By Michelle Barnett
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Infographics – What they are and when to use them

The term ‘infographics’ gets thrown around a lot, but what it means is any visual representation of data.  This can sound unhelpfully broad; any pie chart you see is technically an infographic!  But when people get creative with that definition, infographics take on some amazing qualities.

Attracting attention  

40% of people respond better to visual aids than plain text.  Skimming through online content is common, so something eye-catching and punchy grabs enough time to get your information across.  This makes infographics great for all kinds of campaigns, from marketing to issues awareness.

Boosting SEO

It’s Google’s world, and we’re all just living in it.  Keeping your company ’searchable’ among millions of others is a constant concern.  Infographics can actually help.  As well as drawing visitors to your website, infographics are easily linkable and shareable.  There’s even the possibility that yours will go viral!

Making you accessible

Customers who have to read facts and figures are bored at best and confused at worst.  Infographics break down the stream of numbers into easy chunks, and help to bring perspective to big concepts.  The more effectively you can explain a problem to your client base, the more they will understand why they need your solution.

This infographic from shows stats on legal and illegal fireworks in the US.  They give each firework a blue circle, sized to represent the number of injuries it has caused.  This makes comparing the relative danger rating quick and easy in a way that a written list of figures wouldn’t.  Using visual size like this is a classic method; simple and clear.  You don’t need to re-invent the wheel to make your data engaging.

Infographic from showing the relative danger of legal and illegal fireworks sold in the USA. Using shape colour and size design to show information

When should you use an infographic?

Infographic from Gridwatch, tracking the decrease in the UK's use of coal power over the last seven years

Good infographics work because they are clear about their purpose.  They have just one thing to tell you, and they are going to do it as precisely and succinctly as possible.  Infographics are at their best when they are:

  • Illustrating data.  Making boring numbers interesting, and adding meaning to faceless facts.

  • Simplifying complex information.  Making subjects accessible by breaking them down into small steps.  This is great for illustrating processes or a series of events.

  • Comparing things.  Showing them side by side allows viewers a clearer understanding.

  • Raising Awareness.  Combining hard-hitting data with emotive visuals really gets the issue across.

This Gridwatch infographic tracks Britain’s move away from coal-fuelled electricity in recent years.  The simple colour system makes it easy to get an idea of how much progress is being made, which encourages readers to keep working on the problem.

How to make effective infographics

This beer brewing infographic uses lots of visuals to make communication with views, customers, and clients very easy. It can be used to information or as a marketing tool to improve SEO

Don’t let it get too long.  This is a really common mistake.  Just because web pages can scroll down endlessly, doesn’t mean your infographic should.  Even infographics showing processes should aim to keep each step to a sentence or two.  Otherwise readers might get lost or lose interest.  If it takes more than three short scrolls on your phone to get to the end, you need to cut it down.

Make sure your infographic visually links to you.  That might mean using colours and fonts that are already used in your existing brand.  Within those guidelines, feel free to be a bit creative.  Let your subject matter set the tone.  Illustrations and photos, or some kind of route or pathway will help the flow between facts.

We made this one for Charnwood Brewery, illustrating their beer brewing process.  By including a route to follow, and illustrations of the brewing equipment, almost no text is needed to get the story across.  This makes it perfect for viewing on phones and other small screens.  The visual style is in line with their brand, so it links seamlessly with their other media.

Keep your information brief and empowering.  You want the viewer to do something after reading it.  That might be visiting your site, feeling able to speak confidently about your data, signing or buying something, or doing research further into the issue.

Don’t get lost in eye candy.  The goal here is to make the information more simple.  If it’s getting too cluttered, it’s no longer fulfilling it’s purpose.  Remember, the goal of graphic design is always communication.

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