Create a Winning Infographic in Three Steps

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SparkAction
Caitlin Johnson
September 25, 2012
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INFOGRAPHIC ISSeems like everyone’s talking about infographics these days. They’re fun, pretty and interesting to look at. They’re also powerful communications tools and not that hard to create. Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you design an infographic that’s cool enough to be a winner in the KIDS COUNT Infographic Challenge.

As a starting point, check out the image on the right that Beth Kanter, the nonprofit communications guru, posted on her blog. It's a great breakdown of what good infographics do: they take a jumble of data, organize and arrange that data into a story, and visually convey it at a glance. Pretty cool.

In this blog: In order to win the KIDS COUNT Infographic Challenge, your submission has to draw on the KIDS COUNT Data Center, so we'll start there and then get into the whys and hows of creating a cool infographic and easy-to-use free tools. (Click to jump to a section.)

 

Using the Data Center

Find the data that move you.

Visit the KIDS COUNT Data Center. It’s easy to use and offers the most comprehensive data on child and youth well-being in the nation.

Find your inspiration here. Do you want to focus on your state? Look at data across a few states? Or nationally? It’s simple to do.

For example, you could take a look at children who have received dental health care in the past year and see how it compares across states, or to previous years. Or, binge drinking among teens in your state, year by year.

It’s worth spending 4 minutes to watch the Data Center how-to video for a quick overview and intro.

 

Getting Graphic with the Data

WHY

Why create an infographic?

Infographics can be powerful communications tools. They can convey complex data and stories quickly so that your audience can understand, at a glance, what you want them to know. (That's the short answer. There are plenty of blogs that delve into the longer answers. A Google search will get you all the data, analytics and conceptual theory you’ll ever want.)

They’re also inherently sharable. Add a cool infographic to an article or blog and see which gets shared more or goes viral. Tip: make it as easy as possible to share and embed your visual. One way is to include the bit.ly link to your image on the infographic so that people will be able to get back to your site or blog.

Ready to get started? Here’s a three-step guide to creating an infographic.

1. Spend a moment thinking about your story

What does the data say to you? What do you want people to know?

An infographic uses images to lead the audience through a logical flow toward a specific message. Like any good story, an infographic has a hook, a main point, and a take-away.

Keep it simple. Infographics are great at conveying complex information quickly, and in order to do that, it helps to focus on the main message, and use only the data you need. Use images and text sparingly to make your point. A good rule of thumb is "show, don’t tell."

Ask yourself some clarifying questions:

  • Who is my audience? The age and knowledge of the audience with which you want to communicate will help you determine they complexity, layout, color scheme and icons or images.
     
  • What will be most interesting to them? Your hook might be a compelling image, or an interesting layout.
     
  • What is the take-away? What knowledge do you want the audience to immediately grasp through your visual?
     
  • What are the most important pieces of data to tell my story? Include only the data and information you need to make your point.

Using the examples from the Data Center above, you could start by saying, how does this year’s number in state X compare with state y, or how does it compare with past years? What does this trend look like (improvement or a decline)? What might have caused this trend?

 

2. Sketch it out

Tips for Any Infographic

Cite your source(s) right in the graphic. In this case, include KIDS COUNT Data Center somewhere, for example, at the bottom.

Let your story and main point dictate your design and colors.

Keep it simple, don’t try to do too much.

Don’t get carried away with lots of fonts or images, use only what you need to convey your point.

Include the URL or bit.ly link to your infographic on your infographic, so it’s easily shared.

It’s a good idea to sketch out a quick storyboard or flowchart of ideas. At SparkAction, we do this on real paper with actual pens (or pencils, or crayons, or whatever we feel like using).

The time you spend doing this will help you take the story from something in your mind to something others will respond to. Be creative and consider new ways to present this information or the flow and connections. As you sketch, think about what interesting colors, backgrounds or shapes you could use.

Pick a color scheme and images that your audience will understand and that convey the tone of your story. Using dental care as an example, your images might be teeth, or smiles; for binge drinking, you might use silhouettes of glasses or bottles of alcohol. Think about how the visuals or colors might differ if the trend was positive versus a decline?

Again, Keep it simple. Use the most important piece of information as the centerpiece of your infographic. Design your layout, artwor, icons, color scheme and organization to emphasize this key point. Don’t be afraid to cut back to only the essential data: if you can’t use it, lose it.


3. Make use of free tools

You can draw your infographic by hand and scan it or you could use a sophisticated program to do it—but there’s a middle ground option: find one of the great free tools available online and use that to create your infographic. If you’re a first-timer, this is definitely the way to start.

These tools vary from flexible and user-friendly to limited and really complex. Here are a few that we like that (1) let you use your own data and upload your own images if you want and (2) walk you through creating an effective visual, without requiring that you know any complicated programs or coding.

  • Infogr.am is our overall favorite. Create free interactive charts and infographics. Really, they say it best:


 

  • Easel.ly is another fave.
     
  • Piktochart has a free, very simple online interface to let you create a visual presentation from your data (there are also paid subscriptions with more features, but the free one will do just fine).
     
  • Google even has free tools you can use to make infographics, although the templates are more limited.
     
  • To create CHARTS, Hohli is a great and very easy online tool. Pick your chart type, add the data, and change the sizes and colors. It doesn’t do fancy, but it does charts and diagrams well.
     
  • For Word Clouds, check out Wordle, which lets you create word visualizations from your text. Enter a section from the Kids Count Data Book or anything from the Data Center and it’ll build a Wordle for you.

 

Learn More

Want more advanced tips? There’s a great post at the SEOMOZ blog about taking infographics to the next level.

Check out this Content Lab slideshow for more great how-to info.

Infographic labs has a good step by step infographic on, you guessed it, creating infographics.

For Inspiration

Check out some of the latest KIDS COUNT infographics on Tumblr for inspiration:

                IMAGE2

 

Also worth checking out:


Now you're ready for the KIDS COUNT Infographic Challenge! Contact Tara James (tara[@]sparkaction.org) for more information.

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