Design

Bad infographics: 6 common design mistakes ruining your infographics

Have you ever designed an infographic and promoted it across your channels only to be met with the sound of crickets? That can be very disheartening. There can be many reasons why your infographic didn’t resonate with your audience. One of the most common reasons is poor design.

Distinctive features of the worst infographics are clutter, busyness, and misleaders. Here’s an example of a bad infographic. The illegible font and poor choice of visuals make it impossible to take it seriously.

Let’s look at the six common design mistakes you should avoid creating better and more effective infographics.

1. Incorrect infographic layout

You can’t plaster some text and visuals together and call it an infographic. Start the design process using a grid design or wireframe to organize the elements you want to include in your infographic.

There are several types of infographics. The layout you choose will depend on the goal of your infographic. Here are some of the most popular types of infographics and their uses:

  • Informational infographic: to explain a concept or give an overview
  • List infographic: to share a list of tips, best practices, or resources
  • Statistical infographic: to present data or survey results
  • Comparison infographic: to compare and contrast multiple options
  • Geographic infographic: to present location-based data
  • Timeline infographic: to give an overview of events or highlight important dates
  • Process infographic: to chalk out a process

For instance, if you want to overview a topic, you can opt for a one-column or two-column informational infographic.

Here’s an example of a simple two-column informational infographic that uses descriptive headers and icons to communicate.

On the other hand, if you want to share trends or complex data, a statistical infographic such as the one below would be a better option.

In short: establish the goal of your infographic and choose the appropriate infographic layout that helps you convey the information effectively.

2. Too much text

Look at this infographic. There’s too much text, and it’s all over the place. It makes your head spin, doesn’t it?

There’s too much text, and it’s all over the place. It makes your head spin, doesn’t it?

Infographics are visual tools. While you need a minimal copy to create context, you end up intimidating the reader when you add large chunks of text.

Let’s say you’re condensing a longer piece of content, such as a blog post. The key is to identify the most critical points of your information. Once you’ve established the key ideas, split long sentences into logical parts and summarize them.

Here are the essential text requirements in an infographic:

  • Title of the infographic
  • A brief introduction on the topic or addressing the pain point
  • Brake down the main content into sections

Remember: the text on your infographic is not even half the story.

It’s important to use icons, arrows, borders, shapes, lines, and other design elements to take the narrative forward. For instance, you can use shapes to group related information together or lines to group show associations.

The idea is to use visuals strategically to minimize your dependence on long sentences and large chunks of paragraphs.

Here’s an example of a well-designed process infographic with the right amount of text. Notice how it uses arrows and icons to put the message across and make it more memorable.

3. Misleading data visualizations

A good infographic is accurate, helpful, and meaningful.

But in an attempt to be “creative,” many people mistake using the wrong charts and graphs in their infographics.

Here’s an example of a bad infographic by Papa John’s which uses incorrect data visualization.

They tried to incorporate the ‘pizza’ element in the infographic but created a pie chart to present the different company CEOs. The same information could have been communicated better with the help of a timeline infographic.

Using data visualizations in infographics is an effective way to present data and helps readers grasp information. But it all goes downhill when you pick the wrong visualization.

Start with determining your visualization goal. Here are some plans for you to consider:

  • Inform (icon charts, donut charts, etc.)
  • Compare (bar chart, bubble chart, etc.)
  • Highlight change (line chart, area chart, etc.)
  • Organize (numbered lists, tables, etc.)
  • Show correlations (scatter plots, etc.)

Once you’ve picked the correct chart or graph, make sure you adhere to the design best practices:

  • Start the chart axes at zero
  • Remove distractions and non-data link
  • Label your lines and bars
  • Don’t manipulate or cherry-pick data

Look at this simple infographic, for instance. It uses the correct chart to indicate the Consumer Price Index (CPI) inflation vis-a-vis college tuition inflation. Labeled lines, a consistent color scheme, and a simple layout help convey the message with ease.

4. Poor choice of colors

One of the biggest misconceptions people have about colors is that they’re used to create aesthetic appeal. That’s not true. The colors you choose need to be functional as well.

Exhibit A: Used the same color multiple times to represent different data points.

Exhibit B: Too many clashing colors.

Exhibit C: The color shades don’t flow logically. They’ve used a darker color to denote a smaller number, making it a misleading infographic.

As you can use, poor choice of color adds to the clutter while misleading and distracting the reader.

The first step is to pick a color scheme. A good place to start would be to design around your brand colors and align with the theme of your infographic. Make sure you don’t use more than two to three primary colors.

You can also use different tints and shades of color to denote different aspects of the same topic.

The colors you use need to be functional: whey needs to complement your story and make conveying the information easier.

Take a look at this infographic. It uses yellow and grey as the two primary colors, making for a clean infographic design.

Another important point is to make sure your background image or color doesn’t clash with your text or design elements. So, if you’re going for a neutral background, opt for a bold color scheme for the infographic content.

5. Using too many fonts

With so many different fonts available, it can get difficult to decide which one to pick for your infographic. The last thing you want is to use a combination of fonts that make your infographic difficult to read.

You need to choose fonts that make your infographic legible and seem credible. For instance, a decorative font might look ‘pretty,’ but it’s useless if it doesn’t serve your infographic.

Limit your use of fonts to two to three types. Anything more than that can be distracting.

While pairing fonts, make sure you pair fonts that are either very different or very similar. Take a look at this infographic design. It uses two similar font types, one for the header and the other for the body copy.

6. Lack of visual hierarchy

I am wondering where to begin? This is an example of a bad infographic that doesn’t create a visual hierarchy. One doesn’t know what to look at first.

Establishing a hierarchy of information is important while designing any vision because it creates a focal point, laying stress on the crucial aspects of the information.

So, use different colors, font sizes, and densities to create a visual hierarchy, establish a flow, and guide the viewer’s gaze.

Here’s an example of a powerful infographic that makes the focal point obvious.

The takeaway

Designer or not — creating infographics takes practice. There will be hits and (quite a few) misses.

The next time you’re designing an infographic, be sure to avoid these common mistakes, and you’re likely to create meaningful and engaging infographics.

Authors bio: Simki Dutta is a content marketer at Venngage, a free infographic maker and design platform. She writes about all things marketing and communications.

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