Although infographics have been leveraged in PR and marketing for decades, their use in the last 10 years has increased exponentially. In the first post in our series – Part 1: The Rise and Future – we covered the relevance, purposes and future of infographics. This post offers guidance on how to make them stand out.
Like all creative deliverables, infographics come with expectations so the best place to start is with a creative brief. It’s even easier than it sounds — just a bare-bones one or two-page document that includes the objective, primary message, target audience, mandatories and text content- – and will help all stakeholders collaborate more efficiently.
The text content for the layout should be just as lean and direct. Wherever it is supported by visual content, phrases generally work better than sentences and every word awaiting the almighty canvas should be essential to the whole. Remember the Rule of 3 when reinforcing ideas with facts. Your success hinges on how long you can hold your audience’s attention and wordiness is the surest way to lose it.
The best way to extend the audience’s attention span is by piquing its interest with a compelling headline/visual combination. Be sure to glance back at the creative brief just before you start wrestling with ideas. The objective is still to deliver the creative brief’s primary message to the target, but the challenge now is to repackage the message for an exchange that occurs during a heightened state of emotional or intellectual curiosity.
Unless shareability is not part of your strategy, crafting a headline and visual strategy that is less predictable than your other branded marketing materials is expected. Provoking feelings of relief, validation, surprise and horror are fair game and par for the course.
Standardization in PR
Infographics are heavily embedded into our modern culture, constantly synthesizing our thoughts as we check weather forecasts, review cooking instructions on food packaging and navigate through airports. The ever-growing variety of uses has naturally expanded the variety of formats.
But those hatched from the PR industry have some common characteristics. Though some are created for print collateral or printed signage, the vast majority are designed to be viewed online. Not surprising since they so often accompany releases, get posted and shared on social platforms and blogs, and find a permanent address on the issuing brand’s website. For these reasons, most have a long, scrolling format and are between 800 and 1600 pixels in width.
Because most infographics present a central idea or hypothesis that is supported by additional statistics and/or copy, establishing visual hierarchy is critical. One of the early design considerations should be how the headline and primary visual can add strength by working together. If they can integrate to become a centerpiece, focus next on positioning the second level of content to support it. From there you may be able to create a third level that is distinguished by having either less of a connection to the first level or alternative positioning. No matter how many levels you maintain in your hierarchy, you are also likely to have hierarchies within your hierarchies so be consistent with font sizes on content that is on the same level.
In the long, scrolling format it is also important to keep the entire headline within the top 300 pixels. It is less risky to have a percentage of the primary visual enter the space below (even if it is engaging or interacting with the headline) but variances between browsers, devices and viewing preferences make it impossible to ensure that viewers will see the headline first if it is below that mark.
Achieving a well-constructed sense of hierarchy and relationships can help guide the viewer’s eye and better control the experience. Such infographics communicate and represent brands on a far more sophisticated level than those that lazily pair descriptive icons next to each fact.
With respect to the whole composition, find the right balance between the “info” and the “graphics.” You want the impact to be received with the full effect of their consolidated power, but make sure that one is not overpowering the other and weakening the message. Not much can be done to support a headline that is off the mark or not compelling enough. But so often the level of illustrative detail can be adjusted to make the delivery more powerful. This is one reason why most infographics are created with vector art (where the colors and outlines of shapes are defined by algorithms) instead of raster, or photographic art. With programs like Adobe Illustrator, designers have more flexibility to add or subtract detail, control colors globally and scale finished designs to any size.
Your infographic is a communications tool for your brand. On one hand, it needs to adhere to the style guidelines so it can return equity to the right place. On the other, it needs to break through the clutter and outplay other infographics with the same objective. Where is the happy medium?
Depending again on your objective, you can be responsible and free at the same time. Give visual strength to your infographic with a color scheme of no more than four colors from your style guide. Avoid using tints unless they are established as part of the brand’s color system. If you can do it with two or three colors, even better. The less you use, the less likely you are to get lost among the others or be mistaken for another brand.
Stick with your brand fonts too, especially for body text. But if there is a good reason or occasion to add a signature font within the headline or to create another visual element, make your case to the brand stewards.
The sign off
Logos most often belong at the bottom of infographics, below methodology statements, reference URLs and other fine print. Unless it can’t be helped, placing them at the top usually appears self-serving and immediately reduces the desire to read on.