Everybody loves a beautiful infographic. When done well, these images can successfully make the social media rounds and reach a huge online audience. The trick is settling on a great idea that will make an evocative infographic, then designing a layout that will catch eyes and clearly display the most important data points. Great thinkers in social media know how to put all of these pieces together to create a successful end result.

To get some insight into how the top performers turn out the best material, we spoke with two experts. Bizzy Coy is the creative supervisor of content at Situation Interactive. Hafez Adel is senior director of marketing an San Francisco advertising company ReTargeter. We had them walk through the process of creating and sharing a successful infographic. With their expertise, your brand can fine-tune its approach to making infographics that will turn heads and get noticed.

Bizzy Coy: Situation Interactive

Situation Interactive is a forward-thinking agency based in New York. The company created the infographic, above, to share its vision with the industry and with potential clients. Bizzy Coy led the development of the “What We Do” infographic and wrote the copy for the final product. She told us about the importance of story and collaboration in the process of creating a successful infographic.

“I think the first step is clarifying your goals,” she said. “What do you want to achieve? Is an infographic the right thing for achieving what you’re setting out to do?” Coy said that for the “What We Do” infographic, capturing the philosophy that people are happier when they are doing things rather than when they have things was a message that fit the medium well. She said topics that center on education, awareness, sharing, or engagement will in general be a good match for an infographic. “It’s not necessarily a transactional driver for most brands,” she said, emphasizing that a brand should understand what the medium is best at accomplishing before deciding to hop on the infographic bandwagon.

Situation’s founder, Damian Bazadona, spearheaded the vision and story encapsulated in this infographic, but the creation of it fell mostly to Coy and in-house Senior Designer Ryan Muth. The first step in the collaboration was compiling the statistics. After the pair assembled some of the most convincing and compelling data, they worked together to find the story in those facts and figures. “We wanted to connect the dots between these different data points in a way that provided a new perspective that our audience might find valuable.” She said the goal was to give a human touch and an accessibility to the hard facts.

Crafting the Design

Once they settled on the narrative, Coy and Muth dove into the design. They treated each bit of data like a building block, making sure that each block served a double-duty. Every fact needed to be beautifully presented on its own while being a cohesive part of a well-branded whole image.

“It had to fit the branding and the color scheme, and it had to fit within the story that we had pre-written,” she explained. To select the exact way that the data points would appear on the final product, she and Muth worked to find smart new presentations for the data within those constraints. Coy told us in detail how they settled on the “I remember fondly” section of the infographic, recalling that in the early drafts, she had written out full, long-form statements about how many people reflect positively on their material and experiential purchases. Then she and Muth tried out different combinations of text and visuals to figure out what would best present the idea. The result was a striking double-sided bar graph that used a twist on a common data graph to provide a clear visualization of the information. “We did go through many different drafts of the infographic,” she said, citing trial and error as an important part of the creative process.

Collaboration Is Key

Collaboration was an important part of the entire process for this infographic. “I can easily write a bunch of words and send them to the designer, and he can easily design them into a beautiful infographic,” Coy said. “But working in tandem, there were things that I saw that I wanted to tweak in my words, there were things he saw that he wanted to change in his design, because we were working very interchangeably throughout that process.” She said that the drafts were also passed around to many sets of eyes within Situation, so that the final result would have the best possible combination of ideas.

Coy explained that the importance of collaboration extends beyond just teamwork in creating a piece. “An infographic is a collaboration if nothing else,” she said. “It’s a collaboration of ideas, of design, of story, of strategy. An infographic that is mediocre or is bad is usually when those disparate elements do not coalesce in a smart way.” She said that brands should be sure to cover all those bases in an infographic to create content that will achieve the goals it has set. If your team is strong, your finished product is more likely to be strong as well.

Hafez Adel: ReTargeter

Hafez Adel headed the design, production, and distribution of an infographic titled “The Digital Campaign Landscape: The Final Push.” The first step for ReTargeter in developing this image was finding a niche in the 2012 presidential election coverage that had been missed by other agencies. “We knew that the 2012 election would be historic with regards to the money and attention the campaigns spent on digital channels,” Adel explained. “But the available information on this topic was anecdotal and disjointed. We wanted to compile all of the publicly-available data into a single graphic that would convey a lot of information and tell a simple but compelling story.”

Zeroing in on the hot-button topic and adding value to the resulting conversation were both keys to ReTargeter’s success. But Adel knows that not just any set of data can make a compelling infographic. “Is there something missing from the way this story is currently being told?” he said. ” If the story you want to tell is so complex that it’s still difficult to understand the key points via text or traditional graphs, then that’s a perfect opportunity to clarify the information through an infographic.”

Data Must Support the Story

On the design side, Adel explained that every choice for data points and visual flourishes should support the story your brand wants to tell. “It’s important to have a clear thesis at the onset of designing an infographic, and ensure that every piece of data and every visual element is somehow reinforcing that thesis,” he said.

“Let the data and information guide the visuals, and not the other way around. Never try and shoehorn a data set into a pre-existing visual concept just because you’re itching to use it.” If your facts and your images are working together to support a compelling thesis, Adel said your infographic will be more likely to keep a reader engaged with the content.

Don’t Overlook Distribution

Adel also gave a look at how ReTargeter got the finished product in front of the right eyes. “There’s nothing more tragic than a good infographic wallowing in obscurity,” he said.

To cover all bases, the company spent significant time planning for distribution. The resulting strategy included many different channels. ReTargeter took advantage of the large existing audience for its newsletter, so an email push provided a strong base. The team also took the time to find individuals who would appreciate and share their work. “We reached out to political and ad tech bloggers who had covered the election beat in the past,” Adel said. “The key there was doing our homework on which channels/authors to contact.” The other main push for distribution was on social channels, especially with a Promoted Tweet campaign with election-centric hashtags. Adel said the Twitter campaign drove a lot of shares and traffic for the infographic.

The Promoted Tweets helped boost the infographic’s performance, but Adel also offered recommendations for what characteristics would improve the chances of a creation going viral. He said being original would set your work apart from the crowd, while topicality and freshness would help attract those eyes.

Adel also suggested pursuing ideas that are novel, or even counter-intuitive. “Nobody needs an infographic to tell them what they already know,” he said. “Counter-intuitive content and infographics that go against the grain of popular wisdom will peak people’s interest and see more traction on social media channels.”

Do you have any tips for creating killer infographics? Let us know in the comments

[Image credit: Mary Ann Clarke Scott]