Infographics have become incredibly popular over the past 12 months, which is both good and bad. The popularity of this new design medium is great because it provides webmasters and business owners with a new and creative method of brand building and connecting with users. The popularity is a bit negative in the sense that there are many people out there creating infographics simply for links, which is causing the space to fill up with spammy and poorly designed infographics.
With so many infographics living around the world wide web, how do we differentiate the good from the bad? And as a business owner, how do you find the right designer for your infographic? Luckily, there are some distinguishing factors of a good infographic that will help both designers and their clients hit the high bar that has been set by some top infographic design agencies.
Factors of a Good Infographic
When looking at an infographic, check to see if it has the following factors:
1. Data Visualization
While this may sound obvious, too many “infographics” that are submitted to this site do not follow this very simple MUST of any infographic. Infographics should be data driven designs. There’s a simple rule of thumb to follow for any design to be considered an infographic: If all of the text can be taken out of the design and it still makes sense, then it is an infographic. Likewise, if you can take all the images out of the design and it does not make sense, then it is an infographic. In other words, the designer should not rely on text to tell the story; the images should tell the story. More often than not, designs are submitted to us that rely on typography to make the infographic visually stimulating and use too much text to tell the story. Look at this excerpt from a recent infographic that we posted:
If you take all the text out of this portion, you are left with a blank off-white box. This is data that could easily be shown in a pie chart instead. Displaying this information in a pie chart would help to make it far easier to take in for the average viewer, and allow the viewer to quickly compare the emissions side by side. As such, this section is a lost opportunity where data visualization would be so easy to incorporate, yet it wasn’t included.
2. A Clean Color Pallet
Again, this sounds obvious, but even the best designers have issues when it comes to entering the mindset required to design an infographic. Designing an infographic presents a very large challenge to any designer, because too many designers are used to creating images that compliment text, rather than creating images that will tell the entire story. Because of this, they tend to get tripped up when determining a color pallet that will allow them to showcase vast amounts of information while also separating sections properly. If the infographic has a color pallet that clashes with the website it was produced for, has colors that don’t compliment each other, or is too dark, it will deter people from even viewing or sharing it. Infographic designers have risen the bar when it comes to the look and feel of today’s data visualizations. They are creating eye candy to compete with the mass amounts of infographics being produced. In other words, the best infographics have a great color pallet that is easy on the eyes, while also drawing in the viewer.
3. A clear story
An infographic should tell a story. If it doesn’t, then what’s the point in publishing the infographic in the first place? Infographics should have relevant, topical, and interesting information, and in the end they should leave the viewer feeling as if they have a far better understanding of the topic at hand. This is why infographics are so long these days. Traditional infographics used to be one chart/graph that was well designed and made a clear point. Today’s infographics are very long and include many charts and graphs to get across an entire concept or idea. More importantly, an infographic needs to keep the story or concept consistent all the way through. A list of random stats, or stats repeated and just shown in different ways, won’t make sense to the viewer and won’t get much love online.
The infographic on the left is a good example of not telling a full story. While this matches the traditional view of an infographic (just showcasing one element), it doesn’t cut it when compared to the best infographic designs of today. The fact is, this design doesn’t tell a full story at all. While it shows the best and worst college dorms, it doesn’t visualize where they are located, why they are best/worst, how much they cost (so we can see if they are awful and still cost an arm and a leg), etc. There isn’t a story here, instead it is just one piece of information. The other issue is that this infographic doesn’t include sources. This is problematic because it makes it impossible for us to determine whether or not these ratings are rooted in fact or opinion.
4. Proper Dimensions
Placing a very large amount of information onto a small space that is made for viewing on any computer screen can be tricky. Because of this, some designers tend to create infographics that are way too big, and therefore very hard to read. Infographics are made to be shared, but they won’t be easily shared if they can’t fit onto a blog properly or can’t be read easily. A simple rule of thumb when designing infographics is as follows: If the infographic will be a vertical design, make it no wider than 1000px and try to constrain it’s length to under 10,000px if possible. If the infographic will be a horizontal design, make it no taller than 700px. This ensures that the viewer will be able to scroll in just one direction when viewing the infographic, rather than scrolling in both directions like this infographic.
5. Not Too Text Heavy
Some designers may visualize a lot of elements, but still want to explain them with a lot of text. This can be very intimidating for the viewer, since one of the benefits of infographics is the fact that the viewer can take in a large amount of complex information quickly and with ease. Overstock.com did an infographic about Valentine’s Day that was very well designed, but way too text heavy and way too large (breaking rule 4 as well), to take in all the information in any easy way.
6. Simple Branding – The Infographic Should Not Be an Advertisement for You
There are many culprits that break this rule, which is unfortunate to say the least. An infographic should accomplish the following goals (in this order):
- Cover a relevant and interesting topic related to the website that produced it
- Provide concise and clear information that is helpful to the viewer
- Accomplish a specific goal: educate the website’s primary audience or provide a humorous topic relevant to the audience
- Accomplish a secondary goal: educate the audience of target blogs and niche sites
- Build a website’s brand as a thought leader in the space
- Build a website’s brand as a hip and thoughtful company
As you can see, building your brand is on there, but it is the lowest goal. Accomplishing numbers 1-4 will do a far better job of promoting your brand than plastering the infographic with your logo. It’s important to place your logo on any infographic you create, but don’t make it stand out and don’t make it take up too much space. If your logo is too large on an infographic, the infographic no longer becomes about the end user, it becomes about you.
7. Subject Matter Matching the Website that Produced the Infographic
This might also be an obvious one, but the fact remains that there are a variety of websites out there creating infographics just to build inbound links to their site. While link building is a huge reason anyone creates an infographic, it should never be the end all be all.
For example, there is one website that links prospective students to online colleges. This means that their infographics should be about education in some way right? One would think, yet this same site has produced infographics about breasts, social gaming, the government, and a variety of other off-topic pieces that do not build their brand or spread their message at all. Good infographics, on the other hand, are topical and relate to the website producing them. This helps to eliminate spam from the infographic business.
8. An “AHA!” Moment
While not all infographics need this, a sharable infographic with the potential of going viral definitely needs an “Aha!” moment. These days, there are hundreds of infographics about SEO. What makes one different than the other, besides design? The answer is, for some, an “Aha” moment. This is when the infographic tells you something you never would have learned otherwise, OR it tells you something we may all know but the design makes this complex bit of data far easier to understand. Here’s an SEO infographic that relies on high impact data and statistics to supply a few “Aha” moments. When looking at infographics, ask whether or not they supply that “Aha” moment. If they don’t, then were they worth looking through in the first place?