5 Traits of Great Infographics

We see plenty of great infographics, and we see plenty of lousy ones. Infographics are phenomenal ways to convey information, but, like anything, some are better than others.
Here’s what makes the best ones so good.

1. They don't have much copy

 Dear writers: An infographic is a graphic. For better or worse, most agencies still ask a writer to initiate the project and then have the designer deal with the results. That's a little like asking an opera singer to engineer a microphone.
So try developing your initial concepts with a designer at your desk. Operate with the assumption that visual interest is inversely proportional to the number of words, and select them carefully. This will add clarity to the final product, obviously, but it will also give your designers more of an open canvas to be creative.
For better or worse, most agencies still ask a writer to initiate the project and then have a designer deal with the results. That's a little like asking an opera singer to engineer a microphone. 

2. They're taken as serious design projects

 If your “infographic” was exported from Microsoft Word, it’s probably not an infographic.
Infographics are meant to be serious design projects, not half-baked collections of copy in colored squares. The graphic, not the text, is doing the real creative work. Within the boundaries of your brand, infographics should be rich experiences that showcase your talents for informing and persuading. The more fun you have with your infographics, they better they will be.
Side note: If your brand guidelines constrain you to the point that all your infographics are lame and unimaginative, reconsider your brand. Consistency doesn’t mean much if all you’re doing is being consistently lackluster.
(Burns does brands. See how.)

3. They have several distinct sections

 Breaking your infographic into pleasing chunks will help the viewer follow along. Just like copywriters have begun using pull quotes and callouts more often, infographics should be “chunked” in order to provide viewers with a visual hierarchy and avoid fatigue.
See below for how you can organize these chunks support a storytelling narrative.

4. They have big numbers 

 No, we don’t mean impressive sales totals – we literally mean large numerals. Since many B2B infographics involve numbers and figures, designers are wise to make them large, or at least think of them as design elements and not just copy. Aside from the obvious need to make your key content stand out, large numbers are easier on readers’ brains and are retained better.

5. They tell a story 

This one gets missed all the time, but a great infographic has a narrative. It has a beginning, middle, and end, and when viewers are finished, they feel a sense of resolution.
Here’s an example of a three-tier infographic about a piece of software:
Tier 1: You’re setting up a problem. Your numbers, icons, and objects tell us that somebody has a problem or need – their legacy IT system is both costly and inefficient, for example. This problem is relatable and feels urgent to the IT personnel who are the infographic’s main audience.
Tier 2: You’re describing the solution – the cloud-based, mobile-equipped technology for wiping away those old issues and saving gobs of money. You’re providing an intuitive framework for understanding how the system works and why it’s superior to maintaining aging servers in the company basement.
Tier 3: You’re articulating the personal and business benefits. How is life better for IT now that we’ve solved this problem together? Are they now empowered to be strategic thinkers instead of just keeping the lights on? What business outcomes are suddenly attainable? Have you made your C-suite really happy?

This might seem no-brainer and conventional, but there is a time-tested 3-act narrative at work here. It’s worked for thousands of years – and it works especially well digitally.