Infographics -engaging your audience with visual storytelling

Written by Rachel Furlong

You have been asked by your company’s marketing department to produce a set of visuals to illustrate new data from a recent company survey, that not only shows the data as a meaningful presentation, but ultimately in an engaging & attractive way. 

Now more than ever, visual communication is helping companies tell effective meaningful stories, boost audience retention, and engagement. So bearing this in mind, what design choices should you be thinking about when designing with data and statistical information to maximise effect?

My early efforts in infographics & data visualisation involved designing charts and placing them within blog posts to illustrate the relevant points. Despite being accurate and in proportion to the data points the the blogs were based on, the charts were difficult to comprehend, particularly in the way the separate charts related to each other, and they did little in the way of generating interest in the blog. Often more emphasis was placed on the blog header image as the main visual for the piece. However, in one particular case, a blog comparing the performance of the social media giants Twitter & Instagram, I felt there was a missed opportunity.

The story in the data

The blog was already well structured and discussed the main points when comparing the two social media platforms, and illustrated with a series of bar charts. When reflecting on the blog structure, I realised that what was missing was the ‘visual story’’. A story is in essence a series of pieces that go together one after the other, and form a whole. This suggested that the data discussed in this case might work well as an infographic.

If I could develop the statistics into an infographic story with some characters and a structure, then the data would be much easier to interpret & understand by the audience, than a series of separate bar charts.

Designing the infographic

In this particular blog comparing user data for social media platforms Twitter and Instagram, the post is written to incorporate a series of statistics and had an illustrative header. The company the infographic was created for, often uses sport metaphors that appeal to their main audience and in this case the sport chosen was boxing. Twitter and Instagram are in the ring depicted as heavyweight boxers.

The blog post seemed ideal to turn into a visual story, where I could develop the iconography of the boxing ring used in the header to create a complete infographic.

The visual was divided into 5 sections based on the sub headers in the blog which each discussed a series of data points. The layout reflected the comparison being made between the two social media platforms by placing comparative charts in two columns. Twitter on the left and Instagram on the right.

Design of the icons related to boxing imagery – icons such as the gloves, boxing figures and scorecards were used to show the data in a series of pictograms, piecharts, scorecards and bar charts.

Twitter stats were depicted in turquoise blue and Instagram in a reddish orange. All the colours used in the infographic were selected from the company brand guidelines. The blog conclusion was incorporated into a section called The Winner, with the sources for the blog placed in the final section of the infographic.

Key Takeaways

1. When developing an infographic, work at the planning stage will pay off, with the main ideas you want to convey and a clear structure for the story. The pre-written blog in the above example was helpful as a number of points had been drawn from the data to create a story.

2. Choose imagery or a visual theme to increase the emotional impact of the infographic and to get your audience’s attention. In the example discussed, the Social Media companies are depicted slogging it out in the ring, followed up by a series of hard hitting visual facts. 

3. Work with a limited colour palette, The colours may be derived from your company’s brand guidelines, but should be consistently applied to tell the story from the data.

4. Design a layout relevant to the story you are telling, Vertical layouts reading top to bottom are the most popular layout for infographics, but you might consider a horizontal layout reading left to right or a 2 column layout when making comparisons.

5. Try out your infographic on friends & colleagues and get some feedback. Are you getting the points across effectively? Is the infographic easy to understand?

Although it can be difficult to find the story in the data at first, planning and thought at the beginning of the project will pay off. If you invest time and effort following these recommendations, finding the story you want to tell, there is absolutely no reason why shouldn’t be able to turn data into a powerful and effective infographic.

Business and Marketing Infographics online course

Need any help in creating an infographic? Why not try my class ‘Business & Marketing Infographics’  (Skillshare course – get 2 months premium membership free when you sign up to this course via this link)

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