Infographic Best Practices

By Matter

Data, data, data… how can we make the communication of data quick, clear and interesting? Of course an infographic. Love it, great idea. But not all infographics are created equal. So what makes one stand out as effective and unique? Well, in my first couple of months here in Studio C at Matter Communications, I was tasked with creating a couple of these information graphics one of which ended up in Times Square in New York. I figured this was a good time to share some infographic best practices for creating and laying out an infographic.


Start with a concept

Depending on who the client is and what their data is about, deciding on a visual direction is the first decision you’ll make. For example, one of the infographics I created recently was for a company that tracks food safety. With that in mind, I selected visuals for the infographic that reinforced their story. Fish on a plate, pizza, bread—all of these visuals were either used as basic illustrations to give greater context to the information, or were turned into representations of the data.


Keep it short

One of the bigger challenges I’ve come across is a client submitting long explanations for each data point. Focus on a visually interesting number or percentage is usually distracted by a long statement expounding on the data. While there should always be a description of the data—so it makes sense and is true to the facts—some clever copy editing can help de-clutter the design returning the reader’s attention back to the most impactful parts.


Charts and graphs

Here is an opportunity to have some real fun. Since you started by selected a visual concept, you can now turn a regular pie chart or bar graph into something interesting that stregthens the concept. In my example earlier of the food safety client, I used a flat vector style for the design and selected different foods to be in the layout. In one area of the graphic I cut a loaf of bread in two, making one section of bread just about 2/3 of the entire loaf. The data was refereeing to how 2/3 of the respondents of a survey answered a certain way. This visual representation of the data was certainly more interesting then a generic chart.


And Some Technical Thoughts 

When it comes to color and typography, less is more. But you can get a lot of mileage out of just a couple of typefaces and a few colors. My first suggestion is to stick with a client’s visual corporate standards. Choose fonts and colors that are on brand and work well together. The key is to choose a font that has a large family—many weights and styles. This will allow you to create emphasis, texture and contrast to the typesetting. As for color, use a few “percentages” of a color to create depth. Both of these strategies will lend the overall layout a uniform feel while presenting variety in the design.

Have fun creating your next infographic. I know I will!