How to Design and Promote an Infographic for Free: A Guide for Nondesigners

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As a marketer, your content strategy matters. Between maintaining active social media profiles, updating your on-site blog and advertising across the Web, it can be daunting to consider taking on other forms of content creation and curation. With this in mind, why bother with infographics? Do they even still work?

The answer: A resounding absolutely – most of the time.

By the way: Do you want to learn more about creating graphics for your blog? Here’s the last guide on that topic that you’ll need.

Visual content has become more popular than ever, both in terms of creation and consumer reach. An aggregate of HubSpot statistics reports that 90 percent of information transferred to the human brain is visual, which may also be the reason we process visual information 60,000 times faster than text. Simple statistics prove the power of visual content. According to Jessica Gioglio, author of “The Power of Visual Storytelling,” blog and social media posts that display an image or image album garner 180 percent more engagement than those without.

Well-done infographics combine the best of both worlds, with short-form scannable text, visual illustrations and graphic data seamlessly woven together. To pull this off as a creator, you’ll need to present strong data and a compelling narrative while also staying relevant to your brand.

Find the Data

Whatever your industry, well-researched data is the basis of a strong infographic. If you’re not sure what topic to present, a look into your proprietary data can help you craft a compelling visual story. For insights into your marketing campaign, use a data tracker like Google Analytics. Similarly, use a survey tool like SurveyMonkey to collect user-reported data.

You can also reference a dataset related to your industry. If you’re having trouble with your research, consider one of the following sources for reputable data.

  • Awesome Public Datasets: GitHub user caesar0301 has amassed and continues to update an enormous global repository of data sources organized by industry.
  • AWS Public Data Sets: Collected by Amazon Web Services, these are also categorized by industry.
  • The Guardian Data Blog: This newspaper blog is a good source of clean data visualizations about a variety of topics.
  • gov: The U.S. government’s public database provides information about the U.S.
  • Google Public Data: Use this search engine to find a broad spectrum of metrics and datasets from validated sources. You can also upload your own.
  • Google Scholar: Search this source for publicly available, academically researched documents.
  • UN Data: This is a statistical database of information collected by the United Nations about global economic, development and environmental systems.
  • World Bank Open Data. Use the search bar or browse by topic to discover global statistics about finances.

Create a Narrative

Once you have a topic and dataset in mind, you’ll need to lay out the information in a logical and compelling order. The designers at Canva recommend approaching this as though you’re writing an essay. After all, an infographic is more than a series of charts and graphs, it’s a story. Any good story requires a beginning, middle and end.

You might remember Freytag’s pyramid – also called the plot mountain – from English class in high school. It’s one of the most common tools used to analyze the structure of a story.
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In essence, an infographic’s narrative arc is a shorter, simplified version of Freytag’s pyramid.

1. Beginning. This is the introduction of your topic. Start with a brief but catchy title – the best choice for short-form content. Then, supply a small summary of your topic, ending with a hook that will entice viewers to scroll down for more. This can be something as simple as, “Let’s take a closer look.”

2. Middle. In the Freytag pyramid, rising action is an introduction of the problem or complication your infographic presents. It all depends on your industry. For example: “How does secondhand smoke affect your body?” “How does your online branding stack up?” or “Why do readers love infographics?”

The climax of your infographic is the meat of its narrative. It’s also where you show off your research chops. Use relevant facts and figures, with data visualizations and graphics that mean something. The more shocking      or surprising, the more interesting your argument will be.

As you begin drawing the infographic to a conclusion, bring the narrative back to your first whys and hows. What does all this information mean? Why does it matter?

3. End. Your readers should leave feeling like they’ve learned something new. Briefly sum up the presented information and, if you’d like, provide an actionable CTA. Whether or not you include the latter, always end on brand, crediting yourself as the creator and stating the source of any data you used.

Elements of Design

Once you have your narrative sketched out, it’s time to put it all together. As you play with placement and design, keep simplicity in mind. Cluttered content is off-putting to look at. It’s the reason graphic designers incorporate whitespace, and why content writers break text into small, readable sections or bullet points.

These same principles apply in infographics. Your data and visualizations need room to breathe. If a component doesn’t fit perfectly with the rest and does not strongly support your argument, chuck it. You can always repurpose that information in a new way later down the line.

Ways to Create an Infographic

It can be difficult to create an attractive infographic without a design budget, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible – and you don’t have to be an advanced designer to do it. You also don’t have to work from scratch because of all the free tools out there.

Instead, pick from a bevy of design tools, programs and templates. Some of these are still in beta, and many require subscriptions to unlock the full list of features, but they are all free to use for beginners.

  • Canva: An in-browser photo and graphic editing software, Canva allows you to drag and drop images and other design elements with ease. The site also offers a database of attractive stock graphics and illustrations for you to choose from.
  • Piktochart: With hundreds of fully customizable templates and images, this point-and-click program is practically self-explanatory. If you still need some guidance, take a look at Piktochart’s free online video tutorials.
  • Visme: Think of Visme as the Swiss army knife of visual content creation, with clean, simple interface and preset templates for a variety of displays. A free account limits storage, download capacity and chart widgets, so be prepared to subscribe if you fall in love with the program.
  • Venngage: With its one-two-three approach to infographic creation, Venngage is a great choice for beginners. Simply choose a template, add charts and visuals from the onsite library, and customize as desired. Again, you’ll need to subscribe if you want access to the entire customization library.
  • Infogr.am: Streamline the process by creating your infographic and uploading it directly from the Infogr.am site. With the free plan, you can create up to 10 original infographics.
  • Easel.ly: Another simple click-and-drag in-browser infographic tool, Easel.ly has uniquely themed templates that include example content to give you direction and inspiration.

If you’d rather use your own software, you can still download a template from HubSpot to customize. The template download bundle also includes an instructional cheat sheet for reference. Additionally, find lots of free images for use in your infographic at Design for Founders’ roundup of stock image sites.

Publish and Promote

Now that you’ve created your infographic, it’s time to send it out into the world. However, don’t sit back and adopt a “build it and they will come” mentality. Here’s a hint: They won’t. If you want your infographic to be seen and shared, you’ll need to give it a little push, and that begins with publication.

The first place you publish your infographic should always be your own website. You want to be the original source of that piece of content, and you want to give other sites that use it a page to link back to.

After that, you can try infographic-specific submission sites, of which there are surprisingly many. These sites actively seek out relevant, sharable infographics, which they publish for a wide viewership that often includes other infographic designers seeking inspiration.

Here are some great places to submit your infographics:

  • Visual.ly: Sign up, log in, and you’ll become part of an enormous community of talented designers and content creators. The information marketplace has a wealth of infographics uploaded by other creators, as well as a useful analytics tool to track your success.
  • /r/Infographics: The Infographics subreddit is a highly trafficked space for sharing and discussing user-generated content. While the inclusion of Reddit on this list may seem a bit unorthodox, redditors themselves are picky about what they like – so you know only the best of the best will succeed. Content that garners attention on /r/Infographics has massive viral potential.
  • Infographic Journal: This is a wonderful archive of visual information that covers every topic under the sun. Submit a high-quality infographic for free, and it will be reviewed on a first-come, first-serve basis.
  • Cool Infographics: Cool Infographics is another great blog for finding inspiration. Submit your infographic as a suggestion through the contact form.
  • Information Aesthetics: Created something heavy on the data viz? Give submitting it to this site a try.
  • Infographics Archive: Yet another infographic blog.

You should also promote the infographic on your site with social signals, like tweets, Facebook likes, stumbles, upvotes on Reddit, and more. You never know – maybe your infographic will go viral!

Make It Happen!

Getting an infographic out into the world for free may not be a simple process, but it’s imminently doable with the right tools in your belt – not to mention you have the Internet’s love of the medium on your side. Infographics are, in their nature, highly sharable. They have the potential to engage a wide audience, direct readers to your site and organically build links through social media shares and online discussion.

It’s easy to see how a successful infographic can be a huge benefit to small businesses, so what are you waiting for? Get out there and browse online archives for inspiration, come up with a great topic and experiment with the amazing tools and resources available.

Adrienne Erin is a freelance writer and designer who loves picking apart online campaigns to see what makes them tick. Follow @adrienneerin on Twitter to see more of her work, or visit her blog Design Roast.

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