In my mind, there are three types of people in the world: the kind that can navigate an excel document and analyze data, the kind that can understand data through visuals, and the kind that can create visuals from a data analysis also known as designers. In one of my first years studying graphic design, one of my professors had said something that stuck with me, “some of the smartest people you’ll ever meet are graphic designers, do you know why? We have to fully understand everything we are designing in order for it to be successful.” I’ve found this to be relatively spot on in my professional career. Whether I’m designing marketing materials for a vaccine to end a global pandemic or designing a website for a law firm, I’ve had to fully immerse myself in the information provided and researched in order to come up with a visual solution.
But what about infographics? Infographics are one of the most intimidating yet exciting forms of design work, mainly because it can be taken in a million different directions, all depending on the story you want to convey. The last thing you want to do is design a bunch of charts, throw them on one page and say “here it is, an infographic!” No, I’m sorry, but that’s not going to cut it here. Here we are going to walk through how to not only make an infographic, but how to make a successful infographic. Our goals are: to understand the key message within a 10 second glance, learn details about the message from reading through the infographic, and to tell a clear and compelling story.
First, if you’re not familiar with designing infographics, research them! One of the best ways to learn design is to find a design you like and try to recreate it. You can find infographics in a bunch of different places, such as Pinterest, Designspiration.com, and Behance. Don’t be afraid to download an infographic you like and try to remake it in Adobe InDesign or Illustrator. This will help you familiarize yourself with the programs and build your confidence. Next, you’ll want to research design styles and trends, color palettes you’d like to use and icon styles. I know, this sounds a little intimidating, but if you start with a clear vision, your design will follow. Set rules for yourself and stick to them! Pinterest, Designspiration, and Behance are all great tools to start your own mood board of how you’d like the infographic to look. You can also use color palette generators like Adobe Color that will sync right into your Adobe programs.
Next, you’ll want to start designing your content. If you’re not familiar with the Adobe programs, here is a quick way to remember what to use each program for: Photoshop is for photo manipulation, Illustrator is for illustrations and icons, InDesign is for laying out the assets you’ve created with Photoshop and Illustrator. So Photoshop and Illustrator are great tools for designers, however, when creating an infographic, you can just work primarily in InDesign. You may use Illustrator to create icons or to use the “chart” feature, but it’s pretty safe to say you can stay away from Photoshop on this one. If there is anything you take away from this post… please let it be this: do not ever, under any circumstance, create/manipulate/export type out of Photoshop. Typography is meant to stay in the “vector” world of Illustrator and InDesign, as soon as you bring it into Photoshop, it will get pixelated.
That brings us to our do’s and don’ts of designing an infographic. Our do’s are pretty straight forward: keep it simple, design on a grid, establish a hierarchy, and less is more. Our don’ts include: avoid being too wordy, don’t use unnecessary icons or charts that aren’t easy to interpret, and avoid straying from your typographic hierarchy – try to keep the same styles throughout the piece.
Finally, let someone who isn’t familiar with your content to look over your infographic. What are their initial reactions? Are they able to get a general understanding in less than 10 seconds about the subject? Are they able to tell you what they learned after a few minutes of reading it? As the designer, you can be blind to the issues within your infographic – a chart may be easy to read in your mind but maybe not for others. This is the perfect time to test out the success of your infographic because design is never “finished.”
Typography and Font Pairing: Typewolf, Fonts In Use, Adobe Typekit, Google Fonts
Icons: The Noun Project
Inspiration: Designspiration.com, Pinterest, Behance, Getty Images
Tutorials: Lynda.com/LinkedIn Learning – InDesign Basic Training, Illustrator Basic Training