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The Do’s And Don’ts Of Infographic Design

Editor’s Note: You might want to read Nathan Yau’s article The Do’s And Don’ts Of Infographic Design: Revisited1 here on Smashing Magazine which is a response to this article.

Since the dawn of the Internet, the demand for good design has continued to skyrocket. From Web 1.0 to Web 2.0 and beyond, designers have remained on their toes as they define the trends and expectations of our online universe. The Internet is a great designer’s playground, and online businesses are growing more and more appreciative of what can be gained from a bit of well-executed eye candy. Over the past two years, this fact has become the backbone of a growing trend in online marketing: the infographic.

Infographics are visual representations of information, or “data viz” as the cool kids call it these days. The term “data viz” comes from “data visualization,” which implies that sets of data will be displayed in a unique way that can be seen, rather than read. This visualization should not be left up to interpretation, it should instead be designed in a way that provides a universal conclusion for all viewers. In the simplest terms, infographics are not too different than the charts and graphs that programs like Excel have been spitting out for years.

Of course, just as Web 2.0 changed 1.0, today’s infographics are far more eye-catching than simple pie charts and bar graphs. Today, infographics compile many different data visualizations into one cohesive piece of “eye candy.” They have evolved with design trends, received some creative facelifts, and the Internet is now getting filled with interesting information delivered in enthralling ways.

While some design trends come and go, infographics are here to stay. With brands like USA Today, The New York Times and Google and even President Obama getting behind them2, infographics are becoming a powerful tool for disseminating huge amounts of information to the masses. Companies large and small are using infographics to build their brands, educate their audience and optimize their search engine ranking through link-building. This is why learning how to design a good infographic is a must, and avoiding the common pitfalls of infographic design could mean the difference between landing a big client and losing them entirely.

Wrapping Your Mind Around Data Viz Link

Designing an infographic is not the same as designing a website, flier, brochure, etc. Even some of the best designers, with portfolios that would make you drool, cannot execute an effective infographic design. Creating infographics is a challenge and requires a mindset that does not come naturally to everyone. But that mindset can be gained through practice and by sticking to certain standards, the most important of which is to respect and understand data viz. Here are some simple rules to follow when wrapping your mind around proper data viz.

Show, Don’t Tell Link

A rule of cinema is to show, don’t tell. The same holds true for infographic design. The foundation of any good infographic is data viz. As an infographic designer, you may or may not determine the concept and compile all of the research for the final design, but either way you are responsible for turning that information into a visually stimulating, cohesive design that tells a story and that doesn’t miss a single opportunity to visualize data. Take this portion of an infographic about Twitter by ViralMS3 as an example:

twitter infographic4

This Twitter infographic writes out the data, rather than visualizing it.

What’s wrong with this infographic? It breaks the first rule right out of the gate. When you have an opportunity to display information visually, take it. Here, the tweets per second could have at least been shown in a bar graph. This would enable someone to quickly look at this section and see what’s going on; by seeing the various heights of the bars, the eye could have quickly gauged the differences in tweets per second per event without having to read anything.

If you’re having trouble adhering to this rule, try keeping all of your text on one layer of your AI file (excluding text inside charts and graphs). Every once in a while, turn off the text layer and see whether the infographic still makes sense. If there isn’t any data viz, or if a bunch of pictures are missing context, then you are doing too much telling and not enough showing.

If the Client Wanted an Excel Chart, They Wouldn’t Need You Link

It might sound harsh, but it’s true. If infographics were as simple as laying out a bunch of standard charts and graphs on a page, then clients would not need to search out great designers. Many tools are online that can create colorful pie charts, line graphs and bar graphs, so you have to take things to the next level for your design to stand out. Taking the data from above, which of the two graphs below do you think would make a client happier?

unique data viz5

Two ways to visualize the data from the Twitter example above.

If you answered Graph B, you’re catching on. Of course, not all data lends itself to creative and unique graphs. Graph A might work very well if the rest of the infographic shared a similar aesthetic. Sometimes you just have to bite the bullet and produce a traditional bar graph or pie chart; nevertheless, always consider ways to dress it up, as in the examples below:

infographic examples6

Ways to dress up simple graphs for an infographic.

Typography Should Not Be a Crutch Link

Typography can make or break a design, but it should not be the solution to a data viz problem. More often than not, designers begin an infographic with a great deal of energy and excitement, but they lose steam fast as they continue down the page. This often leads to quick decisions and poor solutions, like using typography to show off a big number instead of visualizing it in some way. Here’s an example:

Too much dependence on typography

TravelMatch’s infographic highlights too much.

Whenever I see this, I’m reminded of the “Where’s the beef?” ad campaign, and I think, “Where’s the data viz?” Although Sketch Rockwell is one of my all-time favorite fonts, this is a perfect example of relying too much on typography.

Any time a research number is provided to you for an infographic, ask yourself how it can be visualized. Percentages can always be visualized with creative pie charts; numerical values in a set can usually be turned into a unique bar graph; and when numbers don’t fit on a consistent scale, you might be able to visualize them in a diagram. Here is another way the above data could have been visualized:

data visualization7

An example of how to visualize the TravelMatch data, rather than relying on typography.

Typography Has Its Place Link

All that being said, typography does have its uses, which should not be ignored when creating an infographic. Most of the time, you will want to focus your creative typographical energies on titles and headings. The title of the infographic is a perfect opportunity to use a fun and eye-catching font and to give it a treatment that fits the theme or topic. Just make sure the title isn’t so distracting that it takes away from the reason we are looking at the infographic in the first place. The truth of the matter is that some infographic topics are boring, but the right title design can engage people enough to scroll through.

Similarly, headings help to break up an infographic and make the data easier to take in, giving you another chance to let your font-nerd flag fly.


The title of an infographic is your chance to draw attention to the design.

Organization And Storyline Link

Organizing an infographic in a way that makes sense and that keeps the viewer interested is not always easy, but it’s part of the job for most infographic designers. Usually, you will be given a lot of data and will need to create a visual story out of it. This can be challenging at first, but you can follow some general rules to make things easier.

Wireframe the Infographic Link

Wireframing an infographic enables you to work out a storyboard and layout for the design. You may have an idea of the story you want to tell, but as you start laying things out, you might hit a wall and have to start over. Having to reorganize after having already done a lot of the design is incredibly frustrating. Avoid this by setting up your storyline at the start to determine what data to show and how. Set aside an hour to sketch things out and make sure it all makes sense. This will also help to ensure that the color palette you will choose drives attention to the important points and keeps the eye flowing down the page.

Think Outside the Box Link

As you wireframe the infographic, you will identify section breaks that help to tell the story. Most infographics online have a vertical flow, in which each section has a heading to distinguish it from the last. This gets boring fast. Organizing the data and sectioning off information without relying entirely on headings and color breaks is a good way to break the monotony.

For instance, rather than going for a typical one-column layout, you could use two columns in certain parts. You could also break up sections with borders, with backgrounds of different shapes or give the entire design a road or path theme. Here’s some outside the box layouts to get your creative juices flowing:

unique infographic layouts9

There are many unique ways to lay out an infographic that will keep the viewer engaged.

Tell a Story Link

All good stories have a beginning, middle and end. Infographics deserve the same treatment. At the beginning of the infographic, introduce the problem or thesis. From there, back it up with data. Finally, end the infographic with a conclusion.

Visualize the Hook Link

Every good infographic has a hook or primary take-away that makes the viewer say “A-ha!” As a designer, you should make this hook the focal point of the design if at all possible. Placing the hook at either the center or very end of the infographic is usually best, so that it grabs more attention. Give the most important information the most visual weight, so that viewers know what to take away. Here are some examples of well visualized hooks:

hooks in infographics10

Hooks should either be in the center, beginning, or end of the infographic and need the greatest visual emphasis.

Cleaning Things Up With Color Link

The difference a color palette can make is amazing, especially in the world of infographics. The right palette can help organize an infographic, evangelize the brand, reinforce the topic and more. The wrong palette can turn a great topic into an eyesore, harm the brand’s image and convey the wrong message. Here are some tips to consider when choosing colors for your infographic.

Make It Universal Link

In Web design, it’s always important to choose a palette that fits the theme of the website and that is neutral enough for a diverse group of visitors. Because infographics are primarily shared online, picking the right palette for an array of visitors is equally important. You must also consider what looks good online.

For instance, dominant dark colors and neons typically do not translate well on infographics; neon on black can be hard to read, and if there is a lot of data, taking it all in will be a challenge. Also, avoid white as a background whenever possible. Infographics are often shared on multiple websites and blogs, most of which have white backgrounds. If your infographic’s background is also white, then deciphering where it begins and ends will be difficult.

A Three-Color Palette Is Easy on the Eyes Link

With all of the data that goes into an infographic, make sure that the reader’s eye easily flows down the page; the wrong color palette can be a big barrier to this. Choose a palette that doesn’t attack the senses. And consider doing this before you start designing, because it will help you determine how to visualize the various elements.

If picking a color palette is hard for you, stick to the rule of three. Choose three primary colors. Of the three, one should be the background color (usually the lightest of the three), and the other two should break up the sections. If you need to add other colors, use shades of the three main colors. This will keep the palette cohesive and calming, rather than jarring.

Use the Tools at Your Disposal Link

When picking colors, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. A number of great websites out there will help you choose the right palette for your infographic. Adobe’s Kuler11 offers fresh themes and a searchable database, as well as an easy tool to adjust the palette that you’re interested in. One issue with Kuler is that all of the palettes have five colors, and the colors are sometimes from completely different families, rather than shades of a few primary colors, so finding the right palette can be like searching for a needle in a haystack.

Another color-picking tool is COLOURlovers12. This database is easier to search through: it breaks palettes into different themes and can be sorted by favorites. While most of the palettes also consist of five colors, the colors are not always given equal weight; instead, the tool suggests which should be dominant. Here are some good and bad palettes for infographics:

infographic color palettes13

Final Thoughts Link

While these standards are important to consider for most infographic designs, sometimes an infographic comes along that breaks all of these rules and still succeeds immensely. In the end, clients like “eye candy” and designs that “pop!” While such terms are subjective (and annoying to most designers), we all know a great infographic design when we see one, and your clients do, too. Use these rules to guide you into the infographic realm, but create your own techniques and standards after you’ve gained some experience.


Footnotes Link

  1. 1 /2011/10/21/the-dos-and-donts-of-infographic-design-revisited/
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  5. 5 /wp-content/uploads/2011/10/tweet-o-meter-uptodatenew.gif
  6. 6 /wp-content/uploads/2011/09/dressed-up-graphs.gif
  7. 7 /wp-content/uploads/2011/10/Plane-newest.gif
  8. 8 /wp-content/uploads/2011/09/infographic-headings.gif
  9. 9 /wp-content/uploads/2011/10/unique-infographic-layouts.jpg
  10. 10 /wp-content/uploads/2011/10/hooks.jpg
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Amy Balliett is the co-founder of Killer Infographics, an infographic design agency located in Seattle, WA. Killer Infographics began as Submit Infographics, a user generated infographic gallery allowing designers to submit their work for review from a team of artists. After many requests, the company shifted into a design agency while still running the submission gallery. Since its inception in the fall of 2010, Killer Infographics has produced over 750 viral infographics for companies large and small.

  1. 1

    Emiel Kwakkel

    October 14, 2011 3:08 am

    Should have been posted like one week earlier. Then that awkward standard chart on my infographic wouldn’t have made it through I guess. Thanks for the great tips!

  2. 2

    I understood the text version of the “empty seats” data. Even though I saw that first, I still can’t get to grips with the infographic version. I know it should be telling me that there are enough empty seats to fill enough flights to keep a big airport busy for two-thirds of a year, but I don’t get it.

    I can understand infographics are meant to be more appealing, but they should still give us the meaning.

    • 3

      I totally agree. I thought the first empty seat graphic was easy to understand with a hilarious “snakes on a plane” reference :)

      The infographic is hard to understand and removes all focus away from the actual message. I feel like counting seats, and then fall asleep…

    • 4

      Glad someone else feels the “Airplane empty seats” infographic is illegible. The original “text-heavy” graphic is much better.

      Sometimes words ARE better than pictograms, and learning how to assess that is as important as having visual skills. In the Airplane Empty Seats example, the story in words is just that: a story. Yes, it has data in it. And yes, it has a hook. But the sequencing of the data in words (plus some humor) + the drama of all those patading jets make it far better at conveying its message than the jumble of tiny icons found in the infographic.

    • 5

      Some so called ‘cool’ infographics’ are very difficult to understand. It took less than a minute to understand the first ’empty seats’ graphic where as the infographic one did not make any sense to me even after 3 minutes. Most of the infographics examples here are over-kill.

    • 6

      oh man I sat here and stared at the plane one for about 5 minutes and felt completely stupid.

      anyway…. anyone else here just sick and tired of info graphics? I tend to just ignore them

      • 7

        I’m afraid I gave up reading after the abominable plane graphic.

        I’m not completely sold on Tufte, but I do like his idea of “chartjunk” – clutter that adds nothing to a piece of visual communication. I’m all in favour of a bit of chartjunk now and then, but the plane graphic is almost entirely junk. As a result, it’s almost entirely meaningless.

        I prefer the first – but I don’t think it’s fair to critique it as an infographic. Because it’s not an infographic, it’s an illustrated piece of text. And that’s the best way to present that particular piece of information.

        Oh, and the cool kids don’t call it “data viz”. I know, I asked them.

    • 8

      Phew, I am not the only one. I have tried reading that infographic about 5 times now, and I still don’t understand a thing about it.

      Also, does anyone else feel that Graph A (the bar chart) for the Twitter thing is easier to read that the other speedometer one?

      The speedometer one just has too many elements in it, and it’s annoying to keep flicking to the legend, and then flick back to see the numbers on the chart.

      I find that a lot of infographics nowadays rely too much on making things fancy with all sorts of graphics. Sure, you should keep things interesting, but don’t make it so fancy that it’s unreadable.

      • 9

        I agree – Graph A is far from perfect but it is a much clearer presentation of the information than Graph B. The client didn’t hire you because they wanted to get away from Excel, surely they hired you because they wanted to get their (data) message across. I also agree that the proposed infographic on empty seats on planes is no better and possibly worse than the original. And as for the 3 “hooks” – I could only see the NFL helmet as a hook, other two seemed just part of the clutter.

      • 10

        I completely agree with you.

    • 11

      I also couldn’t understand the “improved” infographic. I also thought in your A/B test that A was much easier to process, even if the color pallet was a little week and the bars were backwards (traditionally tallest is on the right in roman languages so the bar chart gets TALLER with time not shorter…

    • 12

      I thought this was a horrible example of trying to improve an infographic. The fact is, the reason we use inforgraphics is to display information in an easy to understand and visual manner. I believe the first example did everything needed from an infographic. It caught your eye, explained its purpose, and gave you the information it needed to.

      The second infographic may look nice, but if you wanted people to get that information, it failed miserably. While I did get it, after looking for a minute, not everyone will. I had to look at it for a longer than I would have liked to just to get the same information the other one gave me in seconds.

      The whole point of infographics is to give information in a visual manner. I don’t think using text takes away from it’s visual appeal. I do know that loosing the information in the design does not get the job done.

      I did really enjoy this post. Great information other than disagreeing with the TravelMatch example.

  3. 13

    Some of those infographics utterly fail in their job of actually conveying information. That to me is a rather significant “don’t”.


  4. 14

    I understand what the article is trying to say, but the ‘best’ examples are actually not good at telling their own story/showing the info.

    1. The improved twitter infographic is difficult to understand because there isn’t much contrast.

    2. The empty plane seats was confusing.

    3. The green “hook” example didn’t really look like it was a hook.

    Perhaps the team can go back through the article and switch it up with better examples to illustrate the point. :)

    • 15

      I agree, the versions A in the examples are better and what I’ve learned from the article and comments is: use a good design, don’t need to be trendy, be clear.

    • 16

      well stated.

  5. 17

    These responses are great and I appreciate everyone’s input! As Jakob put it, there is a big debate in the infographic industry regarding what an infographic is and I clearly come out in favor of “eye candy” side of things, as we’ve found more success for our clients in that arena.

    In this article, I am trying to show examples of visually stimulating choices, but your comments make it clear that my examples came up short so I apologize for that. The point is that infographics offer a great opportunity to think outside the box, and in our experience, there is a preference for unique forms of visualization rather than simple charts and graphs. Still, as you’ll note in our portfolio ( there is a mix of both because certain topics call for certain design choices.

    Unfortunately, I was limited with the examples I could rework, as I had to get permission from the original owners of the work to use their infographics as “don’ts.” Next time, I’ll have our design team mock up some do’s and don’ts rather than go this route. All that said, the primary points of the article remain the same – don’t miss an opportunity for data viz, tell a story with your design, don’t rely too heavily on typography, and choose a color palette that is welcoming and easy on the eyes.

    Please keep up the candor in this discussion. It’s great to hear your thoughts! This is my first time posting on Smashing Magazine and I have already gained a great deal just from this conversation alone!

    • 18

      Hat tip for a fair response to fair criticism and for unreservedly making the case for eye candy. When the brief is to attract attention, make something that attracts attention. When the brief is to visualise data, then is the time to follow best practices and crack out the Tufte books. Don’t try to shoe-horn one into the other, making boring visualisations of weak data sets or turning important data into shallow eye candy.

  6. 19

    Thanks for this I can’t help but click a link to view an infographic, most are well done and are great for quickly getting a message across.

  7. 20

    I just wanted to jump in real quick and point you to alternative views on the subject. As some of you might know there’s a bit of a quarrel going on in the infographic community regarding best practices of visualization. I guess many design communities have similar camps battling out “The Truth.”

    While Amy does a great job motivating her design choices there are a few statements that some people who come to visualization from the scientific angle would take issue with, like the fact that she denounces bar charts in favor of more flourished visualization.

    It boils down to the fight between David McCandless and Stephen Few, both highly regarded professionals and leaders in their field, but adamantly in opposition to certain design practices that their nemesis holds dear. Obviously there is some common ground between them and viable alternative views on the subject, but I thought I’d mention that the “do’s and don’ts of infographic design” can vary greatly depending on the school of thought you subscribe to and need not be the one this article put forth.

    Please don’t take this as opposition to the article Amy wrote, but rather a suggestion for further reading:

    Both Enrico and Andy provide a great resource for beginners and advanced designers alike, so please check out their blogs if you haven’t already.

    • 21

      Jakob you make a very good important point. Coming from information visualization my first reaction to many info-graphics is not favorable. But, there is a place for them when they are done well. I personally fall in favor of Stephen Few in that battle you mention.

    • 22

      I’ve always been puzzled by the David McCandless vs Stephen Few thing (which, as you say, pretty much summarises every argument about information graphics, ever).

      They’re two separate fields: journalism and business intelligence. One makes graphics for communications, the other, for analysis. One’s goal is distinctive graphics that can attract passive audiences, the other, versatile graphical formats that can be interrogated by committed audiences.

      The only thing they have in common is making visuals based on numbers. Why is there any conflict? It’s like asking, who makes the best vehicles: Ferrari or JCB? Or criticising Ferrari for making vehicles that are of little use on a building site. Or criticising JCB for making vehicles that don’t swoosh as they go by.

  8. 23

    If the message of the data is lost in the visualisation, then the infographic has failed. The ’empty seats’ example falls foul of this: I understand the original version better than the ‘reworked’ one.

    Also, though the overall colour palette of the ‘tweets per second’ speedometer is fine when taken in isolation, it’s completely off-brand for Twitter. The information is clearer than the original version, but the indicators on the dial don’t stand out from the background enough. I’d have muted the background a bit more rather than relying on a dropshadow to separate them out.

    Like any piece of design, you need to consider your audience and the context in which the infographic will be viewed. If it’s to go on a very businesslike website – where the main design features are clean edges, whitespace, and a minimalist approach to its colour palette – then anything involving cutsey icons is out. Don’t make the mistake of speaking down to your audience.

  9. 24

    Thanks for the article, Amy. I appreciate your ambition to create a different and unique experience.

    Unfortunately, your examples may suggest the opposite of your actual point.

    Most people are familiar with excel charts and find them intuitive to read and use. Whether or not they are ugly and boring is entirely in the eye of the viewer. The primary goal should be to speak to your audience and bring your point across wherefore it’s necessary to make the information accessible.

    The experience for the reader can be enhanced by adding eye-candy, but it’s always a compromise with usability. There is no point in making something pretty just because you can if it leads to a frustrating reading experience. A very fine line to walk I’m afraid.

  10. 25

    Thanks for this inspiring article, but IMHO an important aspect is missing: if you are designing infographics for the web, accessibility should be incorporated. This does not have to result in dull graphics, of course.

    For more information please read this article by Wilson Miner on «A List Apart»:

    And there’s this really excellent book on data visualization written by Brian Suda:

  11. 26

    Digital Essence

    October 14, 2011 5:03 am

    For me, you can’t beat the simplicity of Isotype

  12. 27

    I’m excited to see an article on data visualization on Smashing, as it’s an area of design I really enjoy. However, despite your commendable efforts, I don’t think this article is accurate.

    The primary goal of a data visualization is to clearly convey the significance of data using visual design. In all of your reworked examples, it is more difficult to understand the significance of the information than in the original version. The plane example is particularly confusing, and in the Twitter example, the bar graph was much easier to understand at a glance (although I still think it could be done more successfully than a bar graph).

    If your pretty design is obscuring the data, it has failed as a visualization. This article is a huge “don’t” of infographic design.

  13. 28

    I do believe that infographics are essential to the web, I’m afraid this article is making the case for eye candy, which brings the quality of an infographic down. Creativity? Yes. Creativity is necessary to properly portray data, but it’s more of an effort to show data clearly and accurately, not with “bling”. I’m afraid that the bling takes attention away from the data, and can often skew it in the name of hipness.

  14. 29

    This is more of decor than design. It’s prettier but not more functional.
    Good design is knowing when a bar chart conveys the correct information faster and more comprehensible.

  15. 30

    Overall I thought the post was solid. I think that people have short attention spans, and that eye candy keeps them captivated. Not sure why people are so upset about eye candy?

    • 31

      Not upset about the eye candy, just unable to understand the graphics. I’m a numbers person, and still could not figure out how the graphics represent the stories. The more simple graphics are easy to understand and tell the story instantly. Isn’t that more important?

  16. 32

    I think an important facet here that needs to be addressed is lead generation. Upon simply reading the art of the graphics you can see they do a great job of informing us, but one thing a client is going to want that coincides with aesthetics is to create traffic. Infographics build inbound links for a fraction of the cost of a traditional online marketing campaign and generate brand awareness. They just need to be captivating. Creating monotonous bar graphs and pie charts can be risky simply because you may not be re-posted. You want to get peoples attention, so much so that those people want to tell somebody else about it. I understand this process and an aesthetic approach creates a high probability of the content being shared. This gets a thumbs up from me.

  17. 33

    Sorry. Normally a big Smashing fan, but this article falls short of the mark for me. Too much emphasis on clever vs. communicative.

  18. 34

    With apologies, I agree; the “empty seats” infographic is incomprehensible at first glance and counter-intuitive on closer inspection. As the article – excellent in many other ways – points out, infographics need to be eye-catching; but they also need to communicate complex information in a simple and easy-to-understand manner.
    – The actual calendar month references don’t add to our understanding; in fact, they add a “red herring.” Does it matter which month is which, if you’re not segmenting the data on a monthly basis?
    – The arrow pointing at the text label for the 217 days makes It look like the amount of space allotted for that 217 days is the white space where the text is, when it’s actually the opposite.
    – Why are half the plane seats upside down, when no other elements are?
    – The data key in the center is inconsistent: one data point isn’t rounded, while all the others are. If there are 237M seats, that should translate to 522K empty planes, not 522,016.
    – The icon equivalency info should be below the data from which it’s drawn, not above; when you see it first, it doesn’t mean anything.
    – The info that 1 plane icon = 6.5K planes and 1 seat icon = 2.9M seats is totally random, obviously assigned after the design, to justify the number of icons the design allowed. This is an unfortunate example of a design idea trumping the data it’s supposed to represent.
    – Overall, there are too many “micro” elements, at the expense of “macro” communication of the main point. And visually, it’s just a carpet of little elements that dull the senses and don’t resolve into direct communication.

  19. 35

    It may just be me, but I don’t find the examples to be providing opportunities for particularly compelling stories. They seem to be providing 2 ‘dimensions’ of information in a 2 dimensional space which is never going to capture people’s imaginations as a story regardless of how it is dressed up graphically. For example: in the twitter example, what makes this information interesting? Is it that the top 3 events all relate to Japan (Tsunami, New Year’s, and Japan v US in the World Cup final)? Is it that of the top 5, they are all related to either Japan or the US or both? How can this comparison be highlighted so that there are 3 or 4 dimensions of information in a 2 dimensional space?
    Is the first question that the visual designer has to answer: “why is this interesting?”

  20. 36

    Perhaps some of the examples here aren’t the most intuitive, but they certainly are more visually interesting than the “before” images, and to be honest, compelling graphics are what clients really want.

    I think it’s important to remember that infographics are a huge tool for brand building and link building, and that overall clients tend to care more about compelling visuals and branding than they do meaningful data. In fact, a lot of clients (and designers!) don’t have the mind for data visualization the way they do for design so it can be tough to hit the mark every time.

    In doing infographics for clients, I’ve come to realize something that I think a lot of freelance designers don’t understand until they’ve worked with clients for a while: Yes, what I do is creative and artistic, but I have to also remember that that I am also providing a product. I have to take into account the needs of the client, and best practices for infographics are ultimately based on the balance between client needs, eye candy and maintaining the integrity of the data – all of which Amy outlines quite well.

    It is totally possible and best practice to visualize any piece of data that you have, even if it is with simple pictograms – it is possible to simply complicated data with practice. If you’re worried about the integrity of your data viz, then keep the graphs simpler and focus on the typography and maybe add a textured background to pretty up the design. And Amy is right – plan bar charts and pie charts are a no-no! Anyone can make those!

    Considering that this post is written for and by someone that works with clients, I think Amy does a great job of conveying what makes a good infographic. I agree with her that “eye candy” is an annoying thing to undertake, but if you’re working with clients you just have to grit your teeth and find a balance that works.

    • 37

      I respectfully disagree with your assertion that “compelling graphics are what clients really want.” Generally in web design, what clients really want is a successful solution to a business problem (e.g. elevated brand image, more customers, more sales, greater brand exposure). Compelling graphics are just one part of that solution.

      Part of a designer’s job is to steer the client toward what they need, not always what they want (the classic example being a client who wants to take up whitespace with an awkwardly large logo). In the real world, we often have to make concessions, but in my experience the client often ends up less satisfied in those situations.

      Data visualizations can be analyzed similarily. Eye candy is important, but if you’ve decorated it so much that the data is obscured, that is not a successful project. In that case, why not just make a typographic or illustrative poster rather than a data viz?


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