11 tips for designing and distributing top-notch infographics

You needn’t be a graphic designer to create appealing infographics that attract copious amounts of viewers, but you’re facing an uphill battle if you don’t follow these pointers.

Reaching a target audience is never guaranteed. With the right team and solid best practices, however, you can get to where you want to be.

Those best practices start with infographic design and end with distribution.

To entice, inform, entertain and impact your target audience, it’s up to you to design well and keep that audience in mind. You can’t overlook the little things (colors, fonts, etc.), or be blind to the big things (proper infographic design styles for target demographics and publications).

Keep these best practices on hand the next time you design an infographic:

1. Know whom you’re designing for.

Before you do anything, ask yourself the following types of questions: Who is the target audience? Are they allergic to certain colors?

Ask these questions up front, because blanketing your decisions with broad generalizations rarely works.

You’re creating art for your audience. A tech company’s infographic will probably look different from one for a cosmetics blog. Make design choices according to the infographic’s purpose, not because you “have been really into lucite green lately” or you “just wanted to show the world that geometric shapes can define our souls.”

2. Watch your spacing.

People often forget that consistent spacing is important. Grids and baselines ensure viewers look at and internalize each component of your infographic. No one wants their audience to think, “What the heck is happening here?”

It’s not just designers who will notice poor spacing. Even your mouthy grandmother who thinks paisley is still in style will ask, “Why is this thing up here when that thing is there? And why aren’t you married yet? Are you saving for a house?”

Aligning design elements isn’t hard, people. (And Grandma, I’ll get there when I’m ready.)

3. Use clear, logical fonts.

Don’t go wild with fonts. I don’t care how tempting or fun it is. Your infographic will look like a ransom note.

Limit yourself to one or two font families and as few font styles as possible, or you’ll risk terrible viewer reactions. Bad typeface design stands out immediately—within 300 milliseconds of looking at it—and the brain is usually unable to remember what it read after another 300 milliseconds. (As typographer Stephen Coles said, “You can’t be a good typographer if you aren’t a good reader.”)

Your goal isn’t to showboat that you used the Harry Potter, “The Godfather” and “Tron” fonts in some terrible new genre mashup. Subtle changes in font size, weight, color, letter case and other decorations can help differentiate content and make elements stand out. Your goal is to help the reader identify headers, body copy and captions. You’re a guide—not a clown.*

* If you are a clown, please pardon my rudeness. I shouldn’t have made a generalization. That was rule No. 1. (Really, go back and check.) I remain respectful of, and fascinated by, your lifestyle. How you ended up in this article is beyond me.

4. Consider who will see your infographic-and where.

“People” isn’t a target demographic. It’s the answer you’d get from someone who has never considered his intended audience. If someone asked you to design clothes for “some person” without any other details, you’d have no idea where to start. Designing anything well requires details, and the Internet certainly isn’t one-size-fits-all.

To stand out in the chaos of the digital world, think about all the places where your infographic might appear, and consider these questions:

  • What’s the biggest image size the blog, landing page or microsite will allow?
  • Because Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest display different image dimensions, should you truncate your information to focus on one or two main points?
  • Will someone print your infographic? If so, that changes the color and resolution game. Use RGB for Web; CMYK for print. Ideal resolutions are 72dpi for Web, 150dpi for retina screens and 300dpi for print.

Now you’re ready to start creating your infographic.

5. Pick the appropriate data visualization.

Let the information be your guide. Determine the data visualization type that’s most sensible and effective. Bar charts don’t make sense with standalone statistics, and choosing a pie chart to illustrate 20 percentages will make you look insane.

Make the information clear for the reader. Assume the reader is interested in your information, but not a data scientist.

6. Be aware of colors and values.

It doesn’t matter what your favorite colors are. Can you read the text against the background? Do the two categories in the legend contrast strongly enough to show a difference? Are the patterns and colors in the charts interesting, yet effective?

If you have trouble reading or deciphering anything, assume your readers will, too. Ignoring these design elements early on only causes you trouble and more work down the road. Design with integrity.

7. Optimize your infographic’s landing page for sharing.

People sweep this tip under the rug too often. Your infographic should live on your publishing platform (e.g., your blog), and be ready for you to show off.

You need sharing buttons to make it easy for online readers to share your infographic across social media channels. Remember that viewers will need some context, but not a lecture. (Nearly all respondents to a Demand Gen Report survey—95 percent—said they preferred shorter content.) To give viewers what they need, include a two- or three-sentence introduction featuring SEO keywords and a clear call to action.

8. Break your infographic into snackable pieces for social-media sharing.

Breaking up your infographic into smaller images extends its lifespan. Think of these snippets as good vampires—like Count von Count from “Sesame Street”—living forever and amping up your numbers.

When you make your content easy to consume and share, your traffic will soar.

9. Use paid social media promotion tactics.

Organic traffic is awesome, but it’s often the outcome of at least some intentional outreach. With ever-changing social media algorithms, it’s increasingly likely that your content will get lost.

That’s why paid promotion is evolving into a standard practice, with advertisers in the United States and Canada ramping up paid spending on social networks by 31 percent this year alone. Adding paid amplification to your posts will give them the boost they need to attract eyeballs.

To help make that happen, use images and determine the most relevant channel(s) on which to promote your work.

10. Share the infographic with publications that cover related content.

If your infographic is about a cutting-edge app that mails you a pizza when you’re sad and lonely, don’t pitch it to Highlights, the magazine for kids. Contact publications and journalists who post content similar to your infographic’s topic. Offering editorial content provides reporters with valuable visual assets for their posts and gives you greater visibility.

Keep your interactions friendly to build long-term relationships. Try to get reporters to anticipate your emails or seek you out for their future content needs.

11. Leverage all relevant owned channels.

Because this isn’t the “Mad Men” era, you don’t have to rely on advertising to promote your infographic (and you can’t day drink on a Wednesday).

You own media channels. You have an email newsletter, a blog and probably dozens of social media accounts. Besides, you have internal company feeds and employees with social media accounts. (Don’t underestimate employee advocacy. Leads developed through employee social media marketing convert seven times more frequently than other leads.)

With all those arms extending your digital reach, you’re like some beautiful, tentacled monster.

Now that you’re on your way to becoming a digital demigod, go forth and be the good you wish to see in the infographic world. These key moves will help you design well and distribute far.

Jake Kilroy is a copywriter for Column Five, an infographic design agency. A version of this article originally appeared on the Column Five blog.


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