By Paul Gustafson published April 19, 2012

3 Rules for Creating Effective Infographics

Humans have been using visualization tools to communicate information for millennia. We continue to rely on charts, maps, signs, and blueprints every day to rapidly convey critical knowledge and data.

Today’s digital infographics trend represents an evolutionary step in the development of visualization tools. By incorporating stunning images, 3-D representations, and interactive features, infographics can provide a tremendous amount of information in creative, engaging ways. 

Infographics integrated into websites, presentations, and advertising can be extremely powerful tools for marketers, who typically need to deliver key messages quickly and memorably. But marketers must be sure that their infographics do more than display cool visuals. To efficiently and effectively transmit information, infographics must follow the same rules that govern other forms of marketing content, from brochures and customer success stories to videos and blog posts. In a nutshell, here are the most important rules to follow.

1. Tell a story

To communicate the meaning of data, infographics must tell a compelling story. Before producing the art for an infographic, designers should work with other content creators to determine which patterns and trends should be represented. The team should then define how the data will be presented so that the design communicates the essentials of the story’s message without overloading audiences with too much information.

Example: Instagram: From Zero to a Billion by Visual.ly.

Visual.ly does a splendid job of telling a story about the popular photo sharing app company Instagram. The use of visuals to help readers follow company milestones makes this infographic effective, as it quickly documents the meteoric rise of Instagram from inception to its recent acquisition by Facebook.

2. Communicate complex data simply

The best marketing infographics often boil complex ideas down to their simplest forms. They show trends and demonstrate the relationships between data by using easily understood design elements. With this in mind, designers should eliminate any elements that do not directly contribute to the understanding of the story. It’s also just as important for infographics creators to use words sparingly — let the data and graphics do the talking.

Example: China: The World’s Largest Online Population by Statista.

Image via Statista.

Industry growth statistics can often be very dry and difficult to comprehend. But Statista does a good job of easily communicating China’s online population growth by choosing key statistics that tell China’s story and then using graphical visualization to put those numbers in perspective. A key example of this is Statista’s comparison of China’s online shoppers to those of the rest of the world.

3. Facilitate sharing

To make the most of infographics, make sure they are sharable. For web-based infographics, authors should optimize their sites with tools that allow viewers to post, tweet, e-mail, or otherwise share these content-rich visuals with friends and colleagues. In many cases, implementing these tools can be as simple as installing a web plug-in or deploying the correct sharing codes most social media platforms provide.

Example: AddThis

AddThis is one of many social sharing WordPress plug-ins designed for simple implementation. In addition to sharing functions, AddThis also provides content engagement reports to webmasters. Other useful sharing tools include GetSocial and ShareThis.

Infographics will become an increasingly vital part of marketing arsenals as marketers gain access to larger data sets — and adopt design tools that can help transform raw data into captivating visuals. But applying basic content creation rules will be just as important to ensure that infographics look good and convey a captivating wealth of information to target audiences.

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Author: Paul Gustafson

Paul Gustafson is president of TDA Group, Silicon Valley's premier B2B content marketing agency. The award-winning marketing communications firm provides a broad range of services to engage buyers wherever they are: on the Web, on smartphones, on tablets, and through print. Get more insights from Paul on Twitter @PSGustafson.

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  • http://twitter.com/ShadeWilson Shade Wilson

    Thanks Paul, 
    Totally agree with your first two points. The impact of an infographics is directly proportional to its ability to tell the story in a simple and streamlined manner. I’m always a fan of less and am starting to see too many infographics that are too busy and hard to follow. Kind of like a bad powerpoint trying to squeeze everything into one slide. 

  • http://www.brickmarketing.com/ Nick Stamoulis

    Infographics are great at conveying a concept in an understandable way.  However, if you’re going to create an infographic- it needs to be good.  If you don’t have the time to research a topic or the resources to hire a graphic designer that will make it look good- don’t even bother.  

  • http://verizonfios-equipment.webs.com/ PeterMorgan

    I liked the Facilitate sharing part in the whole article. You have very well explained about the tools and plugins. AddThis can be the perfect example for this category. I got my queries cleared from Tell a story part. Anyways, thanks for this informative post.