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We’ve already had two pros share their expertise with creating top-notch infographics, but there’s plenty more to learn about this new type of social content. We spoke with Justin Prough, executive creative director at Meredith Xcelerated Marketing (MXM), and with Aron Susman, co-founder and CFO of TheSquareFoot, to round out our behind-the-scenes look at making infographics.

These two experts walked us through the creation of two key infographics for their brands. Prough focused on the important questions to ask both during the creation and distribution of a new campaign. Susman shared his company’s experience with hiring an independent designer to tackle the creation of a striking infographic. Their insights can help your brand craft a plan for what you want your creation to say, how to determine when and where you might look for outside help in getting the infographic you want, and how to make sure the finished product makes the rounds online.

Justin Prough: Meredith Xcelerated Marketing

Meredith infographic

Justin Prough was a key player in putting together an infographic titled “From Content to Big Content” for MXM. Not only does he have experience with the design side, but he also understands why it’s so important to treat these images as vital parts of a bigger strategy.

“Infographics are another piece of content,” he said. With the Big Content piece, Prough explained that the goal was to tell the agency’s story. “With over 100 years of content creation in our DNA, we wanted to illustrate how a single piece of content can be supercharged to work harder,” he said. “To get it done, a team of two strategists and two creatives worked hand in hand to bring the story to life.”

The MXM infographic explains why a brand’s material needs to be relevant, discoverable, elastic, and efficient in order to be deemed “big content.” The trick with infographics is to take that great content and present it in a smart, visual way. “We start with a fair amount of data and slowly reduce it down,” he said of the MXM piece. “Stripping away the tangential, we are left with the proof points that clearly deliver our point of view.”

When asked about how to best get an infographic to take off and go viral, Prough said, “If I had the silver bullet for this question I’d be sipping Mai Tais on the beach.” Despite this lighthearted response, Prough does know the elements that go into a viral sensation.

“There are a few things to consider if going viral is the goal,” he said. “Does the infographic address a passion point for the widest possible audience? Does it communicate quickly? You have roughly 3.5 seconds to capture the viewer’s attention.” Prough also noted the importance of the visual elements to the creation, and recommended aiming for an emotional response, likely by being humorous or provocative. “The more of these questions you can answer, the better the chances of catching lightning in a bottle,” he said.

Aron Susman: TheSquareFoot

TheSquareFoot infographic

TheSquareFoot is a resource for finding office, retail, or industrial space rentals. Aron Susman and his teammates decided that an infographic about available coworking locations would help put their business on the map. The team decided to reach out to a freelancer to create the infographic titled “Coworking in NYC” to avoid overtaxing the in-house chief product officer.

“We didn’t want to take away his time to do something like this,” Susman explained. “The opportunity cost was a lot higher for him to take time away.” With the decision made to engage an independent graphic designer to execute the project, TheSquareFoot decided to take advantage of an unusual neighbor. “Our office is next to the Fashion Institute of Technology,” he said, which is where his team connected with Gokce Gizer, who created the infographic for TheSquareFoot.

“They had a different way of approaching the project as compared to a traditional designer, which I think showed in the uniqueness of the infographic,” he said of the FIT applicants. When your brand needs an infographic that shares a unique look and attitude, it’s worth considering unique places to find talent. Plus, engaging a student got the team great results at a slightly lower cost.

While many marketplaces are available for brands to sort through freelance designers, Susman said that the savings offered by those resources wasn’t worth the loss in personal investment in the project. “Really what it comes down to is: how much effort are they going to put into it?” he said. “Are they doing this because they’re going to put in three hours and design something to try to get paid? That’s important, but are they actually going to think through and do something that they’re proud of and want to put their name on?” His team decided that having the combination of talent and passion was what they wanted for the project.

The team gave Gizer a loose set of guidelines for the infographic. “We told her what we wanted people to see and feel but left it up to her to determine the exact look.” Gizer was the one who settled on the approach of the dots, giving a sense of place across a map of Manhattan’s co-working spaces while keeping the image easily readable. Susman said that his team was fortunate that Gizer’s first iteration of the infographic was a concept they loved, which meant the whole project could be wrapped up in about 10 days with just a handful of in-person meetings.

Identifying passion for a project in an independent contractor is one of the best ways to speed the process, according to Susman. He said that was a key factor in hiring Gizer. “You could tell this was something she wanted to do,” he said.

“You can separate the wheat from the chaff,” says Susman, but noted that once you’ve narrowed down the field to the top candidates, trying to make a hiring decision based on skill alone didn’t seem sufficient. “It’s hard to tell designers apart just from their work.” What set Gizer apart was her enthusiasm for taking on this side project. “She was very upfront that she wanted this because it was outside her comfort zone and she wanted to be able to add a unique design to her portfolio.”

Have any tips on how to make the most out of your infographics, or to get the most out of the people you hire to design them? Share your thoughts in the comments.

[Image credit: Michael Coghlan]