Design wise, what makes a good infographic?

If you’ve picked up the latest issue of CorpComms magazine, you might have come across the article on effective infographics by PR Academy graduate Bob Watling. If you haven’t, it is well worth a read. Considering the amount of data we are all faced with every day, any help in making this easier to digest has got to be a good thing.

Following on from Bob’s piece, we thought we’d seek our designer Mark Terry’s views on what makes a good infographic design wise.

Here’s what he said…

‘Infographic’ is a buzzword at the moment and as such everyone thinks this method of communicating information is new. It’s not. Just think of a car dashboard, the London Underground map, a weather map, or the periodic table to name but a few examples that have been knocking about for a while.

What is a more recent innovation with regards to infographics, however, and what puts clear blue water between them and standard graphics, is how they have developed into the visualisation of the stories told by data. Illustrated sporting data, especially football stats, is a great example of this development.

A well-designed infographic is that picture that’s worth a thousand words. It makes instant sense of complex information.

Briefly, here are my five pointers for a well-designed infographic…

1. A well-designed infographic is the visualisation of a story. Like all good stories there needs to be a relationship at its heart. If there is no relationship between the data, i.e. no way of ordering it according to process, time, hierarchy etc, no amount of design is going to turn it into a compelling tale. What often happens in these cases is that the visualisation gets labelled a ‘poor infographic’ when in fact it isn’t an infographic at all – it’s just a graphic. The question to ask is ‘Have you got a story worth telling?’ If not, visualising it won’t be useful.

2. The design has to be data led and convey the data ‘relationship’. To underline my first point, the content tells the story, the infographic is the visualisation of this.

3. The visual metaphor/theme used must be appropriate to the subject and relevant to the audience if it is going to engage them and resonate.

4. There needs to be the right balance between the content and the design. If the design outshines the content then the infographic as a communications tool is destined to fail. Similarly, if the composition does not convey the meaning, your audience just won’t take away the information that you want them to. Fundamentally, people recall images and relationships, not numbers.

5. To really engage people the content and the design need to work together to connect with people on an emotional level. In terms of design that means that the theme not only needs to be appropriate, the style and tone (or colour and form) need to provoke and stimulate the response you desire.

To end with, here are a few sites and books you might like to take a look at:


Design for Information; Isabel Meirelles, Rockport
Infographics: The Power of Visual Storytelling; Jason Lankow/Josh Ritchie/Ross Crooks, John Wiley & Sons
Information is Beautiful; David McCandless, Collins

Thanks, Mark!

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