Today we’re going to be going over the process of creating the (not so) new art form that combines design and statistics, called the infographic.
Infographics, by definition, are:
“Graphic visual representations of information, data or knowledge. These graphics present complex information quickly and clearly, such as in signs, maps, journalism, technical writing, and education. With an information graphic, computer scientists, mathematicians, and statisticians develop and communicate concepts using a single symbol to process information (Wiki).”
As you can see, graphically displaying information is not new. Things like maps, street signs, and the Periodic Table of Elements are all infographics. So why do we see them shared all over social media all of a sudden? Well, like any trend, it’s a perfect combination of filling a desire in the market, and having the right people adopt and share in the “movement.”
In this case, the need in the market is a way to present information that can be easily digested in today’s fast paced, news-feed-crazy world, and the right people are major players in the social news and blogging atmosphere. The result is a new wave of infographics being produced and shared on blogs, Facebook feeds, Pinterest Boards and much more.
Knowing how popular and effective infographics can be these days, how do we actually go about creating them? Here I lay out the 7 steps to create awesome infographics.
Step 1: Data Collection
Once you have decided on your subject matter (I assume this has already been done), the next step is data collection. Infographics can contain a lot of statistics and data points (and should for a strong argument), but these stats don’t find themselves. You need to dedicate a lot of time to the data collection process, as finding credible sources and data that enhances your point is no simple task.
When researching your data, do so thoroughly. Even if you hit the statistical jackpot by finding a source that packs the info, try to look for additional sources. Having data from more than one source enhances your accuracy, credibility and the strength of your point.
I suggest starting by typing “[your topic] statistics” in a Google search and going from there. You can narrow it down from there, but that will give you a baseline as to how much statistical info is out there on your subject.
Organize your data
Once you’ve collected data from one or more sources (hopefully more), it’s time to organize this into a spreadsheet. Most data graphical tools (which we’ll be going over in a minute) will allow you to upload a spreadsheet, so organizing your data will not only help you organize and understand this info better, but also aid you in the design process later.
Lastly, don’t forget to write down your sources to use them later.
Step 2: Gather your tools
So now you’ve got your topic and data collected and are ready to start putting some stuff on paper. But before you do this, you’ll need to figure out what tools to use for the job.
If you are lucky enough to own the Adobe Creative Suite products, I recommend using Adobe Illustrator as your graphical tool of choice. Not only is Illustrator a great vector based drawing tool (better for line art, custom shapes, etc than a raster based program like Photoshop), but it also has built-in graphical data tools that will spit out fancy looking graphs after inputting data from a spreadsheet. Illustrator will give you the most control over your design and will make the whole process go faster.
If you do not own, nor want to pay the high price to purchase Illustrator, Inkscape is a solid alternative. It’s open source (meaning it’s free) and works across platforms. It doesn’t have the same graph tools as Illustrator, but it’s still a very good vector based drawing application. You can download it by visiting inkscape.org
While Illustrator’s page layout and graphical tools make it a perfect infographic tool, Photoshop is always a solid program to use for designing.
Finally, if its a web-based toolset you’re looking for, Pixlr is a great (free) alternative. With tools similar to Photoshop, this will give you everything you need to create a good infographic on a budget.
For more info on choosing the right graphical software tool, check out my Spreecast on Graphical Software Discussion.
Infographic templates and creators
Maybe you need a good looking infographic quickly, or don’t quite trust your design skills. In either case, there are a few sites that allow you to simply add data and text to already created infographic templates. All of these have great looking designs and are a good alternative if you want a fool-proof way of creating an infographic without a lot of time or effort in the design process.
Chart and data tools
There are a number of chart and graph generating tools out there, but few output results large enough or colorful enough to use on a professional-looking infographic. The following two, however, may be useful to output nice looking graphs or charts quickly.
In addition to reference images on your infographic, you’ll want theme images to compliment the aesthetics of your graphs, charts or numbers. Theme elements can be icons, illustrations, stock photos or any other graphical element that’s not based on your numbers.
Both of the above are icon search engines that will help you find great looking icons to accompany your infographic. When choosing icons, try to select them from the same icon set to ensure their consistency.
Wordle is a great way to generate those word clouds that have become popular in the past few years. Wordle will read a document that you submit, count which words are used the most throughout, and spit out a result with the most important elements appearing larger than the rest.
Step 3: Get Sketchy
The next step in this process is to sketch out the layout of your design. This is where you choose what orientation you want your infographic (is it going to be long and vertical? Landscape like a map?), and where important elements should fit on the page. If you know you want a giant pie chart in the middle of your design, where and how large will the supporting data and images go? The more you can have planned about your design process, the simpler and less frustrating it will be when you start adding elements to your canvas.
Step 4: Get Inspired
This step goes hand-in-hand with step 3, and is equally as important from a creativity standpoint. In this step, your job is to seek out other infographics that are successful and well designed. Below I have links to some sources of inspiration.
I suggest you find your own method of bookmarking infographics you come across that catch your attention. By simply viewing a collection of well-designed infographics, you’ll subconsciously help your design skills when it’s time to start.
Below are a few other infographic tutorials and resources to broaden your knowledge and learn some specifics
- How to create outstanding modern infographics
- Create a promo infographic
- The anatomy of an infographic
Step 5: Start Designing
Now it’s time to start your design. At this point, you should have an idea of the layout and orientation of your design, along with some themes and design styles that you want to use. Once you know these things, you can begin to form your theme. To me, your theme consists of colors, typography styles, icons, and other elements.
Choosing your color scheme
To help you choose your color scheme, you can use the following tools.
Kuler is an adobe lab product that allows you to choose color schemes submitted by other designers. This is great when you have no restrictions on a color scheme or want to view how different colors look together.
Colorschemedesigner is a great tool that allows you to choose color schemes based on the color wheel and color theory.
For more tools and thoughts on color theory, check out Choosing color in design
The whole purpose of making an infographic is to make the presentation of data exciting. As such, making certain elements in your design big and bold, juxtaposed to smaller elements in your design will add the necessary contrast, a key factor in grabbing attention.
Use a grid
If you follow the alignment principle, just about all designs are based on a grid. You may combine squares or break form at times, but everything should be based on rows and columns. This is especially true when presenting data.
Step 6: Get feedback and refine
Many times when you do extensive research on a subject and try to present a portion of your findings, it becomes hard to distinguish what is obvious and what you only think is obvious because you’re so familiar with the subject.
For example, after doing extensive research on frogs, it may be painfully obvious to you that toads are a different species, and should not be lumped into any frog talks. The normal viewer of your subject may not know this, however, and when you say that frogs have smooth, slimy skin, a reader might think to him or herself, “I thought they had rough, warty skin…” and then you’ve lost your audience due to a frog / toad oversight.
Ok, so maybe that’s not the best example, but the point is you never know what people may find hard to understand or how they read things differently than yourself. With this in mind, it’s imperative that you show your work to a few people before sharing to ensure the message is clear.
Step 7: Share
Due to the “long” nature infographic designs can sometimes have, sharing them as images is difficult. I’ve found the best way to share infographics that fall into this category are as follows..
- Embed the infographic into a blog post in the biggest size it fits.
- Crop an interesting section of the infographic to give it more of a standard orientation. This will be used for sharing on social media sites later.
- Include the link to the full blog post when sharing. Do not simply upload as an image.
- Share the cropped image as part of the post
Even after taking these steps, you’ll still probably encounter comments from people saying they can’t view it. Look out for these and be ready to supply a direct link to the image.
Show your creativity
Infographics are a cool way to present information about almost any subject. As long as designers continue to make them look interesting, consumers of information will continue to indulge and share. By following these 7 steps, you are on your way to creating creative, complete infographics that your customers are sure to appreciate.
Have you created an infographic and want to share? Want a critique? Submit your entry or question to the Hubze Design Form, and I will personally respond. Happy designing!