Stop: you’re doing infographics all wrong

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Stop: you’re doing infographics all wrong

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Infographics can be a really effective way to communicate. Whether you’re a journalist, a researcher or a PR professional, using a visual format COULD be the perfect way for you to reach your audience.

However, the internet is full of terrible examples of infographics that offer little value to the reader.

Here are five ways people are getting it wrong.

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You’re doing it for the wrong reasons

When a client approaches me to design an infographic, I ask them a simple question.

“Why do you want one?”

I’m happy when a client answers:

  • “We have a lot of interesting information that we’d like to get across to our customers”
  • “We’ve just finished a big project and we’d like to tell our investors all about it”
  • “We know our audience responds to this format, so we’d like to present our latest report in this way”

However, alarm bells start ringing when I hear:

  • “Another company down the road has one, and we think we need one too”

That doesn’t mean it’s right for you. Perhaps that company has a different product or audience. Even if they are in the same industry, with the same audience, they may simply have got it wrong – who says it’s right for them?

  • “Because it will drive a lot of traffic to our website”

Sadly, only a small percentage of infographics ‘go viral”. You are bound to be disappointed if you looking just for clicks. Think about your infographic as a useful communication tool for people interested in your company/product/story. If it’s of wider interest, those people will share it.

If you chase the audience you may end up dumbing down or editing your content – creating a less useful tool.

  • “I saw one in the paper and it looked cool”

Infographics in magazines and newspapers tend to be content-rich and tell a specific story. Often they’re used to supplement a longer article, helping tell a more complex story. They may have been weeks in the making, with a team of journalists and designers.

Now compare this to the information you’re working with, the time to have to spend on it and the resources available. Will yours look so cool?

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Too much “graphic”, not enough “info”

Equal weight should be given to the information and the graphical elements of your infographic.

Too many examples exist online than are thin on content because the creator wanted to produce something that looked good and would attract attention. However, if there’s no content to keep the reader engaged, everyone has wasted their time.

If you don’t have enough information for a strong full-page infographic, think about other approaches. perhaps a smaller graphic would work? Don’t rule out doing some extra research to add more information. Sites like data.gov.uk can be handy for finding national data that could support your arguments.

 

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You’ve forgotten about your audience

During my training sessions I constantly remind attendees about their audience.

Treat an infographic like any other form of communication – a report, article, Facebook status update or press release. In each of those you should be tailoring your content, message and language to the audience.

 

Who is most likely to find your infographic interesting? What do we know about those people? (old, young, male, female, professionals?)

Having this sorted will help you answer some further questions to decide what to feature in your infographic.

  • what do they know about the subject? (how much do you need to explain?)
  • how will they feel about the information?
  • what do you want them to do?
  • what information do they need / want from your infographic? can they find it quickly?

Also, trying to tailor your infographic to “everyone” means you risk engaging no-one.

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You don’t have a clear message

This goes back to the “why?” question in the first point.

What are you trying to say? Take a good look at the information you’re intending to use in your infographic – what is it saying? Are you trying to:

  • demonstrate your company’s good work over the past year?
  • persuade the reader to do something?
  • explain why something has happened?

Make sure you keep this in mind as you are designing – even write it on a post-it and stick it to your computer, so you don’t forget.

I always get my information in shape first. I’ve got a handy process involving lots of post-it notes and big sheets of paper that really helps me assess my information and help me decide if I need to edit it or add to it. It also helps me decide what’s important and begin to develop an overall structure for the final piece.

This helps me stay on message.

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You’re trying to do too much

Whilst I use quite a few during my training, I have a fundamental issue with those long thin infographics.

My main issue is that  – with no page size to work within – there is no editing or quality control and the creator is tempted to throw everything into it, to make it “better” (read “longer”).

An infographic is not a magic spell that will solve all your problems. Throwing more content into it will only make it less effective. Instead, think – can you break your information down into several smaller infographic images, instead of a full-page? These can be handy for social media, adding to reports or on slides.

Plus – each graphic could have a different message and focus, you could easily create graphics for different audiences.

 


About Author

Caroline Beavon

A communication professional with 12 years journalism experience and a genuine passion for new technologies. An experienced blogger and social media user

"Really good, start with some theory, end with practical work. Bang on!" Infographics training attendee, Oxfordshire County Council