How to create great infographics to make your case online

By Larry AltonLarry Alton

Infographics are a great way to present new ideas or facts about your business, but many of the infographics hitting the web aren’t very good. They may be poorly designed, excessively self-congratulatory, or just boring. Whatever the reason, some just don’t work.

One way to avoid the boring infographic trap is to apply your business presentation skills. Just like a great presentation, a great infographic knows how to hold a narrative at the center. It doesn’t have to be a story with a developed plot and characters — the way we traditionally think of stories — but rather, what matters is that the information presented has a beginning, middle and end. We respond to stories because they hang together in a way we can remember and they offer a satisfying conclusion. Make sure your infographic doesn’t leave readers hanging.

Point to expertise

Making an infographic is one thing, but making an infographic that sells – one that people trust – requires that you take the position of the expert. This can be as simple as noting authorship and a qualification towards the beginning of the infographic, as you might state a certain degree you have or credential you hold at the start of a presentation. And though this may seem meager when it comes to credibility, you don’t want to push the credentials too hard. People want to be convinced, but they don’t want to feel they’re being manipulated.

Focus on fonts

An infographic is only as good as its design. People would rather read a less informative, attractively designed infographic than a highly informative one that’s hard to read or generally aesthetically displeasing. This starts with choosing a readable font. Any font that puts a barrier between your message and your reader is the enemy. You wouldn’t expect a large audience to read size 11 Curlz MT in a large auditorium. The same goes for your infographics.

At the same time, typefaces remain powerful tools. Don’t overplay it, but if you can do a single clever thing with your title font that enhances your overall message, readers will love it. Readable is good, but complementary fonts that reinforce your message are winners.

Get the visual advantage

Infographics have been so wildly successful as a format because readers love working with information presented in a visual-heavy format, in the same way that sparse, yet visually appealing presentations get a better response than text-heavy slides.

What’s more, the visuals that really win readers over are the ones they couldn’t imagine making themselves – unless you make infographics targeting graphic designers, in which case you’ll need to be extra creative to earn their applause. Either way, it’s important to remember that graphs are not the kind of visual that infographics were made for. A bar graph belongs in your reports, not on your social media.

If you’re going to use graph-style formats in an infographic, you’ll need to adjust the visual details to make them seem thematically appropriate, somewhat playful, and unique. A bakery can put a pie chart on an infographic, but it better be beautifully designed, like an actual pie the reader could pick up off the page and eat.

Plan your promotion

You create a presentation for a specific situation – you’ve been invited to speak at a conference or a board meeting, so you assemble your information. With infographics, however, you often have to be more intentional and motivated when finding spaces to present them. Make sure you’re connecting with social media outlets and looking for appropriate blogs that might run your infographic. A great infographic can go viral, but you’ll need to help it gain initial footing first.

With the skills you have on hand, you’re prepared to make a great infographic. And while you’ll need a solid graphic design team to really sell the content, trust what you know. This is a new way to tell and sell your story.

Larry Alton is an independent business consultant specializing in social media trends, business and entrepreneurship. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.