Infographics are graphical representations of information that engage the audience and help them to understand complex concepts. They go beyond a simple diagram to present a narrative or process.

Infographics may be composed of text, graphs, tables, maps, illustrations, photographs or other graphic elements. They may focus on a single message or contain a sequence of messages to tell a more complex story.

Infographics use the same techniques as diagrams, but, because they are often intended for a wider audience or as a standalone item, they are often more highly ‘designed’. This might involve incorporating an organisation’s branding elements, coloured backgrounds, illustrative styling, visual navigation elements, and simple graphics such as pictograms, symbols or icons.

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To create effective infographics

  • Decide on 1 clear message for the infographic. You should be able to sum this up in 1 sentence.
  • Cut out non-essential details. An infographic does not have to exactly mirror real life or explain everything.
  • Test the infographic with expert and non-expert audiences. The expert audience can identify what’s wrong or missing; the non-expert audience can tell you if it’s understandable.

Types of infographics

Understanding the different types is the first step to making a clear and effective infographic. Your aim should tell you which type to use:

  • I have some interesting data but a graph is not engaging enough (data infographic)
  • I need my readers to see the most important feature at a glance (data or process infographic)
  • I need to explain how this process works (process infographic)
  • I need my readers to really understand this idea (message infographic).


Data infographics present data in interesting ways. They are based on real data, and should show it accurately.

Think about developing a data infographic if you have real data and a clear message that you want to convey from the data.

One of the first examples of a data infographic was developed by Florence Nightingale in the late 1800s. Nurse Nightingale wanted to communicate the impact of poor conditions in military hospitals to persuade the army, and the Queen, to improve conditions. The blue segments show deaths from disease that were largely preventable, while black segments show deaths from all other causes, including direct fighting. Red segments show the number of wounded soldiers:

Diagram of the causes of mortality in the army in the east

Source: Nightingale F (1858). Notes on matters affecting the health, efficiency, and hospital administration of the British Army, Harrison and Sons.

A characteristic of a good data infographic is that the main message is immediately visible, while longer viewings yield more information:

Greenhouse gas emissions by country

Source: Created by Biotext and published in Australia: part of the climate problem – part of the solution by the Australian Government Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency, Canberra (2011).

A variation on data infographics is a data-collection infographic. These add design elements to make a list of numbers more engaging. These are the easiest type of infographic to produce, and can be good in posters or print publications to grab attention:

Innovation and Science Australia’s stakeholder engagement

Source: Created by Biotext and published in Australia 2030: prosperity through innovation by Innovation and Science Australia, Canberra (2017).


Process infographics may be the most common – most people have seen a step-by-step process laid out visually. Process infographics lead the user through something. They can be simple or complex, plain and technical, or more designed. They can seem superficially simple, but can contain layers of meaning through the grouping of information, use of colour and icons, and so on:

Source: Created by Biotext and published by the Murray–Darling Basin Authority (2019).


The message infographic aims to tell a specific story to inform, educate or persuade your audience. It can be the most engaging type of infographic:

Source: Created by Biotext and published in Australia: state of the environment 2016, Australian Government Department of the Environment and Energy, Canberra.


Source: Created by Biotext and published in Australia: state of the environment 2016, Australian Government Department of the Environment and Energy, Canberra.

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How to create an effective infographic

Separating the infographic development process into steps can help you to get your ideas clear and improve the effectiveness of the final product.

Step 1 – context

The first step is asking questions about the context of the infographic. The key areas to consider are:

  • audience – for example, who are they, what do they want to know, what is familiar to them, what is new, what level of information do they need? (see Understand your audience)
  • type of presentation– for example, will it be printed or online, will it appear on a poster or presentation, does it need to be interactive, how big can it be? (see Consider your constraints)
  • capacity – for example, who will be doing the work, is it all inhouse or are you getting a professional designer?

The answers to these questions will help to guide the rest of the process. For example, an audience with a non-English-speaking background might change the words you can use; doing the project inhouse might limit the complexity of the drawing; or being only able to print A4 will limit how much text you can have.

Step 2 – the story

Getting the story right is crucial to making an effective infographic. For example, authors sometimes want an infographic to ‘just summarise the report’. That’s not enough. You have to have a clear message you can put into words.

You should be able to summarise your story in 1 clear sentence. Think about what you want your infographic to achieve, and what you want your audience to understand and remember.

The sentence should be a meaningful statement, not a heading:

The impact of multiple pressures on the environment
Cumulative pressures amplify the threat to the environment

Financial results 2000 to 2020
Our company has grown steadily over the past 20 years

The importance of healthcare partnerships
Patients should be informed and involved in all decisions about their health care

Try to get the message clear before you move on to visuals. However, the process can be iterative – sometimes when you go to sketch an idea you find it’s too complex and you need to work further on the message or to break it into parts.

Step 3 – the visuals

The next stage is to start to develop how you will convey your story. While this will be a combination of visuals and text, it’s a good idea to start with the visuals, as they will have the highest impact with your audience. If you will be hiring someone to complete the visual design, you may still need to think about how to convey visual information.

Effective infographics are often about finding a metaphor to convey the story. For example, an infographic about growth can show a growing plant or a crop; an infographic about a process can show machinery parts; and an infographic about step-by-step instructions can show a road or map. Use meaningful visual metaphors that your audience will understand.

To get your ideas clear, it can be helpful to brainstorm, alone or with colleagues. You can work with hard-copy sketches or any drawing or design software to develop your ideas.

At the end of this step you should have a draft drawing of your infographic.

Step 4 – the text

Once you have a sketch of the visuals, see what text you will need to add to support the story. This may be just labels for different elements of your story, or it may be short sentences or paragraphs that provide explanation. Make sure every word on the page needs to be there.

Step 5 – putting it all together

The final stage is to bring your initial visuals and text together and refine the concept. You can develop a final drawing to give to a professional designer, or work with a designer throughout the process.

Use design principles to support the story of your infographic and improve the impact on your audience (see Use good design principles).

Test your ideas with other people. Ideally, these will be members of your audience, but colleagues, friends and family can also help to provide a different perspective to see if your ideas are working (see Listening to your users). Adjust your ideas to take their feedback into account, and continue to iterate and refine to reach your final product.

You can then produce final design files to be included in your document, website or presentation, or to go to print.


Ineffective infographics
To make sure your infographic is effective, there are some common mistakes to avoid:

  • Too much going on – a common problem with infographics is a desire to cover all aspects and details of a particular concept. It is essential to identify the key message you want your audience to understand, and focus on that. Sometimes this will mean that smaller details are omitted, or that complex ideas are simplified or broken down into several parts.
  • Too much text – if the audience has to read large blocks of text, this slows their interaction with the infographic and reduces the impact of the overall message. Brief, effective text that is well matched to the graphics works more effectively. Additional details can always be added to the surrounding text.
  • One infographic where several are needed – breaking down a complex idea into separate panels, or even separate infographics, can improve understanding. This is useful if the message is actually a number of separate ideas. It’s also useful If you find yourself hoping for ‘1 summary infographic’. Such an infographic often becomes impossibly complicated, and you may need to either simplify the message or come up with a linked set of concluding infographics.
  • Trying to be too close to real life – sometimes authors want the icons or graphics to look exactly like ‘the real thing’. However, this can impede understanding. Audiences can often more quickly and readily recognise a cartoon icon of an object than a real-life drawing of the same object (eg the phone icon is still recognisable, even though the object no longer looks like that).
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