Good Infographics are Music to My Eyes

JBonney

I still remember the day…I was somewhere in my tweens, sitting on the floor going through my dad’s record collection. I came across classics like Bob Dylan, The Beatles and a lot of Grateful Dead. As I sorted through the colorful covers and smelled the old ink and paper, the sky opened up and the birds began to sing. I held in my hands a Tom Waits album. It was called Small Change. I was drawn to it by the dark, smoky cover, and felt I had no choice but to hear what this guy had to say. I heard that deep, gravelly voice, and that old piano played with so much love that I immediately threw out my Poison tape. I felt I had learned something. I found a new world that went beyond synthesizers and Top 40 countdowns. I made as many copies as I could and passed them out to my middle school friends. Some loved it and some didn’t, but we talked about it. We passed it along. We shared it.

ENTER THE INFOGRAPHIC

USAToday started the infographic trend, followed by The New York Times and Google. The world quickly fell in love with this new way of presenting complex data in bite-sized bits of well-designed…fun. Infographics are everywhere. Companies big and small rely on them to help build their brands, educate consumers, link their audience back to their website and improve their search engine ranking. Create an infographic that starts a conversation, teaches people something they don’t know -- something they feel compelled to share, and something that appeals to a large audience -- and you’ve hit marketing pay dirt.

However, if you are considering an infographic, there are a few things you should know.

DON’T JUST DO IT

It seems like every company has an infographic, and those who don’t, want one. The golden rule of the infographic is don’t do one just to have one. There is nothing worse than a boring infographic. Do some research; figure out the goal of the infographic. What is the message? How does it help your content marketing program and your brand? How is it connected to a larger campaign or marketing initiative? Do you have the data to support what you want to say? Decide on the theme, and get the information you need to support it.

WHAT’S THE STORY?

A good story answers the five question words we all learn as children: Who? What? When? Why? How? It is really easy to gather up a bunch of data and make it look pretty, but nobody will necessarily care about it. More importantly, nobody will share it. When compiling information for an infographic, decide what it is you want your audience to learn. What is the key take away? Give them a beginning, middle and end. Tell a story your audience cares about, and they will pass it on.

CHECK IT TWICE

You want your audience to know that your information is credible. Be sure to triple check all data and always provide references. It is important to use reputable sources. Quoting your dad doesn’t count as reputable (unless it’s an infographic about the misinformation families dish out over a holiday meal) and will make the information in your infographic seem less credible. Nobody will share information they suspect may be false.

IS IT THAT OBVIOUS?

Think long and hard about the title. This may seem silly to mention, but it can make or break an infographic. Make sure it is engaging to the audience it is meant for. Short and sweet is the key. Too often, infographics have sleepy titles spelling out EXACTLY what they’re about in 50 words or more. The infographic should tell the whole story – not the title.

BEWARE OF POWERPOINT

You have all of this well-organized, story-telling, credible data. Now what? Hand it over to your designer. Important rule: Don’t do it yourself. We live in a PowerPoint world where everyone feels like a designer. Everyone knows someone, who knows someone, who knows Photoshop. Don’t give in to the temptation. There are very specific ways to go about the creation of an infographic including sketching, storyboarding and an advanced knowledge of design software.

KEEP IT SIMPLE

Everyone loves colors and fonts -- the more, the better…right? Wrong! Limit the number of fonts and colors you use. An infographic needs to be visually engaging, but not overwhelming. You want your audience to love how it looks, but they also need to read the information without getting a headache. Make sure there is a hierarchy to the information, and keep it organized.

SHARE IT

Infographics need to be shareable or they are pointless. Most infographics are roughly 735 pixels wide. They can be as long as you want, but if you make it too long you will lose your audience before they get to the end, which equals zero shares. Be sure to share your masterpiece with key bloggers and on your social channels. Don’t forget LinkedIn, Pinterest and SlideShare.

GET CREATIVE

Try something new. Follow these general rules when creating an infographic, but think outside the box. You never know when something crazy just might work (see first paragraph).

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