Crafting a Powerful Message: Steps to Develop an Impactful Infographic

In late February we visited Columbia, South Carolina to deliver our Introduction to Infographics and Strategies for Use in Evaluation workshop at Children’s Trust of South Carolina. Children’s Trust is a statewide nonprofit focused on strengthening families and leading communities to prevent child abuse and neglect. Children’s Trust uses infographics to share statewide data with policy makers and legislators in a visually compelling and succinct way. The workshop audience included participants from several different agencies who provided unique perspectives on data visualization and different ways to “tell the story” using an infographic.

We used this workshop as an opportunity to debut a new resource for creating infographics, a worksheet titled, “Crafting a Powerful Message.” The goal of this worksheet is to serve as a guide in developing an infographic’s audience, purpose, and message. The worksheet provides several examples, as well as a framework to assist you when creating your own infographic. Clearly and intentionally defining these three elements is a critical first step in developing an infographic, and makes the process of creating an infographic much easier! To read more about these first three steps in our 10 Steps to Creating an Infographic, check out a blog post from Stephanie Wilkerson here. Crafting a Powerful Message and several other resources for creating infographics can be found on our website here. We hope you find these resources useful as you begin creating your own infographics.

Save Time and Add Style: Creating an Icon Gallery for Reporting

At Magnolia Consulting, we use icons in a variety of ways to illustrate key ideas and takeaways in our reporting. Icons provide a quick visual reference for readers of infographics and written reports. Once we began incorporating icons into our various reporting methods, we quickly learned that there are a lot of available icons. To streamline our process for selecting and using icons, we created the Magnolia Icon Gallery. This tool saves time and ensures a consistent icon style across reporting methods.

If you spend a lot of time hunting for icons, it might be useful for you to create an icon gallery of your own. Below are some tips to consider when creating an icon gallery.

  • Locate icons on the web. We recommend checking out The Noun Project and IconFinder (see our full list of icon websites here). While some of these resources offer free icons, others require a paid account for full use of the icon collection. When looking for icons, always pay attention to the citation and license requirements of the icon.
  • Use the right file format. If you download icons in PNG file types, they are easy to resize and have a transparent background. This makes it easier to insert your icon on any color background. If you use Inkscape or Illustrator, you can also download them in an SVG file. This format allows you to change the color and design of the icon (again, pay attention to copyright requirements).
  • Consider icon style. When putting together an icon gallery, remember to be mindful of the style of icons that are being used. It will look more professional to have a consistent style of icons across all of your reporting. For example, some icons are simple outlines, while others are filled in or block style. Identify your organization’s preferred icon style and try to stick with that when downloading icons.
  • Identify commonly used phrases for icons. To determine what icons are needed, try working collaboratively with colleagues to identify key words and phrases that are commonly expressed as icons in any reporting. This decreases the need to search for icons every time they are required. For example, we regularly use icons to represent the words “student,” “teacher,” and “school.” We recommend having a few options for each key word to prevent repetitive icons.
  • Download icons. Create a process for combing through the key words and downloading icons. At Magnolia, we divided up the key words between team members, downloaded three to five options for each word, and then voted on our favorites.
  • Organize your icon gallery. Once the icons have all been selected, organize them in a readily accessible location. Ours are available in shared folders for quick access.

If you are regularly using icons, you may want to consider creating an icon gallery to save time and ensure consistent icon style and usage. Try out the tips above to get started on creating your gallery!

AEA Summer Institute: Introduction to Infographics

This month, we presented Introduction to Infographics at the American Evaluation Association’s 2017 Summer Institute in Atlanta, Georgia. As one of 35 professional development workshops geared toward evaluation professionals, this workshop focused on how to use infographics to communicate evaluation findings in an effective and engaging way. In our experience, lengthy written reports often go unread and unused. As an alternative, infographics can be a powerful visual tool to communicate evaluation findings in an easily accessible way. This workshop was an opportunity to share what we’ve learned about infographics along the way with other evaluators who are interested in using infographics to disseminate information.

As part of our workshop, participants were introduced to our Checklist for Reviewing Infographics as a tool for guiding the infographic design and review process. We demonstrated practical, easy-to-use resources and tools for creating an infographic, including an overview of software and websites, icon collections, and stock photo websites. Finally, our workshop participants went through our 10 Steps to Creating an Infographic and took a stab at creating their own infographic. We were impressed by our participants’ willingness to dive into the process, and many were on track to developing inspiring and creative infographics.

Based on the feedback we received, we know our workshop participants learned a lot, and so did we! Specifically, we are now working to integrate more resources for ensuring that infographics are accessible to those with visual disabilities. We also plan to translate our resources into Spanish in order to reach a wider audience. We hope that workshop participants will join our Magnolia Infographics LinkedIn community as a way to continue to share questions, ideas, and examples of infographics.

We are thrilled that we were able to share our knowledge with other evaluators, and we look forward to future collaboration about how infographics can be used in evaluation. Check out some photos of the Summer Institute workshop in action, and feel free to visit our Tools and Resources page for more information on the various tools mentioned here.

Get the Story Straight, and the Rest Will Follow: Developing infographics with a purpose

Too often, people begin developing infographics by playing with templates, images, and data visualizations. And who can blame them? It’s fun! But while this process will produce an infographic, it might not result in a story that connects with your audience. A better approach is to begin by making intentional decisions about your infographic: clearly defining your audience, purpose, and message constitutes three foundational and critical steps for developing an effective infographic.

Identify Your Audience (The Who). The first step of 10 Steps to Creating an Infographic focuses on identifying the information needs and interests of your intended audience. What information matters to them? How much do they understand about research and evaluation, and what might this mean for the tone and language you use? The local context in which your audience will access and use your infographic has implications for design elements you choose during later steps of infographic development, such as layout, size, and visualizations.

Clarify Purpose (The Why). The second step is about determining what you hope to accomplish through the infographic. Why are you creating it? What do you hope will change for your audience as a result of reading it? The purpose of an infographic can range from increasing awareness of a topic, issue, or research finding to improving program implementation or instructional practices based on study results. Think of purpose as the intended outcome of your infographic.

Create Story and Message (The What). The third step involves creating your main message, with primary points, secondary points, and supporting details. The story is what you share with your audience to achieve the infographic’s purpose. An effective story that conveys a compelling message includes an engaging title, an introduction with the foundational information the audience needs to grasp the main message, and a conclusion with a call to action that reinforces the purpose of your infographic. The story is intentional. It is not an afterthought or a by-product of populating a page with super cool images and data visualizations.

Getting the story straight by identifying your audience, clarifying your purpose, and creating an intentional main message will set the course for subsequent design decisions for your infographic. As you contemplate design elements, keep yourself in check by asking, “Does this support the main message and purpose of the infographic? Will this resonate with my audience?” Following this process will result in an infographic with greater coherence, clarity, and relevance for your audience.

Share your experiences with these three steps by joining our Magnolia Infographics LinkedIn community!

For more information about Magnolia Consulting’s infographic services, tools, and resources visit the Tools and Resources page!