10 Mistakes That Ruin Infographics (And How to Avoid Them)

Infographics are a powerful tool for presenting complex information in an engaging, shareable format. When done well, they can help your content stand out, rack up backlinks, and communicate your message more effectively than words alone.

But creating a great infographic is easier said than done. Many infographics out there miss the mark in critical ways. In this post, we‘ll look at 10 of the most common infographic design mistakes, complete with real-life examples. By the end, you‘ll know the pitfalls to avoid and the best practices that will take your infographics from drab to fab.

Mistake #1: Information Overload

One of the biggest issues with many infographics is that they try to cram in way too much information. The result is a cluttered, overwhelming design that turns readers off instead of drawing them in.

Here‘s an example of an overstuffed infographic:

[Example infographic with too much text and data]

There‘s simply too much going on here – multiple charts and graphs, huge walls of text, and no clear visual hierarchy. The main points get lost in the deluge of details.

When planning your infographic, be selective about what information to include. Ruthlessly cut anything that isn‘t essential to the central story you‘re trying to tell. Aim for a clean, focused design with plenty of white space. If you have additional details you want to convey, consider breaking them out into a separate section or even a companion blog post.

Mistake #2: Lack of Clear Narrative

The best infographics have a logical flow that carries the reader through from beginning to end. Each section builds on the previous one, forming a cohesive narrative. Without that unifying throughline, an infographic becomes just a jumble of disconnected facts and figures.

Take a look at this infographic about the environmental impact of food:

[Example infographic with disjointed sections]

While the individual pieces of information might be interesting, they don‘t tie together into any overarching message. There‘s no story being told, no "so what?" that gives meaning to the data. As a result, it‘s forgettable and unlikely to make much of an impact on readers.

As you map out your infographic, think about the key takeaways you want to communicate. What‘s the big picture? Organize the information in a logical progression, with each point leading naturally into the next. Use visual cues like numbering and arrows to make the flow crystal clear.

Mistake #3: Neglecting the Target Audience

Another common issue is creating an infographic without considering who it‘s actually for. Different audiences have different levels of familiarity with the subject matter and different goals in seeking out the information. A data-heavy, jargon-filled infographic that works for industry insiders will be completely lost on the general public.

For example, look at this infographic on blockchain technology:

[Example overly technical blockchain infographic]

Unless you already have a solid grasp of how blockchain works, this is almost impossible to parse. It dives straight into the technical weeds without defining key terms or providing any context for the unfamiliar.

Before you start designing, think carefully about your target audience. What do they already know about the topic? What do they care about? What kind of language and visuals will resonate with them? Let the answers guide your approach to content, word choice, data visualization, and overall complexity.

Mistake #4: Factual Inaccuracies

It should go without saying, but any facts and figures you include in your infographic need to be 100% accurate. Publishing misleading or outright false information is a great way to torpedo your credibility and ensure no one trusts you in the future.

Unfortunately, many infographic creators fail to properly fact-check their work, leading to charts like this one:

[Example chart with inaccurate data/labels]

At first glance, there‘s nothing obviously wrong with this chart. But a closer look reveals that the percentages don‘t add up to 100%, and the labels don‘t quite match the information being represented. These errors undermine the legitimacy of the entire infographic.

Make sure to carefully vet every statistic and data point you include. If you‘re pulling numbers from a third-party source, follow the trail back to the original context. Double check that you‘re using the most up-to-date information available. And of course, triple check all your math. It‘s worth taking the extra time to ensure total accuracy.

Mistake #5: Poor Visual Hierarchy

Good infographics use size, color, placement, and other visual elements to create a clear hierarchy of information. The most important points should pop out immediately, with supporting details receding into the background. When everything looks equally important, it paradoxically makes the whole thing seem less important.

Here‘s an infographic that struggles with visual hierarchy:

[Example infographic with cluttered, flat design]

The text is all the same size, the icons are all the same style and color, and the layout lacks any focal points. As a result, the eye doesn‘t know where to go first or what to pay attention to. Key insights are difficult to pick out from the surrounding noise.

When designing your infographic, think about the main points you want readers to take away. Make those the biggest, boldest, brightest elements on the page. Use supertitles, contrasting colors, and prominent placement to make them impossible to miss. Arrange the rest of the information in a logical hierarchy, with descending levels of visual prominence. Sketch out the hierarchy before you start designing to ensure it‘s clear and purposeful.

Mistake #6: Ignoring Accessibility

Infographics are a highly visual medium, which means considering the needs of visually impaired readers is a must. Things like low-contrast color schemes, non-linear layouts, and missing alt text can render an infographic utterly illegible to a significant portion of your audience.

For instance, this infographic uses low-contrast colors and a scattered layout that make it hard to read:

[Example low contrast, inaccessible infographic]

The shades of orange and pink are too similar in brightness, so the text gets lost against the background. And with no alt text supplied, screen reader users have no way of accessing the information.

To make your infographics more accessible, aim for high color contrast between text and background. Use patterns and textures in addition to color to differentiate between elements. Provide descriptive alt text and captions for every image and chart. Organize the information in a logical, linear layout for easy tabbing/screen reader navigation. Following accessibility best practices ensures everyone can benefit from your infographic.

Mistake #7: Hard-to-Read Text

If your audience has to squint and strain to read your infographic, you‘ve already lost them. Legibility is paramount, but it often plays second fiddle to the designer‘s aesthetic vision. Tiny text, script fonts, and low-contrast colors are the bane of many an infographic.

Take a look at this example:

[Example infographic with small, low-contrast text]

The designer was clearly going for a sleek, minimalist look. But in the process, they made the text far too small and low-contrast to be easily readable. It‘s a infographic that sacrifices function for form.

To avoid legibility pitfalls, set body text at a readable size (at least 12pts for print, 16px for web). Avoid overly stylized fonts in favor of clean, simple type – boring is better than illegible! And again, make sure there‘s ample contrast between text and background. When in doubt, enlist a few friends to give your design a read – if they have to zoom in, you need to bump up the size.

Mistake #8: Inconsistent Style

Using a hodgepodge of different fonts, colors, and illustration styles is a surefire way to make your infographic look amateurish. Jumping between different visual treatments is jarring for readers and makes it seem like the information wasn‘t properly planned out.

Here‘s an example of an infographic with a inconsistent visual language:

[Example infographic with multiple illustration styles, fonts, colors]

With five different typefaces, three unrelated color schemes, and a mix of illustration styles, nothing about this infographic gels. It looks more like disparate pieces of clip art than thoughtful data visualization.

Pick one cohesive style and stick to it throughout your infographic. Use no more than 2-3 fonts and colors, and make sure they complement each other. If you‘re using illustrations or icons, keep them in the same general style – don‘t mix flat vectors with 3-D renderings, for instance. A unified visual language makes your infographic feel professional and purposeful.

Mistake #9: Prioritizing Creativity Over Clarity

Many infographic designers get so caught up in coming up with a clever concept or eye-catching visuals that they forget the ultimate goal: clear communication. Just because you can represent the data in a cute, novel way doesn‘t always mean you should.

This infographic is a prime example of sacrificing clarity for creativity:

[Example overly conceptual infographic]

The road map theme is certainly original, but it makes the data much harder to parse than a simple chart would. Readers have to expend extra mental energy figuring out how to navigate the information, which distracts from the content itself.

When brainstorming your infographic concept and layout, always ask yourself: Is this the clearest way to present this information? Does the design enhance the content or get in the way of it? If you‘re adding visual flourishes that make the data less intuitive to understand, rethink your approach. Aim for a healthy balance of creativity and clarity, with clarity taking precedence every time.

Mistake #10: Weak Promotion Strategy

Finally, even a brilliant infographic is useless if no one sees it. After spending so much time and effort perfecting the design, many marketers drop the ball when it comes time to actually get it in front of an audience.

All too often, promotion is limited to a single social media post and maybe an email blast. Without a robust promotion strategy, even the best infographic will languish in obscurity, unlikely to reach its full potential.

To get the most mileage out of your infographic, you need a multi-pronged promotion plan. Share it across all your social channels, not just once but multiple times over a few weeks. Write a companion blog post that delves into the topic in more detail, with the infographic embedded. Reach out to influencers and industry publications to see if they‘ll share it with their audiences. Consider paid social ads or sponsored content placements to get it in front of new eyeballs.

The more places your infographic appears and the more buzz you generate around it, the better your returns will be in terms of traffic, links, leads, and brand awareness. Don‘t let all your hard work go to waste with lackluster promotion!

Learning from the Best

Now that we‘ve explored the most common infographic foibles, let‘s look at a few examples of infographics that get it right. What is it that makes these designs so effective?

[Example of great infographic #1]

This infographic uses a clean, simple layout with ample white space to avoid overwhelming the reader. The consistent color scheme and illustration style create a cohesive look, while the large text callouts highlight key takeaways. It‘s an excellent example of using visual hierarchy and design restraint to enhance rather than distract from the content.

[Example of great infographic #2]

Here‘s an infographic that transforms dry, technical data into an engaging visual story. The designer uses characters and a clear narrative structure to guide readers through the information, making it both memorable and easy to grasp. The high-contrast, accessible color palette is pleasing to the eye without sacrificing readability.

[Example of great infographic #3]

This infographic takes a potentially dull topic – financial management – and makes it approachable with colorful, friendly illustrations and plainspoken copy. The layout flows in a logical progression, with each section setting up the next. Clever touches like the piggy bank and price tag icons reinforce the theme throughout. It‘s a master class in making complex information understandable and appealing to a general audience.

Summing Up

Creating an effective infographic is no easy feat – it requires a mix of strong writing, clear data visualization, and smart design choices. But by learning from the mistakes and successes of others, you‘ll be well on your way to producing share-worthy infographics that get results.

To recap, here are the major pitfalls to watch out for:

  • Information overload
  • Lack of clear narrative
  • Neglecting the target audience
  • Factual inaccuracies
  • Poor visual hierarchy
  • Ignoring accessibility
  • Hard-to-read text
  • Inconsistent style
  • Prioritizing creativity over clarity
  • Weak promotion strategy

And here are the best practices to keep in mind:

  • Be selective and focused with your information
  • Organize content into a logical, cohesive story
  • Tailor language and design to your target audience
  • Triple check all facts and figures
  • Use visual cues to create information hierarchy
  • Follow accessibility best practices
  • Ensure text is legible and high-contrast
  • Stick to a consistent visual style throughout
  • Prioritize clarity of communication over cleverness
  • Promote widely through multiple channels

By putting these principles into practice, you‘ll be able to create high-impact infographics that capture attention, communicate your message effectively, and drive meaningful results for your brand. Happy visualizing!