Infographics: Visual Storytelling and Information Design

I’m an email designer and that means I’ve stopped counting the times a client has said “I saw this great infographic and want to do something like it in our next campaign. What do you need from me to get started?”

Infographics are a great way to create excitement about your brand and drive email engagement. From a design perspective, I really appreciate that they get a message across easily and in a memorable way. To help you make the best of infographics, I’ve pulled together four useful design tips on creating them.

The Story Determines the Design

Infographics are more than just an eye-catching grouping of pictures, numbers and text. They’re about telling a story – one that has meaning to your audience. They differ from traditional illustrations in that their style is typically simplified and icon-like; and their purpose is functional rather than purely aesthetic (but more often than not, they’re also great to look at).

Put yourself in your readers’ shoes to discover a question they may have or a challenge they face. Consider what your audience should learn from the visual or what action they need to take.

  • Do they feel rushed getting ready for work? Help them take back their mornings.
  • Are they not getting a good night’s rest? Explain the best sleeping positions for different types of people.
  • Are they confused about how to sign up for a class and rate the teacher on your yoga studio’s app? Break down using the app into visual steps.
  • Do they want to feel safer in their home? Walk them through expert advice and advances in technology to ward off intruders.

Marketers should be able to pitch their idea for the infographic in simple language. The designer, in turn, should have a firm grasp on what the story is. In the end, a good infographic shouldn’t have to rely on too many words to get the message across. Show; don’t tell. 

Data Illustrates the Story

Infographics make data interesting for the reader. Readers’ habit to skim content means that numbers and figures in a paragraph may be lost on your audience. Pulling the data out into visuals undoubtedly improves the chance that it is absorbed. But don’t make the mistake of thinking that data alone is the story. What counts is what the data signifies.

True and well-organized information is the heart of any great infographic. Whether the data is from your company or from an outside source, make sure it is objective and relevant to the point you want to make. Incorrect or irrelevant information can’t be improved by the strongest of designs.

Don’t forget to cite the information source at the bottom of the infographic to demonstrate the legitimacy of your story.

(illustration) The email celebrates the new milestone in this rewards member’s lifecycle. For this message, Marriott Rewards uses an infographic to summarize and create excitement about the subscriber’s achievement. The brand uses imagery to recount the member’s history with the brand and easy-to-read icons to call out the new benefits that come with Silver Elite membership.

Organize Your Story

You’ve got a story to tell, but what’s the best way to tell it? The format or structure you use will be driven in large part by what kind of story you have. The basic infographic opens with an introductory claim, includes 3 or 4 points that support the claim, and wraps up with a conclusion supported by statistics. Other possible formats include:

  • How- to/step-by-step guide: Instructional infographics are great for breaking down the steps involved in completing a task.
  • Comparative: Place two products, people, ideas, things, events or places side-by-side and explain the differences (coffee/tea, expensive/cheap, curly hair/straight hair)
  • Timeline: These tell a story through a chronological flow and are great for demonstrating the evolution of things (such as the history of the bicycle or how cooking methods have changed over time).    
  • Flow chart: Help someone make a decision by outlining the choices involved in answering a question or describing a process

Match Your Brand

The look and feel of an infographic has a lot to do with brand personality. Your brand can be described as the experience customers have when doing business with your company. The visual style of an infographic should express that experience.

5 Best Practices for Designing Infographics in Email

Keep it simple. Keep it scannable. 

Don’t give your designer a large amount of copy. Infographics reduce your message to the essentials. Pull out your key points and then, if you want to, you can expand the idea with a small paragraph underneath. Less is more here.

Your design could be award-winning, but if it is too busy, too detailed, or too elaborate, your point will be lost. You only have a few seconds for recipients to scan your design, so keep it simple. Function is ALWAYS king over design.

Think Big

I design icons at a scale of 200%. Why? Because I’m thinking about the audience opening emails on retina-display mobile devices. Devices labeled “retina display” (the majority of smartphones in today’s marketplace) display four times the amount of pixels as desktop monitors do. Your audience should see the crispest, sharpest images possible. After all the hours that go into crafting an infographic, having it fuzzy or blurry in the mobile environment is unacceptable.

Follow the Style Guide

Most companies publish a style guide to instruct designers on how to treat their promotions visually. Among other details this guide will include details about the official colors and typography, logo placement, how thin or thick lines should be, how icons should look, what scale to use, and more.

Make the Fold Work for You

Email best practices dictate that your key content should lie above the fold or within the first frame you see before scrolling. Testing and the rise of mobile email have confirmed that readers are not afraid to scroll through an email but brands need to entice them immediately. Design your email with images above the fold, or tease them out. Perhaps only show the first few icons right at that bottom edge of the fold. An eye-catching infographic following a section of writing is sure to drive scrolling from your curious recipient.

Test Test Test

To make sure you’ve conveyed your point, you should test your design before sending. Show it to a few people. Can they easily “play back” your story, follow your steps, or quickly summarize the main point? I would argue this is more important than proof-reading or QA-ing your email. If your infographic can’t quickly communicate what your key message is, you’ll need to revise. While art is subjective to the viewer, an infographic has a specific goal and a correct solution for design.

 

Visual content is a great way to capture consumers’ attention, distribute information and maintain engagement. Designing a memorable infographic takes time and thought, but is arguably one of the most effective ways to create engagement and strike curiosity. 

 

Want more design inspiration? Check out our latest Lookbook. 

Author Bio

Christina Egan Chang

As a Senior Designer at Yes Lifecycle Marketing, I craft emails and various media promotions for the Marriott Rewards program. A favorite part of my job is delivering not only what the client asks for, but additional creative executions my team and I have come up with. When I’m not designing I like to work on my house, cook, and enjoy being an urban dweller in Chicago.