By Jeilan Devanesan published February 26, 2018

The One Thing That Can Make a Big Difference in Your Infographics

one-thing-difference-infographics

Countless studies tell us infographics are highly engaging and that incorporating them into our content marketing strategy makes sense. But if the process for creating them is chaotic, the content is random, and the design guidelines are unclear, then each attempted infographic just eats up time and resources, and rarely delivers.

To successfully create memorable infographics that drive engagement, you need to stick to deadlines and keep up the momentum throughout their development. That requires a system to streamline the creation from start to finish.

That’s why you need to use infographic outlines.

Infographic outlines organize your content and optimize the design process. Good outlines ensure content quality, design quality, and improved turnaround. Effective outlines are the culmination of thorough research, organization, and planning.

Good outlines ensure better #infographics and improved turnaround time, says @jbear36. Click To Tweet

Your outline process will differ slightly depending on whether you’re using existing content or starting from scratch. I’ll walk through both approaches.

5 steps to go from nothing to the perfect infographic outline

You want to put together an infographic to publish in the next week or two. It needs to be original, informative, and entertaining. How you kick off this process directly impacts how the final product eventually performs. When starting from scratch, follow these five simple steps:

  • Choose an interesting topic.
  • Conduct research.
  • Determine a data-collection method.
  • Include titles, headers, subheaders, and general findings.
  • Include design notes.

1. Choose an interesting and relevant topic

When deciding on a topic, think about your audience first. What can you create that is insightful, solves a problem, answers a question, or entertains your audience members?

In this example, NeoMam Studios created an infographic about why people like infographics (clever). It’s a great example of what a stunning infographic looks like, and the content itself is relevant to its audience of marketers, designers, content creators, etc.

your-brain-craves-infographics

Click the image to see the full-sized infographic.

To create an example for this post, I settled on an internal audience and something smaller scale but engaging in any workplace setting – the Netflix habits of our employees. It’s the kind of topic that really impacts office chemistry.

2. Conduct research

To gather the data about your topic, pick a research method, such as:

  • Using Google search hacks
  • Finding existing surveys or polls
  • Conducting research
  • Accessing academic sources

For the Netflix behavior topic, conducting research was necessary. I sent a survey to employees. It was easy to put together and took only a few days to get the results.

3. Collect and organize your data

With your research complete, it’s time to pull together the data you gathered.

I exported my Netflix survey data into a spreadsheet:

Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

In a separate document, I listed each question and the volume of responses for each answer. I also included a tally of the qualitative responses to determine the most frequent answers.

qualitative-responses-document

With all the responses tallied, the body to the infographic outline was ready. Now it needed context.

4. Use headers, subheaders, and general findings to provide context

An infographic isn’t a group of random statistics, it must tell a story – to explain what is being shared and why it’s relevant. All that should be detailed in your outline clear as day.

An #infographic isn't a group of random statistics. It must tell a story, says @jbear36. Click To Tweet

This example of one of the worst infographics ever shared by Mammoth Infographics demonstrates the need for context.

mammoth-infographics-worst-inforgraphic

It looks like an informative chart, but closer scrutiny offers no context, no insights, and no key takeaways. Not to mention, the percentages don’t add up, which is confusing and could have been clarified with a brief explanation.

Coming back to my Netflix survey infographics outline, I document clear titles, headers, and explanations so the audience understands the story I intended to tell:

netflix-survey-outline

I summarized the findings in words to reinforce the story that the data told, focusing on the most relevant facts.

While the outline is complete, there’s a final essential step – a few notes for the designer.

5. Include design notes

Design notes are critical because they help the artist better understand the intent of the infographic and get it done right the first time. These instructions help reduce (if not eliminate) the back-and-forth emails to figure out what’s needed, or worse, a final product you can’t use.

TIP: To avoid confusion between the notes and the infographic content, make the notes in the headers and footers of the outline.

Some standard design notes include:

  • Preferred style: Refer to (link to example infographic)
  • Inclusion of company logo: (link)
  • Page format: landscape orientation, multi-pager
  • Page dimensions: letter-size (8.5-inch by 11-inch)

For the Netflix survey infographic outline, those notes looked like this:

netflix-survey-design-notes

With clear notes, the designer can always come back to the outline to recall important points and details. After all, it might not be the only infographic that they’re working on.

Here’s how the Netflix outline and notes were translated into the infographic:

netflix-guest-post-infographic

3 steps to create an infographic outline from existing content

You might have a great slide deck, an old blog post, or a section of a flyer that would look great as an infographic. The research is done. It’s quality information and it performed well so converting it into an infographic to get more out of it is a no-brainer.

It’s still important to create an outline specific to an infographic by following these steps:

  • Identify key takeaways of the content.
  • Determine title, headers, subheaders, and facts.
  • Detail notes for the designer.

1. Identify key takeaways

What do you need your audience to remember? Even if they forget the awesome intro and all the anecdotes in the content, what should they leave with?

I transformed this blog post itself into an infographic outline.

blog-post-infographic-example

Obviously, cramming all the text into an infographic would be a bad idea. However, with the right headers and bullet points, I can still get across the essential points of this post.

Once I reduce the existing content to the most important bits of information, I’m left with what will become my headers, key takeaways, and supporting points. Now I can arrange them accordingly.

Reduce original lengthy #content into the most important bits for a great infographic, says @jbear36. Click To Tweet

2. Determine headers, subheaders, and facts

At this stage, finalize the content for the infographic. Once the outline goes to design, you shouldn’t need to add or delete anything for the infographic.

In my example, each header in the blog post became a major point in the infographic outline followed by a one- or two-sentence takeaway.

infographic-outline-header-examples

It may seem straightforward to summarize content, but this step allows you to drill down to the most essential points.

3. Include notes for designer

The role of notes for the design is the same whether you’re creating original content or working with existing content.

Conclusion

Don’t create infographics just because studies show they’re popular and effective. Create infographics because they are essential to your content marketing strategy and your team is well prepared to create highly effective infographics in an efficient manner. That requires a systematic approach. By creating clear and organized infographic outlines, you ensure content quality, a great design, and faster turnarounds, and get the most for your team’s time and effort.

Want to improve your content marketing programs with structured processes to create better efficiencies and more effective ROI? Make plans today to attend Intelligent Content Conference March 20-22 in Las Vegas. Register using code BLOG100 to save $100.

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

Author: Jeilan Devanesan

Jeilan is a copywriter at Venngage, an online graphic-design tool. He majored in English and Political Science at the University of Toronto; and earned a Masters Certificate in Government Relations at Seneca College. He enjoys reporting on design trends, tips and hacks. Connect with him on LinkedIn and follow him on Twitter @Jbear36.

Other posts by Jeilan Devanesan

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  • Jen Dennis

    Great article! The only addition I’d make is to get two tiers of internal approvals on these. First, on the outline, and then approvals on the look and feel. I’ve seen teams route a finished infographic and get feedback on the substance that required a complete re-do. Better to get everyone onboard with the story, and then show them the design as a second round.

    • Jeilan Devanesan

      Thank you! And that’s a great point. Since it’s a two-stage process, it’s definitely best to get everyone on board with the content before you start designing. It’s totally inefficient if you’re going back and forth needlessly.

  • https://boylanpoint.com/ JL Faverio

    I like how you pretty much have 2 articles in one here, Jelian. Lots of real-world instructions on how to make a simple and shareable infographic and I appreciate that. If I may, I would suggest staying away from cursive fonts as it can easily slow down the average reader.

    • Jeilan Devanesan

      Glad you found it useful! And I agree, using clear, easy-to-read fonts is essential.

  • Jeilan Devanesan

    Betsy, thank you for pointing that out! You’re right, it was confusing and it’s been changed. It now reads, “Here’s how the Netflix outline and notes were translated into the infographic”.

  • http://www.crackitt.com/ Deepasha Kakkar

    Hi Jelian. This was a great read and the way you have described all about the infographics is brilliant. The step by step guide will be useful for many newbies and the best part was that you have created this content for all those who have either existing or are in search of new data. The Netflix example made this piece of content even more exciting and interesting for me because I too am a Netflix junkie! I am happy that you so beautifully brought out the importance of outline. Keep writing and keep up the good work. Cheers!

    • Jeilan Devanesan

      Hey Deepasha,

      Thanks so much for the positive feedback! I’m glad you enjoyed the article and found it useful.