This is the most comprehensive guide online on how to create an infographic till date.
Whether you are a Graphic Designer or a novice, you will love this guide. This tutorial runs through the entire process from Research and Copywriting to Graphic Design.
It isn’t that hard to design an infographic. There are a few principles Graphic Designers keep in mind while creating one.
So, in today’s post I’ll reveal the exact process that I use to make an infographic, Step-by-Step.
How To Create an Infographic From Scratch:
- Visual Layout
- Typographic principles
- Color theory
- Graphic Design
- Finishing touches (Social Media, SEO)
What tools should I use for making an infographic?
Infographics can be made in any Graphic Design software. Vector Graphics softwares are used over Raster Graphics (Photoshop or GIMP) because you can render the image in vector format (.svg) and in multiple resolutions.
Most Graphic Designers use Adobe Illustrator. If you use Linux, there are free and open source software such as Inkscape. I personally use Blender (a 3D modeling software) as it can output in multiple resolutions and is way more powerful than Inkscape.
There are online tools such as Canva, Piktochart or Venngage which feature an easy drag and drop interface and pre-made templates for you to start with. There are limitations regarding size, choices of templates and custom fonts in the free version but its great if you just want to create something appealing without spending much time.
The Most Important Step While Creating Any Infographic
The topic you have chosen will decide the theme of the infographic, every decision from then will be influenced by the topic.
See if there is a demand for the topic on which you are going to create an infographic. According to this scientific journal, Content which evokes positive emotions or offers practical usage are more likely to get seen by people and shared.
Use Multiple sources.If you are only going to use one source, take the permission of the author before citing it. Fair use is usually dependent on how transformative the content is, Citing one paragraph or page of a book is fine, condensing a whole book into an infographic may not count as fair use.
Besides, using one source means your information is limited to only one author, you may miss out on some vital information that he doesn’t know.
Cite all your sources. Unless you have came up with the information yourself, you should cite it. The last thing you want is someone accusing you of stealing information. Citation is usually done at the bottom in infographics.
At this time, you are only required to gather information that you think is essential. Filtering will be done in the next step. The information should stand alone in its own context i.e it should not make the reader refer other sources to make sense of the infographic.
Sometimes, you aren’t the first one to make the infographic on the topic you have decided. See how much popular those infographics got. Try to de-construct the one which were the most popular, ask yourself why have they gone with this particular font/color/images/length/words/layout.
Once you get a broad idea of what they were aiming for, you can always use your own ways to achieve it. If you are going to use ideas of a previous infographic, cite it in the sources as well.
Easy Steps to Achieve a Compulsive Copy
We are going to start from a broad idea and then figure out the details. A sculptor creates a rough shape as a base and then hammer in the intricate details, the same principle is applied here. The steps below are going to require some iterations, so iterate until satisfied.
What you have to do now is prioritize the information from most important to least important. To prioritize, ask yourself,
“If I removed this piece of data from the information, would the information as a whole still make any sense?”
This is a technique demonstrated by Tim Ferriss in his book The 4-Hour Workweek for the distribution of work during the day. The most important pieces of data goes to the top and the least important data in the bottom.
You can deduct the pieces of data which make no effect on the information as a whole. A 1500px length infographic filled with useful, important content is way better than 5000px infographic filled with fluff. Remember that the title and the first image of the infographic should hook the audience into reading it.
The piece of data itself can be divided into smaller data and prioritized as above.
Divide the information into small chunks. Paragraphs should not extend for more than 3 lines. Make use of images, subheadings, bullet points and lots of space. In this way, the information is easier to process and remember.
Which information can be visualised? Try to have a rough idea.
More on this will be described in the planning section.
You now have to layout the information like a story. A story has a beginning, middle and an end. This step will confirm that you have prioritized the information correctly.
Notice in the above e.g. that one thing leads to another.
Number of sharks killed are increasing–>(why?)–>Due to shark finning–>(what is that?)–>Cutting of fins of sharks–>(why?)–>Soup and Aphrodisiac–>(Does it work as one?)–>There’s no scientific evidence………and so on.
In movies, you will notice that actions have consequences, the villain has killed our main hero’s father. Because of that, our hero goes on a quest to kill the bad guy. The same thing applies here, the information should be connected. One point of information should lead to another till the end. Information thrown randomly confuses and bores the audience.
Here’s another technique used by South Park writers you can use in your own infographic.
Finally, the tone (or mood) of your infographic should be consistent. Which means there should be consistency in attitudes, thoughts and beliefs.
The topic you have chosen will decide the tone of your infographic. If the topic is serious (e.g. Shark finning), be serious till the end of the infographic. Cracking a joke here may not connect well with the audience. Same goes with funny topics (e.g. Cow Hypnosis), being serious here will be a mistake.
Simple words, simple sentences and short sentences are more easily processed by the brain. The information should be visualised where ever possible. As a rule of thumb, your content should be read and understand by a small child and an old man. The person reading your infographic should be focused on the content rather than get stuck on the words.
The other thing to remember is to be concise. Every sentence in your information should be there to explain or enhance the topic. Adding fluff (trivial information) bores the audience. Final thing to remember is to prefer active voice over passive voice wherever possible. Active voice is more easily understood by the public than passive voice.
4 Things You Must Know Before Creating An Infographic
You need to have a rough idea of what size the infographic is going to be, the colors used in it and the images required. You will get overwhelmed if you try to sit on a computer and try to think of this all at once. These points have their own sections down the line. We are just limiting our options now to the essential.
Your infographic is going to be viewed from smartphones, tablets and PCs of varied resolutions. When I check my traffic on my storyboarding infographic post, I had people viewing my infographic from 640×360 resolution screens to people with 2560×1440 resolution screens.
The main thing here you have to keep in mind is to create your infographic such that the image should be readable in as small resolution as possible. We are going to learn in the further steps on how to achieve this.
Infographics don’t have a fixed standard size. They can either be of vertical or horizontal aspect ratio, most infographics have vertical aspect ratios. Make sure to keep the width of the infographic at least 700 pixels (I usually don’t go over 1100 pixels).
For size, start with a 1:3 or 1:5 ratio, which means if the width is 1000px, the height can be 3000px or 5000px. Then add height in multiples of width as required. Remember that the height of the infographic can be as long as needed (it isn’t uncommon to see infographics with height exceeding 10000 px.) Make sure that the content is useful, practical information and is not filled with fluff, unimportant information.
Remember to render your image (usually as png) as high of a resolution as possible but don’t go overboard (Resolution like 1100×5500 is OK but not 5000×25000). Images can be scaled down if needed. Upscaling an image worsens the quality of the image.
We will fine-tune the colors later down the line, the only thing we are going to do now is to choose a color scheme.
The topic you have chosen should influence the decision on colors. (Nature conservation: Blue, Green ; Forest fires: Yellow,Red,Browns)
From my experience, in majority of infographics, apart from neutral colors, you should not require more than two colors. But different topics call for different techniques, so if you need more than two, use it.
Ideally, you would use two typefaces, one for heading, subheadings and one for the body of the text. Usually you would mix a serif font with a sans serif font, Serif for titles and sans serif for body of the text.
When choosing typefaces, choose typefaces of the same era. Sometimes, the author of a serif typeface may also have created a sans serif typeface. They will be structurally similar to each other rather than mixing two wholly different typefaces.
If you have no idea what to pick, I recommend you to visit this fantastic site as a starting point.
Don’t use typefaces like Comic Sans or Papyrus if you don’t want instant hate from your audience. Do not use fancy typefaces (8-bit, Arabic english). The main goal of your infographic is for the person to read the content of your infographic, not take attention to the font itself.
One more thing, many typeface families have “Bold-Italic” and “Extra-Bold” versions of their typeface. Usually, you will not need those ever in your life.
Check your text. Which information can you show visually? Do you need to have a block of text where a simple Graphic would suffice? Create a list of graphics that you need in your infographic. We will decide the size of the graphics in the “Visual Layout” step.
The number of sharks getting finned are increasing. Rather than having to read the text, its much better to represent it in a form of a chart. The person reading may see the rising bar chart and immediately realise the meaning of the chart instead of putting the effort to read the small text.
Like the text, Prioritize the graphics too from most important to least important. Remember that the first image should hook the viewer into reading the infographic. To prioritize, ask the same question as earlier, “If I removed this image from the infographic, would the infographic as a whole still make any sense?”
You may have to revisit this step when deciding the layout of the infographic. If there are two columns in an infographic, we will try to have a pair of images (2,4,6 etc.)
Photos generally are not used in infographics as they break the unity of your design. The photos looks out of place compared to the text and the background.
“Cricket Ball” by Marie-Lan Nguyen (Wikimedia Commons) Licensed under Creative
Commons:By Attribution 2.5, Changes made: Removed the White Background
There are people who successfully can add photos (such as a picture of an earth) but it requires a lot of post processing so the photo doesn’t look out of place. Basically, If you are new to creating infographics, don’t use it.
Only add graphics which are needed, graphics which provides a better experience than reading the text. This again boils down to the copywriting stage. Unimportant information should not be visualized. Only information which helps the viewer understand the topic better should be visualized. The graphics will follow the color scheme previously decided.
Graphics shouldn’t be complex just because you have the tools to make one. There is no need to make complex graphics if the purpose of the image is satisfied with a simple graphic. More on this in the “Graphic Design” step.
Hierachy and Balance, 2 Important Design Principles Used To Plan The Layout
By now, you should have a text of your infographic. You have planned the size of the infographic, what colors to use, typefaces and what images do you need to add in the infographic. The thing you have to do now is to take all the content and fit in the box (the frame of your infographic).
Now, take a notebook, draw the frame of the infographic (with the aspect ratio of the planned one) with a pen and a ruler. Draw it as big as possible. Then, divide it into equal vertical grids using a pencil. While calculating the size of the grids, we will constantly erase and draw, hence we are using a pencil instead of a pen here.
Each box in the grid represents a text box or an image. You had probably prioritized the text and images from most important to least important. You also have divided the information into chunks. The chunks then can be further divided into minor chunks of information.
Assign a box to a piece of data (text/image) and lay it out from most important info at the top to the least important info at the bottom. Remember to leave some space at all the corners in case the image gets cut off.
In the above image, the width of the frame is 8cm and height is 24 cm. As an example, we will assume that there are 4 main points in our infographic,
(b) Hook Image and Primary important content
(c) secondary important content
So, I first divided the grids in 4 equal parts of 6 cm.
(a), (b), (c) and (d) are the 4 main points in the topic of our infographic, (b) and (c) are further divided in the next image. Remember when I said earlier that pieces of data can further be divided and prioritized. the topic of this infographic contains 4 main points. So we first apply those points in our sketch then further divide the points into smaller points below.
Check my storyboarding infographic as an example.
The principles of design you have to keep in mind while doing this are hierarchy and balance. For hierarchy, the images/text which are more important will have larger size than the images/text which are less important. So, The boxes in the grid will be larger for more important info and smaller for less important info. Erase and redraw the grids as needed.
For balance, imagine a weight scale on which the infographic is broken into two vertically and placed on each side of the scale. For a perfectly balanced infographic, the left and right side of the infographic should have equal amount of content (be it text or images). Do the same thing but now dividing it horizontally. Erase and redraw the grids as needed.
The images and text are proportionally larger to each other. I erased and re-divided the frame into 8 equal parts of 3 cm. Then I
- Combined grids where the image/text needed to be large and
- Divided the grids even more where it needed to be small.
Here, the height of each grid is proportional to each other, for e.g: 1.5cm, 3cm and 6cm. Same goes for width.
After creating a final draft, go on your computer and recreate the grid in your favourite software.
The Most Important Principle in Typography is Balance
Before starting, remember to change one parameter at a time. Handling multiple things at once makes us overwhelmed.
Add the text in their respective grids. We will use two typefaces, one for heading, subheadings and one for the body of the text. You have already decided on the typefaces in the “Typeface” section.
Make sure the text is visually balanced in the grid it is in. Just focus on balancing the text within its own grid.
Robert Bringhurst said in his book “The Elements of Typographic Style” that the length of the line in a single column page can be anywhere between 45-75 characters. An ideal length of a line can be considered as 66 characters. For multiple columns it is at 40-50 characters.
Usually, the body text is aligned on the left and we try to keep the length of all the lines the same. This is called as “Flush left, ragged right”. We are aligning at left as the English language is read from left-to-right. The horizontal length of the lines is kept the same as the text appears more balanced.
You can also use justified text if you want, the problem is that it creates uneven spaces between words and some people don’t prefer to use it.
It is never going to be perfect when done by hand but we try to keep the length the same as much as possible. In this way both sides of the text leaves an equal amount of space.
As stated earlier, the text which is important will be larger than the text which is less important. This refers to the data in the information as well as headings and sub-headings. (Headings and subheadings are important than the body text as they help grab the viewer’s attention into reading the body text.).
The larger the text, the less weight it should carry. What this means that don’t use the bold version of the typeface where the text is larger than the body text. We do this because it preserves the visual balance of the text and increases the readability of the smaller text.
But I have seen people use it all the time? Even the above example in the left looks fine to me.
The main purpose here is to achieve hierarchy, Large text and Bold text draws the attention of the eyes immediately. This is effective as we see it used in Tabloids and Flyers all the time.
However when used both at the same time, it breaks the visual balance of the image. One side of the image has more weight than the other. Hence, we either increase the size of the text or use bold version of the text in the same size. Which brings me to…
Bold or italic version of the text should only be used in the same font size of the content. Use this sparingly because bold text is used to emphasize important information. If you want to subdivide the content in body text, you could also bold the text to create new points.
In a text block where there are two or more columns, try to keep the vertical length of both columns the same for the sake of balance.
We can achieve this by spacing out lines.
Or you can also change the text to achieve this.
3 Tips You Can Use To Color Any Infographic
The essential things to remember about color theory is as follows:-
- Pick a color scheme. (Most likely, it will have a warm color and a cool color)
- Colors you have chosen are not to be used in equal proportions.
- In majority of visual content, cool colors occupy more screen space than warm colors.
A single color has its shades and tints, you can create a color palette to limit your colors to the essential if you want. There are a lot of tools that can do it for you.
The main thing we have to achieve here with color is contrast. When I say contrast, I mean contrast between the foreground and background layer.
The images and text which are important will have a higher contrast than the unimportant ones. There are various methods you can use to achieve this, no designer uses a singular method.
Contrast in colors can be achieved by color value, color saturation, warm colors and gradients. In most cases, your body text color will be black or white. For headings and subheadings, the graphical background will change colors as required. The rule I use is that color of the font only changes when it is used to highlight something important.
If you are going to use another color for text, make sure that the contrast between the foreground and background is at least 70%. This is recommended for readability by William Lidwell’s “Universal Principles of Design”
If you are using complementary colors, make sure that you are not using the exact opposite color in the same amount of saturation as the background for the text. It is not recommended because it puts a strain on our eyes.
The next step will be designing graphics,
you may need to jump between this step and the next.
2 Tips I Use To Increase Clarity and Appeal
There are a few things you have to keep in mind while designing graphics. We are going to use storyboarding principles for this. I have covered storyboarding basics (with an infographic) in my previous post, you should check it out. I will tell you some of the important points here.
Most of this principles are things people already use them, but are not aware of it. Its always nice to be conscious of what we are doing. We have already made of a list of images we need.
Start with paper and pencil, sketch out your image, erase and redraw any mistakes as needed. Iterate till you are satisfied.
The rough sketch should pass the silhouette test. That means black out the sketch with your pencil, can you still read the image? If you can’t, redraw it. The silhouette test helps the image gets read when its scaled up or down.
The space inside the image i.e. the blacked out part is called positive space and outside the blacked out part i.e. the white paper is called negative space. You need to have ample negative space in order for the silhouette to be readable. The image which is overcrowded has less negative space, hence the image is hard to read.
You will realize now why graphs, charts and comparisons are often preferred. They are tried and tested over decades. This is the same reason why simple graphics are preferred over Complex ones.
Like the text, focus on visually balancing the graphic in the grid it is placed. In the case where the image is unsymmetrical, try to balance the image using your eye instead of using mathematical precision.
One thing you will always notice in appealing infographics is that they have a foreground, middle-ground and background. That is, they always have more than two layers. Even flat infographics have used this technique effectively. This is primarily a film-making technique as the difference between amateur videos and professional videos is the lack of depth.
There are multiple ways to achieve this and there are a few things you should keep in mind.
The design of the middle ground should be influenced by the topic.
We replace the default stars with the key graphic to show context. See how we decreased the size of the key so that they are smaller than the foreground. This again bring us back to the basics, important graphics will have a larger size than unimportant ones.
Perception of depth is created when things overlap. Make sure that the foreground, middle ground and background overlap each other. Otherwise, they do not look appealing.
See above how if the foreground has the highest amount of saturation and background the least, the middle ground will have low to medium amount of saturation. What this means is that the middle ground will have low to medium contrast. Do the same thing with Color hue, Color Value and Size.
Things like shape and texture provide a fantastic opportunity to create depth. If the foreground is populated with organic curved shapes, straight hard surface edges are better suited for middle-ground. Scenes from Mario games shows this technique perfectly.
There is an optional thing you can do to enhance flow of your infographic, i.e. leading lines. Leading lines means when lines converge at one point in the frame, your eyes automatically move to the point of intersection.
You can use the middle ground to create leading lines.
Promotion is Just as Important as Creation
I have provided a PDF checklist which you can use to re-check all the points stated. Re-check all the previous steps and see whether you have missed something or not.
You are not going to create a masterpiece in first attempt, but you can iterate it until you are satisfied.
Promote your infographic, you are not going to put effort in this only to get 100 views in total. You will need to put the infographic in front of the people who need to see it. Usually, half the time is spent in creating the infographic and the remaining half to promote it.
You will need to create custom graphics for social media. Most likely, you will have a link to your blogpost and an image which only contains the title and the first graphic of the infographic. The title and the first graphic should hook the viewer into reading the infographic.
— Jugaad Animation (@JugaadAnimation) December 6, 2016
Share it in maximum places as needed. (Twitter, Facebook groups, Reddit, Google plus, visual.ly, tumblr, forums etc.)
For SEO and content promotion, I would suggest this particular blogpost by Brian Dean. In fact, I would recommend the entire site if you want to learn content promotion.
Where from here
There are also a lot of tips which can bring small improvements in aesthetics and quality. Listing them all here would take this blogpost to more than 10,000 words. The steps outlined are the things I use personally every time while creating infographics. If you followed all this steps described above accurately, your infographic will be better than 90% of all the infographics published out there.
- While researching, use multiple sources and cite each one in the bottom.
- Clarify and simplify your content as much as possible.
- Have a broad idea of what the size, color, font of the infographics will have.
- What graphics would the infographics need?
- Layout all the information from most important to least important.
- Replace all the text-boxes with actual text.
- Show context while using color, use contrast to highlight important points.
- In adding graphics, simplify as much as possible.
- Foreground, middle-ground and background are key to appealing graphics.
- Iterate and Re-iterate until satisfied.
Some of the resources are directly linked in the body of this post, those are:
- Jonah Berger, Katherine L. Milkman (2012) | What Makes Online Content Viral?
- PresentationZen – The Key to story structure in two words: Therefore & But
- Cameron Chapman | Color Theory for Designers, Part 1: The Meaning of Color
- Andrew Price, Blenderguru | Understanding Colors
- Brian Dean | How to Get Backlinks With Guestographics
The rest are listed here:
- William Lidwell – Universal Principles of Design | ISBN 978-1-59253-587-3
- Robert Bringhurst – The Elements of Typographic Style | ISBN 0-88179-212-8
- Edward Tufte – The Visual Display of Quantitative Information | ISBN 0-9613921-4-2
- Alex White – The Elements of Graphic Design | ISBN 978-1-58115-762-8
- Strunk and White – The Elements of Style [PDF]
- Congressional budget office – Telling Visual Stories About Data
- Benjamin Travis – 5 Facts About Standard Infographic Dimensions
- Scott Adams- The Day You Became a Better Writer
- Ron Doucet | Animation Director – How to Draw for Storyboarding
- James Saw- Design Notes
- Tiago Nunes – Improving Blender Renders with Photography Techniques