EPISODE 4: Creating infographics that inspire
Updated: Mar 1, 2021
Illustrate your key messages with attention-grabbing and informative images
These days, we’re bombarded by distractions - from our computer screens to smartphones, e-book readers to television, there is no shortage of things to occupy our eyeballs. It’s easy for messages, even important ones, to get lost in the clutter. How can you help your social impact organisation stand out and grab that much-needed spotlight?
Compelling titles, professional formatting, concise and jargon-free text are all fantastic tools, but nothing's quite as eye-catching as a colourful image. Even better, use that image to relay critical information as an infographic.
What is an infographic, where, when and why should I use them?
Think of infographics as the illustrations in your story book. They can’t tell the whole story, but they add colour and personality to the text. The text is still your main communication tool, but infographics support your message. As you develop your ‘Case for Support’ and turn that into a concept note, you might notice places with lengthy, complicated descriptions or boring numbers. These are great places to think about using an infographic. Specifically, you could use an infographic to:
Illustrate a process: A process is fluid, active, and continually changing. Words aren't. Save yourself the clunk text of trying to explain moving pieces by illustrating them with a flow chart and illustrating the process with arrows.
Breathe life into numbers: Numbers and statistics are necessary for creating a grounded and evidence-based argument. However, nothing can put a reader to sleep faster than reading rows of numbers. Try using an infographic to give context to the numbers and explain why they’re important.
Share impact: Donors love a good beneficiary number, and what better way to display the change you’re making than with an infographic. Bring your headline impact to life with eye-catching icons, numbers and designs. Feeling brave? Why not animate it?!
Once you’ve made them, infographics can be used pretty much anywhere. There’s your website, of course. And your annual review. But don’t be afraid to put them out there. Social media, direct mail, donor reports and applications... A well placed infographic might be just what you need to catch the right donor’s eye.
Some examples to inspire…
We love Beautiful News for their fantastic work on infographics. They create sleek, clean-looking designs that pack a punch in terms of conveying information. Whenever you’re stuck for a bit of inspiration, browse their showcase. Overwhelmed by all the beautiful images? Try these examples to get you started.
[Example 1] Outline your model and impact
Sum up what your organisation does in one simple image. Does that seem impossible? Check out this example, which follows the tried-and-true formula of problem > programme > results.
Click here to check out the source.
[Example 2] Demonstrate change over time
This infographic is an excellent example of an image that tracks changing phenomena. You can use something like this to explain the evolution of your problem or even your organisation in a few concrete phases.
Click here to check out the source.
[Example 3] Contextualise numbers
Transform boring numbers into something powerful and meaningful by illustrating them. “1.4 million children” is too abstract for most of use to get our heads around, but a swarm of dots representing a more comprehensible number (1,000) gives us a better idea of the actual impact.
Click here to check out the source.
But I’m not a designer. How do I make them?
Infographics might look great, but there’s one problem. You need to make them! For the non-arty types among you, that can be a pretty daunting prospect. Don’t worry. Thanks to the wonder of modern technology, there are plenty of products to help you create the perfect infographic. Here are some of our favourites:
CANVA: It seems everyone is using CANVA nowadays. We can see why. With templates of every shape and size, simple animations, a library of photos and infographics (and free subscriptions for registered charities) it’s quick and easy to make infographics that shine.
FREEPIK & PIXABAY: Looking for a bit more freedom? Freepik and Pixabay offer royalty free images (photos and vector-based) for private and commercial use. With free and paid subscriptions available, this is a great way to start creating your own designs. You’ll need some editing software (see below) but you’ll love the freedom they give. Just make sure you familiarise yourself with their licenses and usage restrictions.
AFFINITY DESIGNER: So it’s not Indesign, but unless you’re a professional designer you don’t need it to be. And let’s face it, Serif’s Affinity range is pretty awesome (and we’re not just saying that because Jen used to work there). Their products are powerful, easy to use, and Designer is a snip at €60 (with NO monthly fee). The perfect choice for budding infographic artists.
Do I want a JPEG, PNG, GIF or SVG?
Once you’ve got your graphic, you also need to know how to export it. You’ve probably heard of JPEG, PNGs, GIFs and SVG files. But do you know which one is better to use, and when?
JPEG: One of the most popular file types and perfect for photos. JPEG generally save nice and small, but this can be at the expense of (a little) quality. No worries if you’re uploading to the web (smaller files are quicker to open and load) but you might notice if you want to scale up and print.
PNG: A step up in quality from your average JPEG, PNG files are great for graphic art, like infographics. They also support transparency (a clear background) which is often really quite useful. But beware! Because they’re higher quality, PNG files tend to be that bit larger, and that means they can take more time to load.
GIF: You attach them to your tweets, and that’s because GIF files are perfect for simple animations and clear, bold images. Like PNGs, GIFs will support a transparent background, but they can be limited. If there’s a lot of colours, tones and shading, you’re probably better off with one of the above.
SVG: SVG files are for vectors only (shaped-based graphic drawings, not photographs). The advantage here is that they can be scaled up or down to any size and the quality will still hold. You can even edit them, if you’ve got the right software to hand!
What turns an infographic from good to great?
Right. That’s enough of the techy stuff. It’s time to get creative. You’ve got the information. You’ve got the software. So take a deep breath and go for it. Not sure quite where to start? Here’s an infographic to help (see what we did there?). We made it ourselves. You see, it can be done!
If you’re still struggling, don’t worry, you only need one or two infographics. If you’re on the other end of the spectrum and loving infographics, be careful not to go infographic-crazy, you might want to select one or two powerful ones and stop there. Infographics can be a powerful tool when used in moderation.
Think accessibility and readability
When thinking about infographics you must also think about accessibility and readability. When you make information visual, you are turning real text into photographic text and that means screen readers can’t process it. What’s more, if the text is too small (or the font too fancy) and the colours to close, your beautiful infographic could become very hard to read - particularly for people who are visually impaired.
Now, there’s a bit of science to graphic accessibility, and if we’re honest, we are on this learning curve too! That’s why, rather than pretending to be experts on the subject, we wanted to share an amazing resource by the California State University, Northridge. Recommended to us by a friend and colleague, we think this page gets the explanation and best practices exactly right.
Click here to read more about best practices in infographic accessibility. And let us know what you think - we know we’ve learned loads already!
Have an infographic to share? Leave a comment to get feedback on it.
Find more resources for social impact organisations in the ‘Step change: a road map for new fundraisers’ series. Next up, we will discuss how to create empathy by crafting an inspiring impact story in Episode 5!