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THINK Contributor

Ins and outs of creating awesome infographics

By , March 30, 2017
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You’ve decided to take the plunge into visual media and tell your brand’s story in a whole-new way – through an infographic. The timing is right. According to the Content Marketing Institute, 55% of marketers are investing in creating more visual media content this year. And infographics were the B2B marketing tactic that saw the largest increase in use in 2016 (from 50 to 58%). Eye-tracking and UX studies show that digital users pay significant attention to content with images.

What’s more, visual media benefits your audience: Recognition doubles when you add imagery. People who viewed a visual representation of data recalled 65% of it three days later – versus just 10% for users reading text alone.

As a format to tell the engaging, complex, and data-rich stories today’s consumers crave, it’s hard to beat the integrated and visual format of the infographic. However, if you’re a marketer embarking on your first infographic, it would help to know that it’s possible to incorporate best practices to streamline your production process and greatly improve your results.

Infographics and Storytelling

Infographics are powerful storytelling tools. A great infographic uses three features to convey the story you’re trying to tell:

  • Reliable data that backs up the key narrative arc of the story
  • Powerful copy that fits the tone and focus of the audience
  • Great design that drives your audience toward a compelling conclusion

As you move through the infographic process, it’s important to balance these three elements. Questionable data will undermine your efforts, in the same way a shoddy design makes it hard to engage viewers. Strive for quality in each of these channels.

Define Your Goal

Before you start working on an infographic, it’s important to clarify your business goal. What are you trying to say? What conclusion do you want readers to reach at the end of your infographic? Finally, what’s your target business conversion?

For example, a software company might want to create an infographic that makes the case that businesses need HR recruiting software. With that in mind, it quickly becomes clear what story you are trying to tell: Without the right software, HR is a mess. With the right software, companies hire the right people and thrive. A user will – hopefully – reach the conclusion that it’s time to invest in a recruiting platform and reach out to your sales department for more information.

This level of clarity helps you refine your storytelling and guide your researchers, copywriters, and designers to help them achieve their objectives.

Clarify Your Audience

A successful infographic tells the right story to the right audience. Who do you want to reach? An infographic about consulting services would focus on different data or storylines, depending on who you’re focusing on. For example, a CFO audience is likely to be concerned about the bottom line, ROI, potential cost savings, and revenue generation. Business unit leaders want to know how you can help them solve essential business challenges, save staff time, and help them hit their internal and client targets. Your audience will have a direct impact on the data, copy, and imagery – so get clear on this early in the process and make sure to convey it to the team creating the infographic.

How to Get Started: The Creative Brief

Launching your first infographic begins after you’ve clarified your goal and your audience. First, make sure an infographic is the right format for the story you’re trying to tell. They make sense when you:

  • Have a lot of data, either original or collated from your industry
  • Are creating an ultimate guide on a specific topic
  • Want to compare side-by-side examples

To brief your designer, put together a creative brief that captures your goals, desired format, and audience notes. From there, include details on:

  • The data, story, and copy you plan to use (even if it’s not done yet – provide a high-level overview)
  • The response you want to elicit from the viewer
  • Examples you like and suggestions for elements such as colors, images, or key visuals you think will resonate with your audience
  • Project-related information such as whether it’s a branded infographic and whether there are legal constraints, specific brand guidelines such as color palette, timelines, and specific file formats

To brief your researcher and copywriter:

  • Set fact-checking levels for your data. Ensure you’re using the latest figures and reputable sources and incorporating any unique proprietary data.
  • Establish guidelines for copywriting and text. Focus on being concise. What tone are you going for? What parts of the narrative need to be backed up with data and copy?
  • Outline the text, and look for opportunities to shorten it where possible. For example, could a point that’s being made via copy be more effectively made using images or data?

Giving Effective Feedback: How to Review an Infographic

Once the research and copy are done, your designer will put together a wireframe based on your outline. After that’s approved, you’ll move to the design stage and then be given concepts to review. Here are some tips to help you give great feedback to your infographic team:

Be concrete: It’s important to give concrete, actionable feedback that moves you closer to the result you’re aiming for. Vague feedback such as “I don’t really like the color” doesn’t give a designer the tools they need to deliver on your vision. Instead, it’s important to be concrete, such as “Right now, the colors feel dull. Let’s go for a bolder approach that pops and incorporates our brand colors.” When it’s difficult to articulate what you’re looking for, provide samples and highlight what you like about them.

Data: Does the data tell the story you want to convey? Are there surprising insights or big takeaways? Can the underlying data story be strengthened in meaningful ways?

Tone of the writing: It’s important for the tone of your infographic to match the audience. When evaluating tone, tie any feedback to your audience. For example, instead of saying, “The tone should be more fun,” more helpful feedback would be along the lines of, “Take a more conversational approach that would connect with Millennials, like you’re chatting with a friend.”

Color: Use color as an attention grabber, and to convey the emotions you want to elicit. Make sure your brand colors are taken into consideration, but look for options that are complementary, rather than strictly aligned. Keep your color approach simple, with one or two main choices, for a clean and professional look.

Style and design: When you step back and look at the infographic with fresh eyes, does it convey the impression you hoped for? Is the story clear? Would you be inspired to share it with family and friends? If not, share specific feedback on what could improve it, such as “This doesn’t have the premium look we wanted. Let’s go for more white space and muted colors.”

Layout: Is the layout clear? Can a viewer tell the overall story by looking at the infographic? Is it too bare-bones and minimalist or, at the other end, too cluttered and busy? Does the flow lead you through the chronology or the story arc?

Infographics are a great way to showcase your brand’s original story, compare options, or create the definitive guide to a specific subject. However, if you’re jumping in for the first time, it’s important to have a clear strategy, brief your team, and have a streamlined approach to feedback. Following these best practices can help you create a compelling asset that tells a powerful story and drives interest, engagement, and social shares.

Ready to start designing your infographic? Here are the ins and outs of designing an awesome infographic.

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Liz Alton writes about digital marketing and her work has been featured in USA Today, Forbes, Inc., Harvard Business Review, and Entrepreneur. Her specialties include all things marketing, technology, B2B, big data/analytics, cloud, and mobility. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth, and an MBA from Western Governors University. She is currently pursuing a master’s in journalism from Harvard University. Liz is a paid contributor to THINK Marketing. 

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