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Is it an illustration? Is it a diagram? No... it’s an infographic! They’re increasingly used to communicate information as part of content strategy, but what makes an effective infographic? Fiona Allison of Sequel Group explains.

A good infographic is a perfect marriage of numbers, words and illustration. It’s eye-catching; full of information without being confusing; and simple without being patronising.

Infographics are a visual way to present complex information quickly and clearly. In the past five years, Google searches for ‘infographics’ have increased 25-fold. A great infographic isn’t about words, numbers or pictures; it’s about telling a story that can be consumed in an easily digestible way, describing concepts, plans or processes or relating hierarchies or trends.

Readers like them

Research shows that 90 per cent of the information transmitted to the brain is visual. High quality infographics are 30 times more likely to be read than text articles. Put those two facts together and it’s clear that infographics will help get your message across.

Don’t ditch the text. Around 40 per cent of people respond better to visual information than text but don’t neglect the other 60 per cent: use an infographic to complement a fuller report or article so that people can access information in the way that suits them best.

Establish your purpose and audience

Before you get going, take a step back. Who will you be communicating with? How can you best convey the information they need? Sharing information in a graphical way is not new (think of those galloping deer and hunters with spears incised into Neolithic cave walls) and it still has the same aim: getting ideas across to an audience. Summarise the purpose with one sentence.

Your story is only as good as your ability to engage with your readers – who are they, what do they already know, what do they need to know?

Design v content

It’s tempting to think that infographics are design-led, but the content is important: content and information come first, and the infographic is designed to suit them. The best are horizontal or square, not vertical in format.

Let the content tell the story

Most people will only spend three minutes reading an infographic so be selective with your content. Cherry pick the best bits – the things that people will read and remember. Ask yourself: “Will the intended audience find this interesting?”

Your infographic will be best if it concentrates on one idea – answering one question or addressing one issue. That way it will be visually clear and you’ll avoid confusion. Keep your text to the minimum and get straight to the point using the boldest and most important fact first.

The title grabs attention. If the title alone does not make it completely clear, add a short sentence that summarises what the infographic is about.

Keep it simple

Make sure your infographic is not over designed. Too many elements can lead to confusion. An infographic can be visually appealing and informative; the key is to strike balance between creating a work of art and something helpful. It may look beautiful, edgy or downright amazing but that’s completely pointless if it doesn’t present the information in a clear, concise and easy to read way.

Make it clear

Keep the audience in mind: using too many different images and styles or filling the background with lots of colour will detract and make it harder to understand. Choose a simple colour palette – generally three colours at the most.

The best infographics make it very clear where you should look first; there should be no doubt or confusion in your reader’s mind.

Share it

Include links so that it can be forwarded on to other interested people. A simple row of ‘share me’ buttons works well and it should be forward-able in just a couple of clicks, nothing more complex.

What’s next?

More infographics are using a combination of text, imagery, audio, video and animation, plus interactive content. Though it can be tempting to ‘bling it up’, less is more and don’t let the ‘shiny’ distract from the content.

Sequel Group

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