As infographics have grown from a fad to a mainstay of visual storytelling, more designers and techies have begun to consider the best and the worst of the trend. We asked Randy Krum, Founder and President of InfoNewt, an infographic design company, and editor of the Cool Infographics website, to share some of his insights from working with and reviewing infographics. Krum points to a 100-fold increase for searches of the word “infographic” over the last five years. What’s clear is that this form of visual communication is here to stay.
Here are Krum’s best lessons of the trade:
Your designs might be an infographic resume, an infographic business plan, a meeting handout, a presentation slide, an online marketing infographic or a personal design experiment just for fun. The key is that you want your infographic design to be visually engaging because that is what makes infographics worth sharing.
Keep It Clear
Most people get stuck using the same basic charts and graphs because that’s what they learned from using Microsoft Excel and PowerPoint. Bar charts, line charts, and pie charts are the three data visualizations used most often, but one set of data can be accurately visualized in many different ways.
You can improve your infographic design by branching out and using a data visualization technique that looks different from the normal charts. This will make your design more engaging and memorable to your audience. This risk we all face is taking this idea too far, and creating what’s called “chart junk” (including too many colors or too much ornamentation that makes the data harder to understand).
These visualizations are slightly more difficult to design because they aren’t automated chart styles built into your standard office applications. You’ll have to do some math to adjust the chart design manually, but there are hundreds of vector designs that you can use as design elements that make editing simple. Some examples would be thermometer illustrations, circle diagrams or dashboard gauges instead of pie charts.
You don’t need to create these visual elements from scratch. This is not meant to be artistic; it’s storytelling with data and information. If you are spending a lot of time designing custom illustrations or images, your project is going to take a lot longer than necessary.
The job of an infographic designer is to tell the story in a focused, clear, and simple manner. Using too many colors or including full color photos in an infographic design often creates unnecessary visual noise, and makes the overall infographic feel more complicated. In fact, using simple images like basic shapes and icons reduces the visual noise of the overall design and makes it easier to read for the audience.
Know the Rules
It’s easy to perform a quick internet search to find images to use in your infographic design. However, by using the images found this way you have to be concerned about copyright infringement. Make certain the images you include are available through a public license. If you’re designing an infographic for business reasons, you could unknowingly be putting your company at legal and financial risk.
Royalty-free stock image sites (like Shutterstock) are the best solution to making absolutely sure that you have the required permissions to include an image in your infographic design. When designing infographic projects for clients, we make sure that the images we include as part of the final infographic are appropriately licensed.
Trademarks are a similar, but different issue. You are allowed to use trademarked logos of other companies in your design under the “Fair Use” portion of trademark law. Using logos is permitted if you are reporting information about the company or comparing companies. What you can’t do is use a company logo to impersonate another company or imply that your design is endorsed by that company.
If you take the time to learn the laws and lay of the land, you won’t have anything to worry about. And then you can stay focused on what really matters: the design.
Randy Krum is the Founder and President of InfoNewt®, an infographic design company. Randy also runs CoolInfographics.com, one of the top sites on the internet that shares and reviews cool infographic designs from all over the world.