Randy Krum
President of InfoNewt.
Data Visualization and Infographic Design

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10 Tips for (journalists) Designing Infographics

This article was originally published on “Digital Newsgathering”, a class blog for Journalism 226 at San Francisco State University, Instructor: Staci Baird.  I wrote this post as a guest author, and with permission I am republishing it here.


Assuming you’re not working for a media corporation with huge graphics and statistics departments at your disposal, you may want to create some infographics for your own articles.  With today’s flood of information, infographics allow readers to quickly digest and understand complex data.  A good infographic will not only inform readers, but will also create interest and convince people to read your article similar to how good headlines and photos attract readers.  In contrast, both boring and overly complex graphics will quickly convince readers to ignore your article.

Here are 10 tips for designing better infographics (click the images to go to their original sites):


1) Be Concise: Design your infographic to convey one idea really well.  You’re not writing a scientific research paper, so don’t expect your reader to dig into a lot of detail.  This doesn’t mean you should only visualize one number, but your entire graphic should support one of the major points from the article.  You can include additional facts or information to make the infographic stand on its own, but don’t lose sight of the point you want to get across.

This example is an infographic poster I created about the caffeine content in drinks.  At this size, you can easily tell which drinks have more or less caffeine, and if you decide to view the higher-resolution image you can dig deeper into the details and additional information that’s included in the poster.

The Caffeine Poster, by Randy Krum


2) Be Visual:  Design your infographic with your final for viewing size in mind.  A number of articles online require the viewers to click on a text link to view the graphics that accompany an article, and I believe this is a huge mistake.  Design your graphics to be viewed in-line with your article.  There’s nothing wrong with allowing viewers to click the image to see a high-resolution version, but they should be able to understand the image when viewed with the article.  A side benefit is that a viewable image also allows for readers to share the image by itself on social media sites easily.

Google PageRank Explained, by Elliance


3) Be Smarter:  Build your data and explanation right into the infographic, and don’t make your readers have to work hard to understand what they’re seeing.  Your infographic shouldn’t need a legend to be understandable, and there’s no reason to ask your readers to keep moving their eyes back and forth between the chart and the legend to understand the graphic.  Treat your readers as intelligent and make your graphic look professional by including the relevant descriptions and numbers in the infographic.

Who Participates Online?, by Arno Ghelfi for Wired Magazine


4) Be Transparent:  Infographics can be used to lead readers to the wrong conclusions.  Always cite your data sources and allow readers to dig deeper into the data if they have the desire.  Some of the best articles include easy access to the source data with links to a spreadsheet for readers to view on their own.

BBC Budget, by David McCandless

See the visual. Explore the data.


5) Be Different:  If you can avoid it, don’t use a bar chart, a line chart or a pie chart.  This infographic of visualization styles is a great resource to help determine a good visual to use for your data.  The different styles are grouped together by the type do data they are trying to communicate and in the interactive version, an example is shown as you mouse over each style.

Periodic Table of Visualization, by Visual-Literacy.org


6) Be Accurate: Remember your geometry and visualize differences using area.  When trying to convey the scale of your data, many graphics use different sized shapes or images to show amounts relative to each other.  The reader’s eye sees the total area of the image as indicative of scale, not just the height of the image. 

For example, if you’re using circles to show one number is 3 times larger than another, the area of the circle must be in proportion to the values being represented.  If you make the mistake of making the diameter of the circle 3 times larger, the area is actually 9 times larger.

Circle Areas, by Randy Krum

The infographic below breaks down the number of FedEx trucks using the area of the circles in a mind map style image.  This could have been a simple bar chart, but it’s much more visually appealing as a bubble mind map.

The Fedex Universe, by Robin Richards for MeetTheBoss.tv

NOTE: One common exception to this is a standard bar chart.  No matter how wide the bars are, the height is the only dimension that conveys meaning.


7) Be Attractive: Include visuals:  Illustrations and photos included in the infographic make a big difference.  Even though this example is a bar chart, the inclusion of the company logos make it quicker and easier for the reader to understand.

What Does Your Email Provider Say About You?, by CreditKarma.com


8) Be Varied:  Find a good visual style that’s right for the data you’re trying to share.  If your data is about countries, plot it on a world map not a bar chart that lists countries.  Also, don’t be afraid to mix visualization styles together in one infographic.  

This example infographic by Emily Schwartzman about the aftermath of the earthquake in Haiti won a design contest from GOOD Magazine, and mixes map data with a stacked bar and colored boxes for percentages.  This is also a great example of viewing size.  You can see and understand the visuals, but the actual numbers are available if you view the high-resolution version.

Haiti Earthquake Infographic, by Emily Schwartzman


9) Be Gracious:  Work on the assumption that your infographic may be viewed or shared without the article you originally designed it for.  Make sure that the final graphic includes the following pieces:

  • Copyright, to be explicit about any rights and terms of use
  • Source data, so anyone can check your facts
  • Designer’s name, always give credit to the artist/illustrator/programmer/designer
  • Original image/article address, so anyone who sees the image can find your original article


10) Be Creative:  Use whatever tools you have available to create your infographic.  Of course, the tools you use will depend on what you are trying to visualize.  Many infographics can be created using simple applications like a vector drawing program (like OmniGraffle or Microsoft Visio), a charting program (like Microsoft Office or Apple iWork) or an image editing program (like Adobe Photoshop).

Here are some visual tools available on the Internet: 

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Reader Comments (16)

Tip no. 11:

Run it past the subs or copy editors to check/tighten up the words on there and to make sure it makes sense to the reader. Infographics take time to create and may have many layers or version, so a pair of fresh eyes is invaluable!

May 7, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterFionaC

Great thought Fiona! A second pair of eyes always helps before your work gets criticized online (and it will get criticized). Errors in your infographics will ruin the credibility of your overall story.

May 8, 2010 | Registered CommenterRandy
Hey I found some fast pagerank tools, may be seo friends would like them.


one is bulk page rank checker that can check 1000 of pages PR with single click and another is internal PR checker to check pagerank of all internal pages on a website.

There is lot more helpful things for search engine optimization.
September 17, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJennifer Hayden
I have been searching the internet for this, and I am glad I found it here! Thanks.
March 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterWeb Designer Chandigarh
I’m normally not the kind of person to submit comments on people’s blogs, but for your article I simply needed to do it. I’ve been browsing in your site a lot recently and I’m super impressed, I think you might potentially emerge as a main voices for your niche. Not sure what your free time is like in life, but if you started commiting more time to writing on this site, I’d bet you would start receiving a bunch of traffic soon. With affiliate stuff, it could become a nice reserve income source. Just an idea to think about. Good luck!
March 27, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMaster Andy
Thanks Andy. I don't think it will happen, I'm too busy designing infographics, but I appreciate the note.
March 28, 2011 | Registered CommenterRandy
NIce site! The whole idea sounds very interesting. I am a little confused on the whole process of how it all works just a little bit though.
March 31, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJhonny
That is some really good piece of comprehensive advice along with proper infographics to compliment it with . The post is a perfect example of what it preaches and it really gets assimilated very fast . It must have taken quite some time to make the post since finding the right data and infographics is never an easy task and as a thumb rule , every good piece of tutorial is always backed by hardwork .

I liked especially the area visualization part of it . Clears many of my doubts .

Thanks again !
April 10, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRohan
Surely writing pieces of news is an art of infographic on its own. But if we are talking about the colourful glitzy infographics which are circulating, Do journalists have the time to do infographics? :S
June 9, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterChing
It must have taken quite some time to make the post since finding the right data and infographics is never an easy task and as a thumb rule , every good piece of tutorial is always backed by hardwork . I just signed up to your blogs rss feed. Will you post more on this subject?
July 14, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterkaraoke machine
I really enjoyed this post. You describe this topic very well. I really enjoy reading your blog and I will definitely bookmark it! Keep up the interesting posts!
September 2, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterbest eating plan
The post is written in very a good manner and it entails many useful information for me. I am happy to find your distinguished way of writing the post.
October 29, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterserach engine optimization
It is quite a typical task to design info-graphics. But if you interestingly do it its a task to enjoy rather. You have shared a masterpiece indeed. Thanks for sharing this.
December 14, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterduvet covers
Extremely nice post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say that I have seriously enjoyed surfing around your weblog posts. Immediately after all I might be subscribing to your rss feed and I hope you write once again soon!
May 10, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterskincare website
post really helped my to create me first infographic, thanks
August 14, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterEuroPRO Cleaning
Hey Randy Krum, This is a great post & very well explain as well, hopefully will helpful to me while creating first infographic. Here you can see a few points might be useful for creating better infographics. www.squidoo.com/10-effective-designing-tips-for-infographic

Arun Nair
December 3, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterArun Nair
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