5 design tips for creating an award-winning infographic

Ah, the infographic. That darling of the design department. That perennially persuasive portmanteau. 

Infographics have become increasingly important to digital marketers. According to the Content Marketing Institute’s annual B2B trend report, infographics are the fifth most used type of content marketing, up from sixth place in 2021.

But, what goes into making a good infographic? Or a great one? What about an infographic so effective that it wins awards for its awesomeness?  

In this post, we’ll break down what infographics are and how digital marketers use them. Then we’ll check in with one of our own graphic designers to get the skinny on what it takes to create an award-winning infographic. 

What Is an Infographic?

In its simplest form, an infographic is a visual representation of content. But there’s immense value in that simplicity because, as humans, we are predisposed to understand information visually. 

Not only do we comprehend text with visuals better, but images are also more likely to be stored in our long-term memory. One study found that after three days, participants remembered between 10% and 20% of what they read or heard, and 65% of what they saw visually. The use of visuals in presentations has also been shown to increase learning by 400%

Why Use Infographics?

According to the Content Marketing Institute, more than half of B2B marketers in 2022 are creating and sharing infographics as part of their content marketing strategy. Three out of 10 dubbed infographics the content asset that produced the best results. 

Why? Because they work.

  • 84% of content creators consider marketing infographics an effective piece of content.
  • An infographic is 30 times more likely to be read than an article. 
  • The use of infographics increases the drive to read by 80%. 
  • 90% of information that our brain receives is visual. 

Ready for a little test? Here’s an infographic highlighting the stats in the above list. Which one caught your eye first?  

Infographic with data about digital marketing

5 Design Tips for Creating an Award-Winning Infographic (With Examples)

Now that you’re fully convinced of the value of the infographic as part of your content-driven digital marketing strategy, let’s hand it over to m3 graphic designer extraordinaire Phil Lor. Phil has created more than 20 infographics for our clients, many of which have won awards. 

“An infographic is basically data visualized. The words I’d use are simple, focused, visual and organized.” —Phil Lor, m3 graphic designer

We asked Phil to show his work and break down what makes an infographic good — nay! award-winning. Take it away, Phil! 

1. Follow the Principles of Design

To create a good infographic, you have to start with a solid foundation, which means following the principles of design: balance, hierarchy, contrast and repetition. 

This infographic for ID Shop has some examples of how to use these basic design principles. 

Balance doesn’t just have to mean identical symmetry. This graphic achieves radial balance by placing callouts around the central image (when elements are arranged around a central point, creating a sense of movement and dynamism).

Infographic about id badges

The principle of hierarchy — making sure your readers see what you want them to see in the order you want them to see it — is one of the most fundamental principles in infographic design. 

ID Shop infographic center callout

Here, the eye is instantly drawn to the badge in the middle because of its size and placement. 

Contrast is also important in drawing the eye where you want it to go. 

ID Shop infographic CTA

This call to action stands in contrast to the rest of the callouts, giving it greater importance. 

Finally, repetition helps create visual stability and unity within your infographic.

ID Shop infographic close up

2. Guide the Reader’s Eye 

We covered this briefly in the discussion of hierarchy, but it’s so important in infographic design. One of your powers as a designer is to use hierarchy to guide readers where you want them to go. It’s visual storytelling — present the beginning, middle and end of the “story” as you want readers to see it. 

Here’s an excellent example from Medical Informatics, which won the Communicator Awards Award of Excellence. Not only does the layout prompt a top-down reading, each section is its own little story. 

Medical Informatics infographic

Bold color and a larger font draw your eye to the numbers first, then to the supporting text. 

3. Use Strong Visuals

Smart use of visuals makes an infographic what it is.

Rainbow Muffler infographic

Here, the illustration anchors the data and puddle shapes to illustrate different fluids that could be leaking from your car. 

4. Think About How You’ll Use It

Before diving into the actual design process, you need to consider how you (or your client) will use the infographic. Is it going to be printed as a poster? A PDF to distribute digitally? Or will it live on a website where most readers will encounter it on a mobile device?

The answers to these questions will determine the size, orientation and design of your infographic.  

We had to think about usage when designing this horizontal infographic for Bahama Buds cannabis dispensary in Oregon. We knew this graphic would be adapted as individual slides for social media, so it was created to easily break apart into shareable pieces. 

Bahama Buds infographic

5. Stay Within Brand Standards (but Don’t Be Afraid to Take Risks)

It is crucial to know who you are designing for (both clients and their target audience). Designers, like writers, need to understand a client’s voice, brand and style. And while it’s important to create infographics that fit within brand guidelines, sometimes a sharp departure can be impactful. 

Take Aventis Systems, for example. This infographic won the Award of Distinction (honorable mention) given by the Communicator Awards. It fits neatly within the company’s brand color palette and typography portfolio. It’s bright, engaging and effective. 

Infographic about cloud providers

But when Aventis came to us to have some fun, we were totally game. This high-concept design also won an Award of Distinction and leaned into the western showdown genre. 

Infographic comparing laptops

Pro tip: Breaking from a company’s brand standards should be done sparingly. The focus should first be on creating an infographic that fits seamlessly into existing branding.

3 mistakes to avoid in infographic design

In addition to following best design practices, avoid these common mistakes that can derail your design. 

1. Not having a clear point of view

Before you start designing your infographic, it’s important to define what your objective is. What do you want your infographic to achieve? Once you know your objective, you can start designing with that goal in mind.

2. Too much text

Writers gonna write, but infographics can easily get bogged down by too much text. To avoid a copy-heavy design, don’t try to pack too much information into one infographic. Instead, keep a single goal in mind and work with your writer to pare back the words. 

3. It’s all flash and no substance 

For an infographic to have heft, the content has to be informative, accurate and brief. You can dress it up as much as you want, but if the infographic message is not compelling, there’s a disconnect.