What makes an infographic great?

You’ve been bombarded with infographics about everything from gardening to economics, university enrollment rates to political polling – and everything in between.  Why do some of them stick while others are forgettable?

At Toolbox No 9, we’ve studied infographics that work, and those that don’t.  We’ve found a few common themes.

These three concepts – the Right Data, the Compelling Story, and the Beautiful Design – build the foundations for infographics that get likes, get shared, and go viral.  

The Right Data:

The challenge isn’t getting data – data is everywhere.  The challenge is centering the graphic on relevant, timely (or timeless), and most importantly, fascinating data.

So, ask yourself:

  • Is this information highly relevant to the intended audience?
  • Is this information timely? (or timeless – i.e., it’s relevant regardless of today’s headlines)
  • Is this information fascinating or unboring?

Relevant and timely are easy to evaluate.  Fascinating or unboring? Much tougher. Want the graphic to go viral?  Then, the information must provide evidence to emphatically confirm what the audience already believes and is passionate about – or, it must change their mind or blow their mind

To give data the best chance of meeting those three challenges (confirm beliefs, change minds or blow minds), double check that your data has: Context, Contrast, and Simplicity.

Visuals with color increase people's willingness to read a piece of content by 80%.

Saurage Research


To help people understand the breadth and depth of a topic, give them relatable contrasts. These could be trends (show that it’s bigger this year than it was last year); competitions (show that A is faster than B); or share (green took 45% while yellow only had 12%).  These contrasts are high-impact visuals, and can also be important building blocks on the story arc.

Infographics are more successful when you can show comparative date.


Context can be created with simple headlines, data labels, or brief sentences.  However, steer clear of including detailed narrative in an infographic. Science shows that we remember compelling images – lots of text is overwhelming, and can turn a viewer away.  Context can include timeframes when data was collected, regional or social sampling, and other important framing information about where and how the data was collected.


Less is more. You’ve heard that before – and it’s really true on infographics.  Crisp simple sentences can drive home a point and ensure that your audience moves through the storyline. Remember that your real goal is to have the images tell the story – that’s what makes an infographic memorable.  If you find you’re counting words – chances are, you have too many of them!

Simplicity also applies to the overall scope of your infographic.  Think narrow focus. If it’s too broad, it can become unwieldy to tell a compelling story.

If you’re at that point where:

  • You’ve selected data that you believe is timely, relevant and fascinating
  • You’ve ensured that you have included context and contrast,
  • And, you’ve kept it simple,

Then, you’re ready to move on to building a story with the data.  

To learn more about great storytelling, visit post #2 in this series: Storytelling – Coming soon.