Infographics: How to Make Them Work Best

by PR Coach on August 18, 2011

Indian Drawings

Were petroglyphs man’s 1st infographics?

So, what is it with infographics? They’re everywhere these days but like so many shiny new technology toys, we’ve created a monster!

I’ve got 10 tips for better infographics, 10 great examples of effective data visuals and 21 26 best resources to help you find and produce infographics that connect and communicate.

Google the term “infographics” and you’ll get more than 5.33 million hits. There are already dozens of excellent infographic blogs including Cool Infographics with nearly 10,000 subscribers.

In fact, I’m getting so tired of the term I’m just going to call them IGs for a change.

There’s an extensive Wikipedia listing including a history. I mean I never thought of petroglyphs, hieroglyphics, Da Vinci’s “Last Supper”, Michaelangelo’s “The Creation of Adam” in the Sistine Chapel or Olympic pictograms as infographics. But hey… they were communicating weren’t they?

The use of infographics to communicate complex information simply and quickly picked up momentum in 2005 with the popularity of Digg, Reddit and other social media aggregators. It’s become almost too-popular as a way for bloggers to liven up posts, media to add impact to news stories and for content marketing experts to generate viral content.

You’ll now find thousands of IG tips on the internet. Subscribe to Daily Infographic and you’ll get a cool new IG every day by email. Or look over NerdGraph Infographics for its collection.

For all I know, there may even be an IG app, T-shirts, logo’d baseball caps and monogrammed cups. It’s inevitable! But are infographics so ubiquitous they’re losing their impact? It’s starting to feel like it to me.

10 Tips for Best Infographics

Let’s start with one of the best examples of an effective IG I’ve seen recently. From PR Newswire, it communicates the benefits of multimedia in social media releases simply and visually.

Effective PR Newswire IG shows more multimedia = more views, up to +77%

This wouldn’t be a true PR Coach post if I didn’t offer a list of tips and tactics, so here are my ten tips for more effective infographics:

  1. Keep it simple: if there was ever a need for the KISS principle, IGs are it. Complex or over-complicated visuals are never effective.
  2. Check your facts: incorrect info decreases your credibility. Always fact check and proofread.
  3. Design counts: simplicity is a virtue when it comes to effective visual communication and bad design is… well… bad. Good design, strong headlines, choice of type, effective layout and use of white space are all essential.
  4. Color works: use color for maximum impact but don’t use it just to be colorful. Know which emotions colors convey but, most important, trust your gut instinct and first impressions.
  5. Numbers must add up: surprisingly, the numbers are occasionally wrong or don’t communicate what you want to say. Too many numbers can also be confusing. Check them carefully.
  6. Enhance narrative: make sure the visual adds to your narrative. Just like TV, a good story is even better with a great visual.
  7. Keep text brief: the best visual presentations use only essential text. Stick to the minimum number of words to tell the story compellingly.
  8. Size matters: keep the size of your file to the smallest possible for fast downloads but retain the quality of your image for best impact.
  9. Don’t overdo it: use visuals sparingly and don’t use an IG in every post or on every page. Like most things, too much of a good thing… is a bad thing.
  10. Credit where credit is due: respect copyright and always credit your IG sources. It’s the right thing to do.

Following these ten tips will ensure your infographics are effective.

Ten Effective Infographics

Infographics can create big impact in a blog post. They can be effective on a website, in news stories or in content marketing materials if well designed. The only downside is when IGs are too complex or poorly illustrated, they don’t work as a communications vehicle.

Here are ten IGs I really like for their simplicity, impact, visual appeal and clarity of information. All of which make them so effective:

Visualizing the US Debt: very effective visual presentation of the enormity of the US debt.

Infographic: The Opportunity Gap: simple visuals make a strong case for racial gaps in opportunities.

Funny but true

Effect of Alcohol on Emotional State: this one is fun, simple and says it all; from the folks at Chart Porn who share visualizations you just gotta love.

Infographic: How Cocaine Use Is Blowing Up: compelling visual for a global epidemic.

The Sexperience 1000: shows a statistical and very interesting and well-designed view of the answer to the question – At what age did you lose your virginity?

Rethinking the food nutrition label: here are four food IGs that demonstrate how simplicity can be so effective.

Infographic: The Deadliest Disease Outbreaks in History: really clear snapshot of major disease outbreaks although you’ll see in the comments that some of the info was incorrect. Thank heavens for experts who notice these things because it would be easy to presume it must be correct. The lesson? Always check your facts before you publish an infographic.

Infographic: The Past, Present, and Future of Supercomputers: the IG with this interesting Atlantic article by Nicholas Jackson is almost over the top. But it’s so complete it’s worth sharing as an example of an IG that it almost tells a story all by itself.

41 Terrific Twitter Tips for Public Relations Pros: the Twitter IG I used to illustrate my 41 tips post was created by Touch Agency. It was the perfect visual companion for a great set of links to other articles loaded with tips.

But back to my point. When more and more jump on the infographics bandwagon, you must ensure your IG is the best way to enhance your message. As they proliferate, they’ll become less effective unless you use good judgment. That’s why they pay you the big bucks.

I know one thing. When my mother-in-law asks me what an infographic is, I’m outa here. Wait a second. Maybe I should create an infographic on questions mothers-in-law ask most often (So what do you do in PR? Is it like advertising?) or how about a 14-day online training course for just $199? The possibilities are endless.

What do you think? Are infographics still effective or have we reached the saturation point? I’d enjoy hearing your opinion in the comments below. Or maybe you’d like to simply share a link to your favorite infographic?

21 27 Best Infographic Resources

Just to wrap things up on this somewhat longer than usual post, here’s a shortlist of my 21 25 favorite and most inspiring infographic resources:

PR Job Hunters Infographic: here’s a well-designed IG that illustrates the many PR job openings and offers tips for PR job hunters.

5 Unbeatable Types of Infographic + Free Tools to Create Them: Ann Smarty shares best examples and free tools to help create your own IGs.

10 Awesome Free Tools to Make Infographics:  Makeuseof.com offers a helpful list of DIY tutorials and programs.

40 Useful and Creative Infographics: impressive, must-read collection of IGs, several of which communicate superbly.

Best Infographics: this site by the iAF Team often is the best source for compelling IGs.

Chart Porn: don’t be misled. This site really does provide superb “data visualizations you just gotta love.” Note, it is office friendly and great collection of beautiful charts, graphs, maps and interactive data visualizations from around the world.

Cool Infographics: a blog and useful source for great IGs.

Daily Infographic: get a new IG every day. Totally random; totally awesome.

Data Mining: blog covers IGs, social media and data mining.

DataViz: an infrequent Tumblr blog with nothing but interesting IGs.

Flowing Data: Nathan Yau explores how designers, statisticians, and computer scientists are using data to understand ourselves better through data visualization

Good Infographics: see effective IGs at a glance; regularly updated and an excellent source for ideas.

Infographics, Part II: How to Create an Infographic- 44 Places to Find Tutorials and Tools
Julie Greller’s IG tips are superb and the 32 free DIY tools are an amazing list!

Infographics News: news, curiosities and information about media infographics from Chiqui Estaben.

Information Aesthetics: since 2004 Andrew Vande Moere has collected projects that represent data or information in original or intriguing ways. With more than 42,000 subscribers, he always presents something interesting.

Information is Beautiful: David McCandless is an independent data journalist and information designer. He blogs about information design.

Junk Charts: Kaiser Fung recycles chart junk as junk art with interesting captures and great lessons.

NerdGraph Infographics: good showcase of infographics, regularly updated.

Simple Complexity: showcases IGs and features useful how-to articles as well. Make sure to check out the Visualization Gallery.

Social Media Graphics: a collection of all kinds of social media related charts, graphs and infographics from Michael Schulz.

Submit Infographics: the folks at Killer Infographics feature a great user-submitted IG gallery that’s really  worth browsing. It also has articles and is nicely organized by topic.

The Infographics Showcase: another excellent source and showcase of the newest infographics.

Visual Business Intelligence: Steve Few comments and critiques infographics with rare insight.

Visual Complexity: IGs and data visualizations from many sources and nearly 700 projects included.

Visual.ly: one of THE best sources for infographics, data visualizations and designs.

Well-Formed Data: freelance information visualizer Moritz Stefaner usually has some interesting IGs to share.

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Photo Credit: Jake Matthews via Flickr

Infographics: Press Releases from PR Newswire via Visual.ly; Effects of Alcohol via ChartPorn

Author: Jeff Domansky is Editor, The PR Coach

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