Finding a balance between information density and readability isn’t always easy. As creators, we want to make sure that our content is engaging, but we also want to avoid overwhelming our audience with too many facts and figures. Capturing someone’s attention is one thing; fighting to keep it is another battle entirely.
It probably won’t surprise you to learn that I’m an advocate for using a simple infographic in spots like this. If I have a complex process to teach or a huge selection of information to present, I can either write a long post about it all, or I can make a well-designed infographic that balances the complexity of the data with an easy-to-digest mix of words and images.
The challenge is finding that midpoint. Where does simplicity end and complexity begin? Where’s the sweet spot between comprehension and engagement?
Jack Saville, the subject of one of our previous User Stories, put it best. He said it’s important to “strike the right balance when creating visuals. They need to be bold and engaging, but at the same time they cannot be so colorful and full of graphics that people don’t take them seriously. Being trustworthy is essential because if no one takes us seriously, then no one will trust us.”
We’ve put together a list of things to check out when you’re creating an infographic that should help guide you to that comfortable and effective middle ground. We wanted to focus on the two main tenants of an engaging infographic: content and design. If you have any other tips and tricks that we might have missed, we’d love to hear what you think down in the comments!
The first step in creating an engaging infographic begins well before you choose a template. The most effective way to get a head start towards success is to do your research. Putting in the effort ahead of time will make your task much easier as you go along.
It’s important to start with good content. It all rolls down from there. Your job as an infographic creator is to inform your audience. I mean, “info-“ is right there in the name. To focus on delivering facts, you need to know what the facts are.
Try not to be too “salesy”, even if you work in sales or are a marketer. You’re creating a simple infographic, not hosting an infomercial. Very rarely do people enjoy being sold to. It’s why we don’t answer the door or the phone when salespeople come knocking or calling. Focus on delivering the truth, and let the facts sell themselves.
Know your audience, and make your infographic relevant to them. It also helps if your information is timely. Using recent studies or news developments show people that you care. Your audience can see that you’ve put time and effort into what you’re creating as opposed to simply copying-and-pasting the same material you’ve been using for the past six months.
Whenever you’re following a map, it always helps to have a destination in mind. That’s why it helps to set a goal when you’re making a simple infographic. What do you want to accomplish? Is it more signups to your mailing list? Are you trying to show potential investors your go-to-market strategy? Stay focused on what you want to achieve, and make sure that everything you add moves you closer to your goal.
Staying with the map analogy, it helps to follow the map as opposed to wandering in the general direction of your destination. For your infographic to have a logical flow, make an outline that addresses your main ideas and leads to your goal. This is another way to make sure you’re headed in the right direction and haven’t strayed too far from the path.
Once you’ve started adding facts and data to your infographic, pay attention to the details as well as the bigger sections. Do things that will help your audience like labeling your chart data and explaining the connections between sections. Keeping it simple should be your aim, but not at the expense of understanding.
On the design side, try to visualize as much as possible. We’ve talked on the blog before about the benefits of using visuals instead of relying strictly on text. Simplicity often means sacrificing words when an image would convey the message.
Keep your infographic “clean” and balanced. If you’re using your outline as a guide, ask yourself if every element is necessary. Does it move your audience forward, or does it sidetrack them down a different path? Always aim for the former. Use the same styles for icons and charts. It cuts down on the static and clutter.
Pay attention to the alignment, particularly with shapes and text boxes. Even if your layout isn’t distracting on the surface, the brain picks up on little “imperfections” and offsets. There are few things more visually annoying than having something be just a little out of place.
Make your connections clear without making them cluttered. Use things like alignment, lines, shapes, and background images to guide your audience’s eyes along the path and towards the next section in a series. Make good use of the “show, don’t tell” rule of design.
Another way to cut down on clutter is to make good use of whitespace. Whitespace is your friend. It gives your reader’s eyes a break and gives you an opportunity to switch things up without the change being too jarring. Our head of design See Mei wrote an excellent post on infographic layout that’s a great reference for examining your use of whitespace and visual flow.
When it comes to design elements, remember that less can be more. Keep your font choices to a minimum: keep it to no more than 2 type faces (like Arial and Times), and try not to use more than 4 font variations (like bold, italics, or different font sizes). Pair your fonts wisely, and you’ll be better off. Now is not the time to showcase your collection of script font faces.
Color simplicity is key as well. The rule of three colors says to pick one main color and two complimentary colors. That’s it. If your brand has two main colors, it can be the rule of four colors, but no more. After all, rules were made to be broken, right? If you absolutely need more color variety, try using lighter or darker shades of the colors you’ve already chosen. And please, for all that is visually good in the world, don’t choose a neon color. You’re better than that.
So those are our tips for creating an infographic that focuses on simplicity and effectiveness. Did we miss anything? Are we completely crazy? We’d love to hear what you think down in the comments!