The first time I ever created an infographic, it was not good. In fact, my employer told me to focus on other tasks and let the designer worry about making the infographics. I became very discouraged and refused to make another infographic again! Naturally, in my line of work, this proved very difficult to accomplish. To improve my craft, I began harassing our designer on a daily basis, asking him question after question about design strategies he applied when creating infographic templates. I practiced applying these tips and in little time at all; I had become quite skilled in the art of infographic design.
The fact is, of all B2B marketers, 91%, at least, are making use of content marketing, and a fundamental component of content marketing is creating and using interesting infographics that can be implemented into your social media content strategy. But how many marketers are well-versed in the art of graphic design? Just because you’re not a pro, doesn’t mean you can’t learn the basics and start looking like one.
Here are some tips that the designer at Venngage and myself have collaborated on putting together, which we found useful and easy to implement into one’s visual content strategy. Reference this guide and you’ll find that soon enough your infographics will look as though you contracted someone to do them for you.
1) Use an online tool
In the past, infographic design required a skilled designer who understood the ins and outs of Adobe Illustrator, or another complex graphic editor. Now, however, there exist an abundance of online infographic tools that cost a fraction of the price (and some are even free). If you’re a content marketer working for a small business or startup, chances are you don’t have much of a budget, and hiring an agency to create a custom infographic for you can cost anywhere between $1500 to $5000! So if you have the chance to create one yourself for less than $20 in under an hour, you should take that opportunity. Many of these tools also have pre-designed templates to make your life even easier, but after reading this design guide you probably won’t even need any of those templates!
2) Page parameters
Page parameters refers to the size of your infographic. The readability of an infographic is greatly determined by its layout. As a result, you want to make sure that the overall size of your infographic is appealing to your audience. Many infographics are approximately the size of an A4 sheet of paper, which is about 816 pixels in width, and over 1500 pixels in height (some being longer of course). Don’t make your page too narrow since you’ll be required to reduce the size of your text and images drastically, but you also don’t want it to be too wide since instinctively people don’t scroll from left to right on a computer screen- they scroll top to bottom. Now this doesn’t mean that it’s wrong if you exceed these page parameters. There are many amazing designs and infographics that come in various shapes and sizes, however if you are just starting out, or still an amateur infographic maker it’s best to stick to the basics.
Paying attention to page parameters also means keeping an eye on your margins. Keep at least a 20-pixel margin of space between your text or icons, and the edge of your editing canvas. If you don’t, your design can quickly look too cluttered.
3) Negative space
Negative space refers to the empty space around a defining object. I’m going to use an example from Star Wars to help clarify the term. Take a look at this image of CP30 stranded in the desert.
If I were to ask you what the focus of the picture is, you would probably say, “The focus is CP30 stranded in the desert.” Good job! You’re right. The reason the focus is so clear is not because CP30 is visible, but because of the emptiness around him. Creating negative space also gives your content a clean and fresh appearance, making it easier to read and more attractive to the human eye.
4) Font styles and sizes
When you first begin creating your infographic, you can easily become overwhelmed by the many fonts available to you. Your initial thought might be to use them all! Don’t do that. My general rule of thumb is to stick to no more than two fonts. If you’re creating an infographic for your company blog, many people like to mimic the branding style.
Next, you need to decide between using sans serif fonts, serif fonts or a combination of both. If using a combination of font types, make sure you focus on keeping things consistent. If your title is using a serif style like Merriwether, try to use that style for all of your sub-headers as well. That way if you use a sans serif style like Arial for your descriptions, there is a continuous pattern that your reader can adapt to.
Finally, you also want to ensure that your font sizes remain consistent. Try sticking to a 14-16 font size minimum. Anything smaller than that will be too difficult for your audience to read. Afterall, the point of your infographic is to make a concept or an article easier to understand, not more tedious.
5) Color schemes
The most important thing to remember about color schemes is to avoid placing dark text over a dark background and light text over a light background. Rather attempt to use contrasting color schemes so that your words and icons pop. Here is a color scheme guide you can use with all of the color codes available as well. Use it a reference to help you figure out which colors work well with each other.
The term contrast refers to the state of being strikingly different from something else, typically something in juxtaposition or close association. This can refer to color (see above), shape, personality, characteristic, value and tone. When applying contrast to an infographic, the easiest means to do so are with color and shape. By placing a small icon next to a much larger one, you are displaying a relationship between two entities that your audience will pick up on. Contrast in size or type is also an excellent element to use if you’re trying to relate a metaphor or paradox to the reader.
7) Perspective and Depth
Using elements of perspective and depth will provide your infographic with shape and texture. This can be achieved by creating some space between the background, middle and foreground, by visually separating sections using color, opacity, and size.
Take a look at the above image. The various tones of blue that are used are placed strategically to make the larger silhouette appear closer than the image in the background. The larger the image in the background, the closer it appears to the viewer, the higher up the silhouette is placed, the farther away it looks. Play around with perspective and depth to make your infographic look less flat, and more interesting.
Did you know that human beings are instinctively more attracted to symmetrically arranged objects and people with symmetrical features? Whether it be in nature, illustration, construction or graphic design, balance for many, is beautiful. By exhibiting balance, or symmetry in your infographic designs, you may notice a higher tendency for engagement with them.
Many popular infographics use centered titles and subheaders in order to achieve symmetry. In cases where multiple themes and subjects need to be applied to an infographic, designers will break up the entire graphic in sections, thus maintaining a sense of balance.
Repetition enforces ideas and behaviour, therefore, when used in an infographic, repetition can emphasize a specific point or increase its perceived value. By repeating certain words, you validate their importance. By repeating certain icons, you are providing your audience with a visual trigger or reminder.
For instance, have you ever been to a restaurant that uses a little icon next to a menu item to indicate the spice level, or it’s health benefits? More chili pepper icons usually means added heat. So rather than just describing it as “very hot”, adding more icons can sometimes make the concept easier to grasp than stating it. Comparatively, something with 3 icons must have a far greater potency than something with only 1 icon. Repetition enforces ideas and behaviour.
I used to have a professor who would repeat the goals of a lesson multiple times at the beginning of class. She would also repeat important concepts multiple times within a short span of time. She said that in doing so, we would be more likely to remain on track with our work, and less likely to forget important information come exam time. Repetition enforces ideas and behaviour. See what I did there?
10) Icon Usage
For many people, using icons is harder than it seems. The most difficult part about icon usage is not necessarily deciding on whichone to include in your infographic, but rather where and how to place it. My first tip is not to use icons within their apparent limitations. What I mean by this, is that a square icon does not necessarily need to be used just as a square. It can become much more than that. Icons that seem simple in their shape and style can be used for many purposes, such as bullet points when making a visual list, background images when enlarged and with the opacity reduced, borders, headers, and charts.
11) Final point
Finally, the greatest struggle marketers face when it comes to infographic design is making the time actually to do it. At first, especially when you are starting out with a new tool, the biggest challenge is familiarizing yourself with the software. It takes practice to master a skill. The first time you create an infographic, try not to lose patience and make sure that you pay attention to detail. Look at infographics on Pinterest and mimic their style. Sooner than later you will find yourself getting better and better. I know this because I’ve experienced it. You can too. And if you’re ever in doubt, you can always feel free to tweet at me and shoot me a line!