We live in an era dominated by powerful imagery and compelling visual content. From stunning virtual reality capabilities, to seamless animation and graphic design, we’re flooded every day with extraordinary optical creations. It’s no wonder that marketing professionals cater to such a high level of sensory appeal — 90 percent of information sent to our brains is visual and we process images 60,000 times faster than text. The power of data visualization is undisputed and is why infographics have soared in popularity over the past ten years. Infographics allow people to quickly digest information and remember it for longer than they would a normal block of text. If you want to enhance message effectiveness and boost audience engagement, keep reading to learn how to create compelling infographics.

Understand the data

Novice designers sometimes settle for simply understanding the “big picture” concept of the data, while failing to truly grasp the building blocks of information they’re highlighting. You need to have an in-depth knowledge of the narrative in order to design an effective infographic. If there is something in the content that you don’t understand, ask the client what it means. It’s far better to ask too many questions than to display the information incorrectly.

Research, research and research some more

Being in tune with the latest design trends is crucial to crafting a piece that feels timely and relevant. Pie charts and bar graphs simply won’t cut it anymore if you want your design to stand out. Now, even static infographics are taking a back seat to interactive, multimedia pieces that actively engage viewers. Infographic styles evolve rapidly and if you haven’t checked out the latest craze, your design could easily be perceived as out-of-date.

Know your boundaries

If you’re designing an infographic for a specific company or client, ask them if it needs to fall within their brand standards. While sticking to certain colors, fonts and graphics can feel limiting, remember that your infographic is just one piece of a matrix that makes up their entire marketing strategy. A consistent look-and-feel is paramount, especially with larger corporations. Use this opportunity to stretch your creative wings and play with other aspects like size, hierarchy and texture to make the piece unique.

Segment information

Breaking a large infographic up into smaller segments not only helps the reader to better understand the information, but it is also easier to design multiple smaller infographics rather than one big one. The size of the pieces will also depend on how the infographic will be used. Is it going to be printed or digital? Is it the first in a series of graphics?

Put numbers first

Infographics usually display at least a few numbers and percentages. Since these tend to be the focal points of the piece with the most impact, they should take precedence in hierarchy.

Don’t over-design

Cramming in superfluous design elements was a classic mistake many designers made when infographics initially gained popularity. Never forget that negative space is your ally. It gives the audience time to scan the graphic without drawing their attention to too many different elements at once and overwhelming them. A busy infographic can also detract from the message. Crisp, clean content is king in the infographic world — if the design is stunning but the audience doesn’t grasp the message, then your efforts have failed. Conveying the correct information takes precedence over “pretty design.”

 

Infographics are no longer a novelty; they’re a necessity. Master the art of creating these pieces (or hire a team who can!) to advance your objectives and have a lasting impact on your audiences.

The job of a designer is to be creative. We collaborate with writers to bring their words to life and use colors, shapes, patterns, shadows, textures and a myriad of other visual elements to illuminate a brand. We’re connoisseurs of translating ambiguous feedback (“Just make it pop a little more” is a favorite of mine) and wizards at reinvigorating a stale, tired piece of material. Imagination and inspiration are woven into the fabrics of our work, so when we’re feeling stuck creatively — it shows. Trying to dig out of a creative rut can be discouraging. We all face these roadblocks from time-to-time and, while every person’s process is different, here are some techniques that help me navigate back into an innovative mentality.

Get moving

Step away from your assignment and take a walk outside. A recent Stanford University study found that walking enhances the flow of ideas and invigorates the mind, an effect that is realized even after returning to your desk. Exercise is also a natural stress-reliever and provides mental and physical benefits that can boost creativity. A brisk walk quells the levels of stress hormones and releases endorphins, a hormone the body naturally produces to combat pain and elevate your mood. The thought of leaving a project for a stroll might make you wince, but the benefits of physical activity will make the short reprieve worth it.

Find inspiration

Though it might sound contradictory, originality can stem from appreciating another designer’s creation. Search online for a creator’s work that moves you and evaluate what draws you to the piece — is it the placement, the lines, the utilization of space? This assessment might spark a new idea or allow you to more effectively assess your own material. Celebrate your unique style, but don’t shy away from learning from others’ work.

Brainstorm

Collaboration and creativity go hand-in-hand. Ask your co-workers if you can talk through your idea with them and get their feedback. Grab a white board and outline the fundamental elements of the project. This will help you to think critically about the problem, evaluate the project in a new space and garner insight from people with a fresh perspective.

Carry a sketchbook

Some of the best ideas and concepts come when you least expect them. If you have a sketchbook or even just pen and paper with you at all times, you can quickly write or draw them out before you forget. Even if you don’t end up using the idea for your current project, referring back to your notes can stimulate creativity and benefit you in the future.

Get in touch with your subconscious

This method might be a little unusual, but dream journaling can be a fascinating and powerful tool for enhancing creativity. Dreams are our ideas, but uninhibited by the restraints consciousness innately imposes upon us. Recalling the subliminal mind’s activity liberates us from traditional norms and helps train us to view situations from a different perspective. Creativity has free reign in our subconscious and writing these down helps us capture the truest form of our imaginations. The bizarre, wondrous world of dreams is a boundless source of inspiration.

 

Ultimately, great design stems from hard work. The perfect piece will never appear out of thin air, and the creative process is, well, a process. It’s collaboration, coupled with a deep understanding of the project objectives, audience and use. If you know your craft well and can identify techniques that kick-start your creativity, you’ll be equipped to produce something spectacular.