5 Principles of Great Infographic Design
EDAHN SMALL is the Creative Director at Hypothesis and the leader of the Gridspace Collective. He and his team create dozens of infographics per year of varying complexity and style. Contact Edahn at firstname.lastname@example.org.
One of our unique differentiators here at Hypothesis is our dedication and investment in design. Good design is part of our corporate ethos and permeates our work as well as our physical surroundings. Having a full-time, in-house design team affords us the opportunity to dive deep into our data and expose relationships, both conceptually and visually.
Over the past few years, infographics have become increasingly popular due to their shareability and visual appeal. There are apps and websites that style charts and pick fonts and color schemes, but they're poor substitutes for real infographic design that's more than just superficial styling. Over the past few years, we've built dozens of infographics of various complexity for our clients. These best-practices were developed to help you design outstanding infographics of your own.
1. Communicate one central idea.
While you can create a beautiful infographic with a smattering of data points (which might be better termed an infoposter), the most illuminating infographics communicate one central idea by layering and sorting information. They usually require both analytic and graphic design software, but the output is worth it. These graphics help show sweeping trends at a glance. Having one central idea also means having one central focal point on the page.
2. Communicate the data clearly.
A great infographic minimizes the work the viewer needs to do to understand an idea. That doesn’t mean that the viewer needs to comprehend every nuance immediately—sometimes the data is too complex and needs to be explored by the viewer. Nonetheless, the designer should try and make the message as salient as possible. In a true data visualization,, the viewer should be able to perceive relationships in the data by sight alone..
3. Create layers.
We like to think of infographics as having 3 layers: “must see,” “should see,” and “can see.” Information in the “must see” layer is vital to the comprehension of the graphic and needs to be made obvious. Information in the “should see” category will help comprehension and add an interesting layer of insight. Information in the “can see” category is least important, but gives the viewer a chance to explore the graphic in greater depth. This third layer can transform the viewer’s experience dramatically by encouraging a fun, non-linear exploration of the graphic. That pulls the viewer deeper into the visualization.
4. Make it easy to navigate.
Colors, layout, and typography should be used consistently to form a hierarchy that makes the graphic easy to navigate and distinguish different types of information. A strong legend can also help the viewer find their way around the graphic efficiently.
5. Keep it beautiful.
There’s no reason data can’t be educational and inspiring. We subscribe to the school of thought that good design is always calming and engaging. The right fonts, the right iconography, great photography, a good balance of white space, and harmonious colors all help create a soothing experience for your viewer.