, either discard them or find another angle – unless the story is that there are conflicting data points!

Pay Close Attention to Visuals

Neuroscientists tell us that roughly 65% of people are visual or spatial learners. They learn and remember best through visual communications. Even though that aren’t visual learners get their first impressions visually. 90% of the information transmitted to the brain is visual and the brain itself processes visual clues as much as 60,000 times faster than text.

The design needs to draw people in and create an emotional connection to be effective. It’s only then that they will notice the text and read your story.

As designs go through the iteration process, there’s always the temptation to throw in one more stat or squeeze in more detail. While infographics can, in theory, be any length you want, if it takes up more than a page, it will be more difficult to print or share. One common thing that happens in the design phase is for designs to start big but gets squeezed down in size by developers. Make sure even the smallest text, stats, or numbers is still readable in its final form.

Too much clutter is your enemy. Consider good design principles, such as using white space effectively to balance text and imagery.

Check Your Title

The title you put on your infographic can make or break its success. The headline for the post or at the top of the graphic will be the main reason users check out your work. If they aren’t engaged enough to click on the headline or title, they’re not taking the time to look at it.

Most marketers recommend a separate landing page for each infographic, a permalink, and apply best practices for SEO. It’s also a good idea to test headlines to find the most effective one.

Consider Using a Creative Brief

Many marketers will write a formal creative brief to keep everybody focused. A brief should include:

  • The Objective
    What do you want your infographic to achieve?
  • The Target Audience
    Who are the people you’re trying to reach?
  • The Story You’re Trying to Tell
    What is the takeaway you want people to get?
  • The Content
    What content will have an impact on your target audience?
  • The Visual Elements
    What element will your design team use and does it need to coordinate with other elements in your brand tool kit

The creative brief doesn’t have to be a novel. It can simple be a few bullet points about each area. However, it can be an effective tool to keep everyone focused on the goals.

Consider Hiring a Professional Designer

The look, feel, and design of your infographic will reflect on your brand. Consider hiring a professional designer for your infographic to improve the user experience. There are a lot of poorly designed infographics out there and they don’t reflect well on their brands. If your goal is to make people take notice of what you have to say, do it in a way that screams quality!

About the Author

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Mirko Humbert

Mirko Humbert is the editor-in-chief and main author of Designer Daily and Typography Daily. He is also a graphic designer and the founder of WP Expert.