The Do's and Don'ts of Infographic Design From HubSpot & Venngage

Picture this: you sit down at your computer to start creating an infographic. It’s the first infographic you’ve created, and you couldn’t be more excited to show it off to your readers.

You think nothing could go wrong, open a blank document, and realize it: you’re not a designer. What now?

These days, anyone can make an infographic with the availability of free graphic design software and templates. Unfortunately, the explosion of free tools has created an influx of poorly-designed infographics around the web.

Luckily, we’ll teach your how to avoid poor design so you can create expert-level infographics your audience will actually want to share, and that will help grow your audience!

By the end of this guide, you’ll know how to:

  • Use spacing, color, fonts, and icons to make your infographic pop
  • Layout your infographic to create a fluid design
  • The do’s and don’ts of data visualization
  • And much more about creating beautiful infographics!

We’ve loaded this guide with tons of examples of great infographics to use as inspiration and tactics you should avoid. Ready to get started?

Layout and Spacing

One of the hardest things to get right when you start designing is figuring out how to layout and space your elements. There aren’t hard and fast rules, and yet, you can still do layout “incorrectly.”

In an infographic, there are so many different elements, graphics, and text boxes that have to come together, which means it’s easy for your layout to get convoluted and messy.

While the rules aren’t necessarily set in stone, there are some general tips and tricks that can help you get the hang of proper layout so you can create something aesthetically sound.

DO: Include A HUGE Title Card

More often than not, infographics are too large to be shown in full on social media. Although the content may be great, trying to show the whole graphic makes it hard for the reader to actually determine what the content is about.

That’s where the spacing of your title section comes into play. Anytime you design an infographic to be shared, make sure to have a large, readable title section. Doing so will help your readers quickly understand the infographic when they’re browsing through social media feeds.

Take a look at these two infographics below. They are exactly the same, but the one on the left has a much larger title font size.

Which one would you click on if you saw it on your Twitter or Pinterest feed? Most likely, you’d click the version on the right because the bigger text makes it easier to decipher.

Some infographics, like the next examples, are smaller in size. However, including a large and legible title is just as important. The large text in the example on the right draws the reader’s eye and helps give contextual clues more immediately than the left-side version.

A large title card can also be repurposed as a featured image for a blog or social media post promoting the infographic. Here’s an example:

Instead of displaying the full infographic, the title card can be used a social image that points to the link where the infographic lives. Without the layout of a large title area, repurposing the title section is more difficult.

DO NOT: Use More Than Two Columns

One of the easiest ways to torpedo your infographic is to try to make it too complex or busy. You really should never need to use more than two columns of text, graphics, icons. or data in your infographic. Here are a few examples of two-column layouts:

By using only two columns to present the data, you can keep your content organized and legible. Using more than two columns lends itself towards making the text and graphics smaller, which creates a more difficult experience for the reader. Instead, keeping your content within two columns makes your content legible from any device, including mobile.

Want more examples of this principle in practice? Here are a few more:

PRO TIP: Your columns don’t have to be the same width in order for this rule to apply. You can use different sized icons, text, or graphics for differentiate design elements while still ensuring that your content is legible and organized.

For example, the infographic below has one skinny column for the icons on the left and one wider column for the main display text.

DO: Give It A Backbone

Most great infographics have some sort of element that ties it all together. We call this element the “backbone.” A backbone is a consistent design element used for organizing the flow of the infographic. The backbone could be anything -- like an icon, line, or layout -- but it’s generally a design element that helps the readers’ eye flow through the direction of the content within the infographic.

Graphics and icons are effective for not only getting the reader’s attention but guiding their eyes down the page. Establishing a visual guide is essential if you want your creation to be useful and easy-to-grasp.

Establishing a backbone could include many different tactics, so we’ll go through a few examples few examples to help you visualize it.

In this infographic, the centered icons are the backbone of the infographic, because they help organize the text as separate elements for the reader.

You can also use icons that are formatted right or left aligned to the other content by using icons in a grid like in the example below:

Another way to use icons as the backbone is by alternating their position from left to right with each section:

Another way to establish a design backbone is by using lines to connect important sections, like in the next example:

DO: Use Lines, Borders & Color To Denote Sections

Another great way to help people quickly move through an infographic is to visually break up the content by using lines, alternating colors, or borders strategically to allow readers to mentally distinguish sections of content as separate concepts.

The example on the right is a great example of how color can help break up content effectively to make an infographic more appealing. By using a different background color in the right version, the designers better segregated the concepts being presented. Plus, adding a splash of color helps call out a section you especially want to point out to the reader. In contrast, the example on the left looks doesn’t have a focal point, which makes the reader scan longer to understand the content.

In the next example, the designer used two different background blocks to denote separate sections.

You can accomplish the same goal of separating sections by placing lines strategically. Take a look at how disorganized and confusing the infographic on the left looks. By adding lines to separate some of the sections, the designer adds a bit more organization to the chaos.

You can also use lines to highlight important ideas and create focal points for the reader.

DO NOT: Skip White Space

White space (sometimes referred to as negative space) is the space around and between design elements in any design. It may sound basic, but putting elements too close together can create a bad design.

Poor layout can throw off an entire infographic. Like picking fonts, it takes time and practice to master spacing. If you take anything away from this guide, remember: white space is key to any good design.

When used correctly, white space can help draw the reader's eye directly to important sections on your infographic. The more space around text, the more the text stands from the rest of the content.

Take a look at this example:

The creator is able to point the reader towards the important headers and text without overwhelming the audience with content. Effectively, white space really just makes the infographic easier to read.

In contrast, take a look at this version of the same infographic with less white space:

All of the content on the two infographics is the same, but you can see that the second example is less clear, harder to read, and less aesthetically pleasing to look at than the first example. The only thing that changed is the white space. See why it’s so essential to good layout?

DO NOT: Ruin the Infographic with a Busy Sources Section

It’s always important to cite your sources in your work -- this includes infographics. But too often, designers add a list of lengthy, busy and distracting links at the bottom of an infographic instead of incorporating the sources section into the design in other ways. See below:

Infographics with sections for lengthly source links do not add visual beauty nor do they help the reader understand the infographic any better. For example, what sources are associated with which pieces of information throughout the infographic? Additionally, most infographics are shared as static images, which means none of the links are actually clickable for the reader.

Instead, include references with user experience in mind. Perhaps you just include an email address for the reader to request more information. Or add one short link at the bottom that brings the reader to a full citation webpage elsewhere. For example:

Using these methods, you can properly cite where information is coming from without disrupting the design of the infographic.

Fonts/Typography

Picking the right fonts is exceptionally hard because besides the fact that there are thousands of options, the “right” font is subjective. Different designers have different fonts tastes, and any designer could any number of fonts in their designs. Getting good at choosing the right fonts in your designs is difficult, but here are a few guidelines to get you started:

DO: Stick to The Primary Categories of Font Families

If you don’t know much about typography, here’s the biggest thing you need to know: there are three main categories of font families: serifs, sans serifs, and display fonts. Each has different purposes and common uses among designers.

Serif fonts are fonts that have small lines or embellishments attached to the letters. These embellishments are called “serifs.” Common fonts such as Times New Roman and Merriweather are examples of serifs.

How are they used? One common argument is that serif fonts should be used as body text because it’s easier to read them in large blocks of text. However, this preference mostly stems from historical precedence: we’re used to reading Times New Roman in books and white papers, therefore there is the precedence that the font type is generally “easier to read” in large bodies of text. When you’re first starting out, it’s a good idea to keep this use in mind.

Sans serifs are fonts that do not have small lines or embellishments attached to the ends of letters. Some of the most popular fonts in this family include Roboto, Helvetica, and Arial.

How are they used? While serif fonts are considered to be best for body text, sans serif fonts are considered to be better for section headers, captions, lists and titles in your infographic. Still, many designers on the web tend to use them for body text as well, so it’s mostly a matter of preference and trend.

Display font families are fonts that are more playful by design. The might be cursive or handwriting fonts or just funky fonts meant for specific types of design.

How are they used? Generally speaking, most designers agree that you should really only use display fonts as headers to set the mood and theme of your design. Typically, display fonts are used as a focal point in a design so that it draws the reader's eye to one spot. Some popular display fonts include Lobster, Alfa Slab One, and Unica One (see below).

When it comes to choosing fonts, there are millions of options. That said, experienced designers tend to have strong preferences for which fonts to use and which fonts not to use. If you’re not sure where to begin, try using a tool like Font Pair to get designer-recommended font groupings.

DO: Match the Theme of the Infographic

Now that you know what the main font categories are, we’ll move on to using them in practice.

The first step to picking fonts is to think about the theme or topic of your infographic. Are you trying to convey a playful or serious tone? Humorous or dark?

Then think about the audience and intent of your infographic. If the goal of your infographic is to share data, you probably want to make the infographic look more professional than cartoonish. Alternatively, if your infographic is meant for kids, it might be more appropriate to use cartoonish display fonts.

Sometimes, it helps to take a look at other infographics to grasp how you should think about thematic design.

In the example below, the author decided to use sans serif fonts throughout. The result is a very minimalist and futuristic design that correlates well with the topic: online learning.

In contrast, the creator of the next infographic used a mix of serif fonts and sans serif fonts, creating a very sleek, classic look that pairs well with the topic of cooking.

The next infographic showcases a different serif font. Through the use of bright colors and easy-to-read fonts, the infographic feels very whimsical. Could the author have used a different font family in it? Of course! The point is the font that was chosen subjectively, by the designer, to fit the theme they were aiming for.

There’s no right answer when it comes to picking fonts for your infographic. Instead, try to think about typography as a complementary element of your whole theme. Choose with purpose, not just because you like a font you see in a list somewhere.

DO: Pick A Font Palette & Stick To It

It’s not enough to just pick a few fonts and use them however you want. To make a well-designed infographic, it’s important to establish for yourself what sizes, weights, and fonts you're using throughout different sections. In other words, creating a font palette will keep your design consistent and improve the overall look of your infographic. Just like choosing a color palette, you need to find fonts that work together and then assign them to different parts of your infographic.

No idea where to start? Here a few tools to help:

Google Font tool - made up of about 800 different font choices and shows you what particular fonts will pair well together. For example:

Font Pair: This blog makes finding fonts that go well together (by font category) easy by showing you examples in action on a simple browser.

Once you have a few font options in mind, you can start creating your font palette. In general, most infographics will have about 5 parts to a pallet.

Note: this does not mean you need 5 different fonts. Here’s an example of how a font pallet might be broken up based on the organization of your infographic:

  • Main Title
  • Section Title
  • Headers
  • Descriptors
  • Body Text

In general, you shouldn’t be using more than 2-3 different font families. Instead, use different weights and colors for different sections, but keep the fonts consistent.

In this next example, the font palette uses two different fonts with different weights and cases to create 5 unique parts of the pallet:

Here is an example of font palette you could use to create your own hierarchy.

DO: Match Fonts With Icons

Picking icons to use with your headers and fonts can be another area of difficulty for first-time designers.

When it comes to icons and fonts, great pairings can be achieved just by keeping the style consistent throughout.

For example, take a look at the infographics below:

The infographic on the left conveys a certain feel of professionalism because the strong title font contrasts with the minimalism of the icons. Additionally, all of the fonts match each other, which helps to create an organized structure. The example on the right, on the other hand, uses four different fonts that don’t have the same level of contrast with the icons.

Here’s a good rule of thumb: if your icons are minimalist, light, and thin, trying using strong fonts in contrast.

Alternatively, if you’re using bolder, fuller icons, use a minimal font in contrast. Here’s an example demonstrating that effect:

In the next example, the font icon on the left has good contrast because the icon is meant to stand out. The version on the right, however, doesn’t have the same level of contrast, making the focal point harder to navigate.

DO: Align Everything

Design alignment refers to how you place similar elements in proximity to one another. Poor element alignment makes for a poorly-designed infographic and can be distracting to the viewer.

Alignment is a part of placing every single graphic, text, header, and element on your infographic. When you’re in the design process, have a mental checklist:

  • Are all of my headers aligned in the same vertical axis (left, right, center)?
  • Is there the same amount of space between my headers and body text elements?
  • Is there the same amount of space between my sections?
  • Do my lines end and begin in the same proximity to the elements they’re placed next to?

Here is an example of how elements should be lined up for consistency and elegance:

Make sure to place the same types of elements - body text, headers, graphics, etc. aligned in the same position relative to the other object within and outside of its section. If you have three sections with a header and body text, each header should be aligned with the other headers, and the same is true for the body text. In addition, there should be equal amount of space between the three different sections.

Here’s an example of an infographic with perfect alignment:

The reader can quickly flow from one piece of information to the other without alignment distraction.

Icons

Do you ever looked at an icon on a page or infographic and thought, “That doesn’t make sense with that content”?

When it comes to icons, make sure the icon represents the subject matter so that they add to your content rather than distract from it. No visualization should ever be used for the sake of, “just having something there.” Any visualization you use, icons included, should be chosen with purpose based on the message you’re trying to convey to the reader. Luckily, we have some tips for choosing icons like a pro.

DO: Use Labels

One way to make sure an icon is useful is to include a label or text with it. Unless the icon is universally understood, it helps to explain any graphic element with textual clues.

Imagine if you saw the infographic on the left below. Would you be able figure out what the icon meant without the textual clues below? Probably not.

The icons and text work together to paint a complete picture of the idea.

Here is another example of the need for labels alongside icons. Without labels, you’re stuck wondering what each section is about, making it harder to skim the material.

On the right, the labels and icons work in tandem to give context.

DO NOT: Use Random Icons

Icons shouldn't be used just for the sake of aesthetic appeal. Instead, icons need to have purpose in both concept and look.

For example, take a look at the infographics below on the left and right:

While the infographic on the right looks professional and consistent because all the icons are created in the same style, the icons on the left look out of place and inconsistent.

Why does this matter? Instead of focusing on your content, readers get stuck looking at your odd icon choice.

Here's a final example of how poor icon matching ultimately distracts from the content of an infographic:

Instead of paying attention to the budget numbers highlighted in this infographic, your eyes are instead drawn directly to the different colored icons on the page. Remember: contrasting color is used to highlight important sections and points, but in this case, the color draws your eye to something that you don’t want to be the focal point.

Icons in infographics should always add to the content, not detract or distract. Sticking to this mantra and will help you create useful and beautiful infographics!

DO: Use Icons For Quick Context

One of the easiest way to immediately add information and order to your infographic without using words is icons. Whether it’s identifying a certain brand, item or group, icons can help establish context quickly. They help break down complex data or information for consumption.

For example, in the infographic on the right you can quickly get an idea about what the individual sections are about. The icons make it very easy to quickly skim the section skim the sections while still providing a backbone for the graphic.

On the left side, the check marks DO fit the overall theme of the infographic but DO NOT help the reader understand the content. Therefore, the effectiveness of the icons is lessened.

DO NOT: Avoid Icon Backgrounds

If you are looking for an easy way to make a batch of icons look spectacular, try using a background shape or border around icon.

Take a look at these next examples to see the tactic in practice:

By using different background colors for your icons, like in the example above, you can quickly establish that each point is different from the others and make it easier for the sections to stand out from one another.

DO: Use Icons As Anchors

Anchors are focal points that help tie a section together. Using icons as anchors gives content a focal point. They also provide subtle organization and context to the text they anchor.

For example, below we used icons to anchor the many different social media descriptions on the timeline. By adding icons, it adds flow and context to the timeline and helps pull your eye down the infographic.

In contrast, the example on the left is lacking. There is less context, flow, and organization. In short, icons are the anchors that help keep ideas organized.

Here is another example template with of icons being used as anchors:

These icons provide context for each section and make the whole infographic more visual.

Color

Let’s be honest with ourselves: we are not all designers. But that doesn’t mean we can’t fake it ‘til we make it and learn the basics in the meantime. One important basic? Using color effectively in your designs.

DO: Use Color to Fit Your Theme Or Purpose

The right color selection can say as much about your infographic as the content contained in it. Color is a powerful design element because it helps you convey emotion, create themes, and add contrast to your design.

But, using the wrong colors can dilute the ideas you’re trying to share or confuse the reader. Here’s an example of how color is used to help convey a point:

In the example above, one of the points is using “louder and brighter colors.” Can you image if we’d used dark and dull colors in that section? It would have completely taken away from the point of the text content.

Using color to invoke a certain emotion is another important consideration. In the example below, the designer used a blue theme for an expert roundup. Blue is commonly used by companies to signify trust. Just by picking the right color they were able to subconsciously put more trust into the information and ideas presented.

Want more information on using color and your design? Here’s a helpful blog post.

Another way to subtly use color is to signify different groups based on their distinctive colors. For example, this award winning infographic splits data on the U.S. political parties based on their representative colors.

The designer made it very easy to quickly compare the information and grasp the point.

Finally, don’t forget about color fitting the content logically. For example, an infographic about the environment would be strange without green in the color scheme. Why? Because green is associated with the environment.

If you are talking about a health issue, a white or simple color scheme would be best. For example, in the infographic on the right the white creates a feeling of cleanliness, health and vitality. And the one on the left just looks off, even though the colors are very similar.

DO NOT: Avoid The Color Wheel

The color wheel is your friend when it comes making a compelling scheme. It may be a low tech way to match colors, but it also has been used by creatives for hundreds of years.

If you remember elementary school art class, then you know that there are a three main ways to find color harmony. There are different color themes you can use that are developed from the color wheel to create the perfect color scheme.

Analogous schemes are colors that are next to each other on the wheel. These color schemes are commonly found in nature and help create a sense of harmony.

Here is an example of an infographic that uses an analogous color scheme:

Complementary schemes involve using colors that have the highest contrast. These color schemes should be used if you want to make certain elements stand out from the rest or if you would like your design to feel very vibrant and dynamic.

Here is an example of an infographic that uses a complementary color scheme:

Monochromatic schemes use different tints, tones, and shades of a single color. These color schemes are great if you want to use only a few shades to create a very simple infographic. For example, you can use a monochromatic color scheme if you have lots of graphs or charts in your infographic that need to highlight separate data points.

Here is an example of an infographic that uses a monochromatic color scheme:

Need more color inspiration? Check out this article. There are over 30 examples of color schemes that you can use right now.

DO NOT: Start Without A Color Plan

Now that you have created an exceptional color scheme, it’s time to assign those colors to elements in your infographic.

When creating a color plan, try using your content outline as a guide. Doing so will help you visualize your color plan and organize the design before you start.

For a color plan to be effective it should include colors for headers, sub headers, body text, icons, background and body text.

Here’s an example of an infographic using the above color plan:

DO: Use Tints, Tones, and Shades on Graphs & Charts

When creating data visualizations, it’s important to use color with intent. In other words, what do the colors represent and are they telling the right story with the data?

One way to display data without using too much color is to use tints and tones of the same color. To do this, you first need a color to start with: in this case, we selected a dark blue.

Then, plug your colors hex code into a color tool, like Adobe Color CC to find all of the shades and tints you can use in your data visualization.

For example, here’s a graphic showing the 20 tints and tones of the blue chosen for this specific color scheme:

Here are a few examples of graphs and charts using the color spectrum above:

Want more information to help you choose colors for your data visualizations? Check out this blog post.

DO: Use Your Brand Colors

You already have a battle-tested color scheme in your logo or branding. Why not use it? Use one of your brand colors to create a few palettes like we did with the Venngage brand colors below:

Then use that color palette on an infographic! For example:

Graphs/Charts

Data visualizations make complex data easy to understand for your readers.

DO: Keep It Simple & Easy

When writing about data-heavy topics, your job should be to break down complicated information so the reader understands it more easily. Sometimes, when you have lots of data to work with, it can be hard to decide which points and takeaways are the most important to share.

There’s usually no need to visualize every single piece data available in order to tell a compelling story. Instead, aim for simplicity and focus when approaching a data-driven infographic.

The most successful visualizations convey their meaning in seconds and actually add to the overall story being told.

The infographic below is a perfect example of simplified design. The first section uses a pie chart effectively to convey the message that there are is a ton of spam around hashtags. The visualization used on the left, in contrast, is harder to understand and doesn’t tell the story as simply.

In the same infographic, the author used 30 visualizations to represent the idea that spam affects different hashtags across the board. Although there are 30 visualizations presented, the use of color allows the reader to understand the concept quickly and dig in more if they so desire.

The simpler you can keep a visualization the more useful it will be for your reader.

DO: Highlight Important Data

Sometimes it doesn’t matter how simple your visualizations are; if the reader can’t tie the information together, the message of the infographic will be confusing. That’s why it’s essential to highlight the important parts of any graph or chart. This doesn’t mean you have to use giant arrows or yellow highlighter on every infographic, but it does mean you should learn to design focal points on the infographic with intention.

For example, in the graph below, the designer used a simple circle and arrow to draw attention to an important part of the graph that they wanted the reader to understand.

By adding a caption pointing to the circle, the designer was able to convey the message of the graph and give context to the reader quickly. If the context was different the reader wouldn’t automatically know that prices were low due to hurricane season. The simple highlight makes all the difference.

In another example, a designer added a small dotted line to compare the monthly sales goal to actual growth. This gives context to the data being presented so that it means more to the reader. Sure there was sales growth! But compared to what goal?

DO NOT: Forget Legends, Titles & Labels

Without titles, legends, and labels, your reader will not have enough context to interpret a data visualization. Data visualization rule #1: never forget to add vital context to your charts and graphs.

Below, the graphs in the example compare data from different questions and show the percentage of their answers. Without a color-coded legend, the data would be impossible for the reader to interpret.

Labels give the reader interesting information about the graph or the data and make sure the reader has the whole story. In the infographic below, by including the tons of coffee under each country the data becomes immediately more useful -- it’s not just comparative, but it also gives exact figures.

You can also use labels to quantify your data without making it look out of place. In the example below look at how well the labels in the second graph fit into the rest of the infographic. They’re a clear part of the design, but they also provide key information for the visualization.

DO NOT: Use Random Color

Remember all of the color scheme tips and trips we covered earlier in this guide? Don’t forget to include those colors in your data visualizations! Avoid lazily choosing colors for your charts and graphs and instead make sure your charts fit in with the theme of your design.

Remember, if you need lots of color variations for your charts, it’s always an option to use tints, tones, and shades of your color schemes. That tactic is perfectly suited for differentiating pieces of data without swaying from your color scheme.

In the example below, the color scheme is made up of just 2 main colors. But, the pie chart made use of tints and tones to stay within the color scheme.

Now that you’re familiar with the do’s and don’ts of infographic design, it’s time to start putting your knowledge to work. Just remember: the best way to get better at design is practice.

No one’s first infographic is their best design ever. But, between the tips in this guide and the other resources available to you, you’ll be creating amazing infographics in no time!

Looking for some great infographic templates to get you started? Check out the Venngage infographic templates library.

Once you’re started creating amazing infographics, use HubSpot Marketing Free to turn those infographic visits on your website into leads!

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