Infographics are bedeviling beasts. The best ones are simple, powerful, and easy to digest.
But if they’re so straightforward, why do so many of them just suck?
The answer lies in their complicated creation, a union of three separate crafts:
Let’s dive into the suckage.
3 Infographic Problems—and How to Solve Them
1. Writers like to write
One thing you’ll notice about many bad infographics is the sheer number of words on them—and that detracts from both the design and the overall message.
Infographics start off as written documents. And writers are accustomed to filling a page with words. They’re good at this—trust me. But when it comes to infographics, less is infinitely more.
So when our writers hand in an infographic draft, my first major task is to cut, cut, cut. How much? I’d guess about 40–50 percent.
Click through below to see how the editing process works in the top section of an infographic we did for Comcast Business:
2. Writers are not graphic designers
I love our writers (and we wouldn’t have a business without them), but they’re not graphic designers—why should they be? So when they’re writing infographic copy, they aren’t necessarily thinking “how will this look as a visual?”
So how do we fix this?
This is something we’ve worked with our writers on, over many years, and they’ve gotten a lot better at it. However, we still go through multiple rounds of editing with them before we hand the draft to our designers.
Here’s a paragraph that a writer sent to us in an early round of editing:
How in the heck is the designer supposed to create a visual around that?
They can’t. I either edit the paragraph or send it back to the writer with a helpful comment—something like, “How in the heck is the designer supposed to create a visual around that?”
3. Writers and designers are not mathematicians or data scientists
The best infographics simplify complicated statistics, relaying numerical information in an easy-to-read visual format.
But there’s a catch.
The artists making the infographics usually are not trained in math or data science (again: why should they be?). This problem frequently manifests in two ways:
- The writer doesn’t include stats in the draft
Writers love to ignore numbers—and that’s a problem when you’re creating an infographic. In fact, we’ve only encountered a few infographics in our career that did not rely on numbers and still conveyed a powerful message. It’s possible to pull it off, but it’s difficult and not recommended. After all, infographics are at their most powerful when they’re helping readers quickly and easily grasp complicated data or information—and that frequently revolves around research and survey data.
- The designer doesn’t understand how to display the statistics
Let’s say you worked with your writer to ensure that juicy stats are included in the draft. Now it’s the designer’s job to figure out the best way to convey those stats. Should she use a bar graph or a pie chart? What if the survey participants were each allowed to select more than one answer, so the results don’t add up to 100?
Our designers are awesome and they’ve also become more accustomed to figuring this out as they’ve worked with us over the years, but we still help them wherever we can by brainstorming the overall concept with them and by suggesting types of graphs.
Check out how we develop a graph for another Comcast Business infographic below. Suggesting a pie chart to our designer frees her to focus on cool design rather than wasting time figuring out how to convey the stats.
Try not to suck
For something that’s meant to be digested by a reader in a minute or two, infographics are deceptively complex to build. To avoid infographic suckage, take time to help your writer and designer think through the visual concept of the piece ahead of time, and don’t be afraid to cut like crazy—at every stage in the process.