When deciding how to communicate a message, it’s easy to get stuck in what we like to call a BPR, or blog post rut. Yes, we just made that up, but it really should be a thing. Because all too often, people assume everything can — and should — be communicated through words alone. But as we discussed in 6 Ways to Tell a Story That Aren’t Narrative, shaking up your content mix is a great way to keep both you and your readers from getting bored. 

One of the more underutilized content formats is the infographic. An infographic intertwines words and visuals to communicate a concept. They’re great for explaining difficult-to-understand ideas, how-tos, compelling facts and more. But just because they’re short on words doesn’t mean they’re short on strategy. Producing an effective infographic requires thought and collaboration. Here’s how to put one together.

1. Begin with a concept

Infographics can take various formats. They can be a straightforward collection of statistics. They can depict a journey. They can be a nerd chart, where you have a central graphic and lines leading out to text describing the various parts of the image. They can show obstacles or layers or levels. The possibilities are pretty endless. 

So it’s important to understand what it is you are trying to communicate. Why do you need an infographic as opposed to only text? What do you want the reader to gain from this piece of content? With infographics, the narrower the focus the better. Choose one angle on which to focus.

Then, consider a concept. What will tie your infographic together? With difficult-to-understand concepts, it may be helpful to have a theme or use an analogy. For example, last year we partnered with an agency to develop an infographic for a clinical trials support services company that wanted help explaining to potential customers what they do and how they can help them. 

We presented several concepts, and ultimately, the client settled on our “path” theme, in which we laid out the clinical trials process as a journey, complete with common obstacles and dead ends that pharmaceutical companies often encounter along the way. We then depicted our client’s business as the helpful guide who assists customers in navigating the path more easily and avoiding missteps. 

Not all infographics require this level of concepting, but it is always a good idea to have some sort of theme for cohesion. It’s critical to collaborate with your designer at this stage. Not only so you know what’s possible (i.e., within your budget), but also so you can write to fit the space and format you’ll have, which can save you from having to do a lot of rewriting later.


2. Dive into the research

Now, it’s time to pull together all the elements you want to include in your infographic, such as facts, statistics, definitions, pull quotes, tips, etc. In our example above, our research was heavily skewed toward services lists.

As you start to form your document, you will probably discover you have more content than can fill an infographic. That’s OK for now. It’s always better to start with too much than too little. Plus, it gives your designer options to work with. (Just be sure to mark your must-haves, so you don’t lose any critical information during layout.)


3. Write, arrange, delete

Keeping your concept in mind, prepare your display copy — headline, deck and short introduction. Then, write the “meat” of your infographic, including your stats and other copy, remembering to keep your text as concise as possible. Finally, review your text to ensure that the content is commensurate with the design space and approach. 


4. Don’t forget to cite your sources

Citing your sources is always important, particularly when you publish facts and statistics attributed to third-party individuals or organizations. You can do this through footnotes or links or both. We also recommend screenshotting your source material and filing it away in the event a source organization decides to remove or update content you cited. 


5. Review for continuity

Once your designer has laid out your infographic, review it with fresh eyes. Does it make sense from a reader’s perspective? Does it align with your original vision? Does it achieve the goal you set out to achieve? 

If you collaborated with your designer up front, the answers to these questions are likely to be yes! Still, you may need to request a few tweaks here and there. And don’t forget to proofread prior to hitting publish.


Infographic success checklist 

Infographics can be a super effective way to communicate — as long as you do these steps:

  • Develop a concept that works.
  • Collaborate with your designer.
  • Gather compelling, recent data.
  • Write accurate, easy-to-understand definitions.
  • Include engaging pull quotes.
  • Craft display copy that guides the reader through the content.
  • Always include citations.
  • Ensure copy aligns with the final artwork.