Reaching a target audience the way you hope and expect to is never guaranteed. With the right team and solid best practices, however, you can get you where you want to be. And those best practices start with infographic design and end with distribution.
In order to entice, inform, entertain, and impact your target audience, it’s up to you to design well—and with them in mind. That means you can’t overlook the little things (colors, fonts, etc), nor can you be blind to the big things (proper infographic design styles for target demographics and publications).
To even attract those eyes in the first place, though, you need a strong presence in the right places. You have to ensure that relevant contacts have your content and that it’s easy to share with others. Not only that, but it’s up to you to push it through your own channels: your blog, your social, and your own employees.
Yes, it sounds like a lot of work, but it does deliver. How do you do it? Keep these best practices on hand the next time you design an infographic.
1. Know who you’re designing for.
Before you do anything else, ask the following: What kind of client is it? Who is their target audience? Are they allergic to the color gray? And so on. Ask these questions up front, either directly to the client or quietly in your head in some fevered batch of online research. Blanketing your decisions with broad generalizations rarely works out as anything beyond a surefire study in laziness. You’re creating art for a client, not on a whim. If a client tells you your infographic design isn’t right for their products and services, don’t just write it off as bad taste. Infographic design for a tech company will likely look quite different from one for a cosmetics blog. Design choices, such as colors and illustration style, should be driven by their purpose, not because you’ve “been really into lucite green lately” or “just wanted to show the world that geometric shapes can define our souls.”
2. Watch your spacing.
Consistent spacing is really important, and people forget that way too often. Grids and baselines ensure the viewer’s eye has the opportunity to look at, adore, and internalize each component of your infographic. After all, no one wants their audience’s reaction to their infographic design to be a dismissive, “What the hell is happening here?” Spacing isn’t one of those infographic components that only a designer will notice. Even your mouthy grandmother who thinks paisley is still in style will ask, “Why is this thing up here when that thing is there? And why aren’t you married yet? Are you saving for a house?” Enough. Aligning your infographic design elements isn’t that hard, people. (And I don’t know, Grandma, the middle class is dying, okay? I’ll get there when I’m ready. Ugh.)
3. Use clear and logical type hierarchy.
You can’t go buck wild with fonts. You just can’t. I don’t care how tempting or fun it is. It’ll end up looking like some frantically assembled ransom note. Limit yourself to one or two font families and as few font styles as possible, or you’ll risk reader reactions of the worst kind. Bad typeface design stands out on a basic level immediately, within 300 milliseconds of looking at it, and the brain’s usually unable to remembering what was read after another 300 milliseconds. (As typographer Stephen Coles said, “You can’t be a good typographer if you aren’t a good reader.”) Your goal isn’t to showboat the fact that you downloaded the Harry Potter, Godfather, and Tron fonts all into some terrible new genre mashup. Be subtle by remembering that changes in font size, weight, color, letter case, and other decorations can help differentiate content and make elements stand out. Your goal is to help the reader determine headers, body copy, and captions. You’re a guide, maybe even an architect, not some clown.*
*If you are a clown, please pardon my rudeness. I shouldn’t have made a generalization. That’s literally Rule #1 (really, go back and check). I remain respectful of and fascinated by your lifestyle. How you ended up on this article is beyond me.
4. Consider who will see it and where it’ll be seen.
“People” isn’t a target demographic. That’s the answer you’d get from someone who’s never really considered their intended audience. If somebody asked you to design clothes for “some person” without any details beyond that, your head would explode. Designing anything well requires details, and the Internet certainly isn’t one-size-fits-all.
To successfully stand out in the wild chaos of the digital void, think about all the places your infographic might appear:
- What’s the biggest size the blog, landing page, or microsite will allow for images?
- Don’t forget social. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest all display different dimensions, so consider whether you should truncate your information to focus on 1 or 2 main points.
- Is there a chance it will be printed? If so, then it changes the color game. RGB for web; CMYK for print.
- Did you already know ideal resolution? Well, here it is: 72dpi for web, 150dpi for retina screens, 300dpi for print.
Okay, noooooooow you’re (probably) ready to start creating.
5. Pick the appropriate data visualization for your information.
Let the information be your guide. Bar charts make no sense with standalone stats: What are you comparing? And choosing a pie chart to illustrate 20 different percentages will just make you insane. It comes down to determining the data visualization type that’s most sensible and most effective. Is the data information collected over time? Are there multiple categories in the data set? Make it clear for the reader. Assume they are 1) interested, 2) not a data scientist, 3) having a relatively good day (because, hey, why not?).
6. Be aware of colors and values.
Your favorite colors don’t matter. What matters is your palette’s ability to work it (so sassy). Can you read the text against that background? Do the two categories in the legend contrast strongly enough to see a difference? Can you use patterns and colors in the charts to be interesting and still effective? If you have trouble reading or deciphering anything in the design phase, then it’s safe to assume your readers (who have no prior knowledge of your project) will have a difficult time getting through it. Ignoring these design elements early on only causes you trouble and more work for yourself down the road. And you’d probably prefer for that road to be a nice one, something with metaphorical sunshine and birds…maybe some nice gas lamps for atmosphere…a lemonade stand where kids actually know how to do their job…a real paradise…some place to…huh? Oh, right: Design with integrity.
7. Optimize your infographic’s landing page for sharing.
This one gets swept under the rug all too often—which is weird, because even in that idiom, it’s way too big an issue to fit under any hypothetical rug. Your infographic should live on your brand’s publishing platform (i.e., your blog), and it should be ready to parade around like a superhero at the end of a blockbuster flick. You want to show that thing off. For starters, you need sharing buttons. Otherwise, what’s your plan: have people print out your infographic to hand to people like concert flyers? Make it easy for online readers to hype your graphic across social channels. And remember that they’ll need some context (but not a lecture). In fact, nearly all respondents to a Demand Gen Report survey (95%) prefer shorter content. To give them what they need how they want, include a short, 2–3 sentence intro paragraph featuring SEO keywords and a clear call to action to best capture leads and conversions.
8. Break your infographic into snackable sizes or teaser images for extended social sharing.
Beautifully breaking up your infographic design into smaller images extends your content’s lifespan. Think of it like making your content into good vampires—like Sesame Street’s Count von Count—just out there, living forever, doing cool stuff, adding up your numbers. Empower your content by giving it the well-deserved opportunity for multiple social posts across different channels. Your traffic will blow up, and you’ll be the hero your team needs and deserves. Damn, maybe even put that on your business card to show off to loudmouth Jerry in accounting.
9. Use social channel paid promotion to your advantage.
Organic traffic is awesome, but it’s often the outcome of at least some intentional outreach. The internet’s like a gigantic festival of carnivals, and it certainly doesn’t help that social algorithms are ever-changing, increasing your content’s odds of getting lost in the social shuffle. At this point, catching someone’s attention makes you some sort of digital Cupid. That’s why paid promotion is evolving into a standard practice, with advertisers in the United States and Canada ramping up paid spend on social networks by 31% this year alone. Adding paid amplification to your posts will give them the boost they need to land eyeballs on your content. To help make that happen, use images and determine the most relevant channel(s) to promote your work
10. Share the graphic with publications that post related content.
So, your infographic is about a cutting-edge app that sends you pizza whenever you’re sad and lonely? Cool. Maybe don’t pitch that to Highlights. Look for publications that post content simliar to the infographic you’ve created, and then reach out to journalists who’ve written on the topics or the site’s general information address. Offering these publications editorial content can provide them with valuable visual assets to use in their posts, which creates greater visibility. Position your infographic content in this way and keep your interaction friendly in hopes of building a long-term relationship. The relationship will likely be platonic, but, damn, if you can get them anticipating your emails or (even better) seeking you for future content needs.
11. Leverage all relevant, owned channels.
Since this isn’t the era of Mad Men, you don’t have to rely on advertising points of contact (and you can’t day-drink on a Wednesday). You own channels. You’re not buying newspaper space or waiting for that radio ad to play. You’re in charge of an email newsletter, a blog, and probably a billion different social accounts. Besides, you have internal company feeds and employees with probably a billion social accounts themselves. Don’t underestimate employee advocacy. Leads developed through employee social marketing convert 7x more frequently than other leads. With all those arms extending your digital reach, you’re like some beautiful tentacled monster. Use them to spread the word…or defeat Godzilla!
Now that you’re on your way to becoming some digital demigod with all this information, go forth and be the good you wish to see in the infographic design world. These key moves will help you design well and distribute far.
This post originally appeared on Column Five.