12 Essential Steps to a Fantastic Infographic

Infographics provide an engaging way to present information that includes text, illustrations, graphs, maps, photos, and more. The advantage of an infographic is the combination of formats used, creating a delightful marriage of verbal and visual information.

Infographics can be scanned quickly to pick up the main point, but also encourage the viewer to slow down and dig deeper into the topic. There are some fun techniques you can use to engage a broad audience, which will be covered in a subsequent article.

In this article, I’ll give you a brief description of the steps I use to create infographics, starting with a list of the steps. Each step (or combination of steps in some instances) will have a subsequent article, which I’ll link to as soon as each of those articles is finished done.

Main Steps in Creating an Infographic

  1. Define topic

  2. Decide audience

  3. Research topic

  4. Organize research

  5. Summarize main and supporting points.

  6. Create title

  7. Determine the text

  8. Choose visuals elements

  9. Design general layout

  10. Choose color palette

  11. Choose fonts

  12. Arrange title, text, and visuals on layout

Steps for creating infographics.

 

Steps in More Detail

1. Define your topic

Ok, you’re thinking that this is a pretty easy step. But from the very beginning, it’s important to be clear and concise about what you want to cover in your infographic. Too broad a topic, and you’ll be tempted to cram too much in, confusing your reader; too narrow a topic, and there may not be enough information for an interesting infographic. You may also want to start thinking about who your audience is now (see Step 2 also) because that choice will also help you refine your topic.

In this infographic, I describe how butterflies create the colors found on their wings.

2. Define your audience

It’s critical to determine your intended audience because this choice influences the depth of the information, the wording, and style of your infographic. An infographic for school children will have a decidedly different depth and style than an infographic intended for scientists. If your audience is the general public, there are techniques you can use to include a wide range of viewers from children to adults.

Graphical abstract about the movement of nuclei in plant cells

The butterfly wing coloration infographic above was designed for a general audience interested in science.


While this infographic about the movement of nuclei in plants cells was designed for plant scientists.

 


3. Research your topic

Most scientists are very good at researching a topic so I won’t go into much depth on this. I tend to gather more information than I need, which will be culled in a later step. Make sure you’re using credible, unbiased sources of information here.

 

4. Organize your research

There are lots of ways to organize the information you’ve gathered. A good old-fashioned outline may be perfect. I’m personally very fond of mind maps because they’re so visual in nature. A mind map organizes information in topics, subtopics, sub-subtopics, etc much like an outline does. Alternatively, the information could be placed in outline form.

 

5. Summarize your research: 1 main point and 2-5 supporting points.

Now, it’s time to summarize. Determining the main message of your infographic is extremely important. It will guide the supporting information that you include in the infographic.

For the plastic breakdown infographic shown below, the main message I wanted to convey is that plastics breakdown very slowly.

Additionally, I wanted to show how plastic broke down both mechanically and physically.

Main take home message.

Main take home message.

Other main points.

Other main points.

6. Create a title

The simplest way to title an infographic is with a short description of what will be covered in the infographic. This tells your audience exactly what they will learn by looking through the infographic.

For instance, here a few example titles. There simple, short, and tell you exactly what the infographic is about.

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 Alternatively, you can create a witty title that hooks your audience into investigating further.

 

7. Determine the text in the infographic.

Infographic that features most of the information as text.

In this step, you’ll cull a lot of information because you generally can’t include all of the information you’ve included. Determine the information that will support the main points you defined in Step 5. It’s very important to consider the level of knowledge of your audience in this step. If your audience may cover several levels of knowledge, you may want to divide your text into levels.


This infographic about snake venom conveys most of the information as text and is meant for a general audience. Some of the information would have worked as illustrations instead.

 

This step goes hand in hand with Step 7 in which you determine which Illustrated objects you want to use.

 

8. Determine what visuals you need

Visual elements can say a lot more in less space than text. That’s the beauty of using a format like an infographic to present complex information: you’re able to use the best medium – either text or illustrations – to convey the information. People are also naturally drawn to visual information. In this step, determine which visual elements support the main points you defined in Step 5. You may even be able to remove some of the text you included in Step 6.

Notice that for the infographic about butterfly wing pigmentation, that there is very little text. The infographic could be supplemented with a caption to provide more depth.

 

9. Determine the general layout of your infographic.

Infographics are organized in a way that guides the viewer through the information in a logical way, telling a story as you go. Sometimes your topic and research provide an obvious choice of layout for the infographic. Some examples include timelines, procedures, or cyclical processes.  Other times, it takes a little more effort to organize the information you’ve collected in an easy to understand manner.

For instance, the information presented in the plastic breakdown infographic is best arranged on a timeline since I wanted to emphasize the breakdown of plastic over time.


 

10. Choose a color palette

Color choice influences the overall feel of an infographic. Bright color schemes imply energy and are well-suited for young audiences, more muted color schemes work best for a scientific audience. An edgy color palette can be used for a sophisticated, young audience.

I suggest starting out with one neutral color and adding 1-2 other main colors that contrast well with the neutral. You may then decide that you need an additional color for a little zing and pop.

Look at each of the infographics in this article and notice the color palette for each. The graphical abstract intended for scientists has fairly muted colors, while the snake venom infographics has stronger, edgy palette.

Subdued color palette for graphical abstract. Note the few zingy colors on the bottom right.

Subdued color palette for graphical abstract. Note the few zingy colors on the bottom right.

In the Snake Venom infographic, bright primary colors are set against a dark grey background

In the Snake Venom infographic, bright primary colors are set against a dark grey background

above 

11. Define your fonts (3 maximum)

Font style is an easy way to distinguish different levels of information found in an infographic. For instance, an ornate font might help a title to stand out, but would likely be impossible to read in the smallest print found on your infographic. Try to pick a maximum of 3 fonts. Reserve the most ornate for the title and large headings. The simplest font is used for the smallest text on your infographic Remember, though, one easy-to-read font is perfectly fine!


Look back at each of the infographics above to see how fonts were used in each.

12. Using your general layout, start arranging the pieces of your infographic

This last step in infographic creation can take the longest as you arrange and rearrange text and visuals. Use the general layout you decided on in Step 7, but be comfortable adjusting this layout as necessary. You may also need to resize visuals and text to get the best layout.

For the plastic breakdown infographic above, I knew I wanted to use a timeline, but found that the text and illustrations wouldn’t fit horizontally on the page. I decided instead to use a diagonal timeline so that I could place information above and below the arrow. It also resulted in a visually dynamic infographic.

I’d love to hear how you get on making your infographic!