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Making Insane Infographics

I’m positive I’ve it said before but I’m a sucker for a cool infographic. Yesterday, I was talking with one of our web designers (shout out to Kathryn) about when it makes sense to use infographics vs. pie charts, tables and bar graphs. Whether or not you’re a designer, I’m sure we all could benefit from some advice from an expert.

I came across a post from viral infographic master, Jess Bachman, Creative Director of In this post, Infographics that Blow up the Web, he shares his thoughts on essential characteristics that make things viral and yes you guessed it, having inforgraphics is essential.

Bachman points out that “there are three main components to an awesome infographic: story, design and data.” While having all three is important depending on your goal you may not need to try and incorporate all of them. If we were to select the single most important characteristic of a viral infographic Bachman believes that it’s gotta be the story. A good infographic is one that’s as engaging and entertaining as it is aesthetically pleasing. How do you make something engaging? It’s all boils down to the message. Tell a good story and even if it’s not the best designed graphic, odds are people will want to share it.

If the story is the most important element, then making sure you have a good one is key. How do you know if your story is going to be a good one? According to Bachman, good infographics fill in gaps. “Back in 2008, everyone was worried about the financial crisis, but often the media were just talking heads with no context…it was an excellent opportunity to fill that hole with an infographic.”

The problem with most poor infographics boils down to their subject matter: too narrow and you’re doomed. “Many niche infographics suck: they simply don’t have any hooks in the zeitgeist.” Now that doesn’t mean you should stay, avoid niche infographics like they are the plague, you just have to understand that they require more time and effort. “There may be a new angle, but that would require some real research and these types of SEO-related infographics are often done with a minimal budget.” Normally niche infographics are created primarily for search benefits and are typically done on a minimal budget. Bachman points out that niche infographics can be done well but … “Instead, you get the typical ‘collection of facts’ infographic done with a rushed and insulting design.” If you want to do a niche graphic and have it be viral, keep in mind that you’re embarking down a difficult path, so plan accordingly.

Fire people up

Another tip in creating a viral infographic is to expose scams or showcase things that stir up emotion. “Many people have personal and emotional reactions to subjects like student loans, for example.” But at the same time it doesn’t have to be a huge issue. Successful graphics can come from anywhere. Think about what are people talking about today.  If you believe that something people are talking about today deserves a visual presentation, then have a go. If you have really good data, not just a bunch of facts then you’re going to need to come up with an angle. That said, “sometimes the story isn’t there, or it’s just not worth reporting.” If that’s the case then you need to know when it makes sense to drop it, and move on to something else. “If you don’t [drop it], you will end up jazzing up weak data with over-the-top visuals and other chart junk” and that’s no good.

It doesn’t have to be groundbreaking

Not every infographic has to be groundbreaking. “Not everything on Digg and reddit is life changing, people flock to sites like LifeHacker for simple and useful bits of information.” If you find something that you think may make more sense in a visualized manner, then release the hounds and try it out. Sometimes all that may be needed is a little visual presentation to take something that was dull and plain and to bring it into the spotlight. These should take less time to create, so if they don’t go viral use it as a learning experience and move on.

There ya have it: some great tips to try and help you create the next viral infographic.

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