A picture is worth ten thousand words. Or so 1920s advertiser Fred R. Barnard claimed. “Brain Rules” author, John Medina, says, “Pictures beat text by a mile,” only he brings the data to prove it. Letters take more time for our brains to process. No wonder why we all scroll right past big copy blocks. But a well-designed infographic — that’s click-worthy.

Infographics work because they respect our time. They attract, delight and reward our curiosity with valuable tidbits. Healthcare infographics can make clinical studies relatable and good advice easier to follow. If you’re a content developer, infographic design is a must-have skill.

Content developers tend to crush the word part of the infographic design process. But the visual side can feel like a stretch. Sound like you? Relax; the steps are closer to writing than you think.

Step 1: Sketch it out

You may already know how to narrow down the research and get to the point with your content. The infographic design steps are similar. Start with a solid message and a good outline. What shapes, icons or photos can cue the reader to your theme?

Sketch out your design (no one has to see it but you). Think about how many graphics you’ll need and how to arrange them on the page. Treat the most important graphic like an H1. Bigger. Bolder. Brighter. Or give your graphics equal billing. Position them like H2s in the order you want them to be read.

Do you want the reader to scan top to bottom or column to column? Let your message and design theme lead you. Columns are good for side-by-side comparisons while rows are helpful to highlight individual facts. You might arrange them in a zigzag pattern from top to bottom, too. If your audience is mostly Western cultures, just make sure your flow works top-to-bottom and left-to-right — it’s the natural way to guide a reader’s eye in a logical flow through the page.

Diabetes infographic from Express Scripts

This diabetes infographic from Express Scripts uses the side-by-side column approach to compare information.

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Step 2: Choose graphics that match your tone

Beyond the number of icons or images, the next step in the infographic design process is a question of style. There are many photographic and illustrative approaches and as many royalty-free resources. This step is about finding the right style and sticking with it.

What’s the tone of your infographic? If it’s formal or serious, try simple lines or flat one-color glyphs. If you’re aiming for more casual or playful, experiment with multi-colored shapes or doodles. But avoid mixing and matching. Like parallel sentence structure, design consistency equals cohesion and clear messaging.

With the goal of lightening up a more serious topic, content developers at WriterGirl took a caricature approach to this long list of hair, skin and nail conditions.

Bookmark it: The Noun Project offers a collection of stock icons at no cost.

Step 3: Simplify statistics

Healthcare is inherently tied to science (aka long, Latin words like “dermatitis” or “hemorrhage”). At WriterGirl, we transform health speak into plain language, so it’s easier for readers of all backgrounds to understand. Even then, topics like clinical research could use a little help from a well-designed infographic.

Statistical infographics use graphs and charts to tell highly scientific stories. But you shouldn’t be afraid to branch out of these typical design elements. When the designer gathered results for this COVID-19 survey, they were likely in a list or bar graph. Instead, the designer reorganized activities by shape, scale and color to make it easier to spot high-risk scenarios.

Here’s another example. Cardinal Health opted for pictograms over pie charts to drive home the scale of America’s drug problem. A stat like six million Americans might be easy to shrug off. Most of us have little sense of scale. But an image of people overflowing Yankee Stadium stays with you. Data visualizations like this reflect a classic approach to infographic design. They never fall out of style because they make information clearer, which ultimately leaves a more lasting impact on the user or reader.

If you do use graphs and charts, be prepared to cut the clutter. Graph lines and axis lines are a lot like adverbs — often unnecessary. If your reader can grasp the data without them, opt for simplicity and leave them out.

Bookmark it: CRM platform creator HubSpot has pulled 14 common charts and graphs with advice on when to use them.

Infographic from Cardinal Health using pictograms instead of plain charts and graphs

This Cardinal Health infographic uses pictograms instead of plain charts and graphs. From Visually.

Step 4: Emphasize your message with different font styles

With a sketch, copy and on-theme graphics, you’re ready to put it all together into a successful infographic. As you dive in, remember that there’s likely a brand guide governing your infographic design process. It may limit the fonts you use, but not your creativity.

Typography can help emphasize the meaning and significance of words in the infographic. You can bold or underline a word to show its importance. To emphasize the meaning of your message though, branch out. If you want to convey strength or excitement, try a bold, sans serif font like Helvetica in all caps. If calm and quiet are your goal, practice kerning with a light, thin font. Kerning is adding space between the letters in a word and can create an overall sense of openness. This could be a great solution for an infographic about asthma.

The American Heart Association (AHA) set out to prove salads don’t have to be boring. First, the perfect photo — it’s dynamic and fresh. We can see the possibilities as ingredients fall into the bowl. But they didn’t stop there. Italicized and angled copy blocks add movement and energy, coaxing us into the kitchen.

Step 5: Color with care

Finally, it’s time to color. Did you know red can impact metabolism and therefore increase appetite? Just ask McDonald’s, Wendy’s or Arby’s. Designers understand the psychology of color and use it, like typography, to boost a message.

The AHA combined an italic font with this vibrant color wheel to transform an otherwise boring list of fruits and vegetables, making sure the information is striking and memorable.

Of course, brand guides also dictate color palettes. If you’re limited by these guidelines, use color to sort and highlight information. Adding a consistent color to headlines and subheads makes your infographic easier to scan. A pinch of contrasting color can make a graphic, chart or callout pop.

Bookmark it: Create your own palette using Adobe’s interactive color wheel.

infgraphic from AHA on eating more color

The AHA used a vibrant color wheel to draw interest to this healthy eating infographic.

Is the infographic design process simple? No. But knowing these crucial infographic design steps is a start. Remember, content writing and design come from a common point of creativity — you have it in you to succeed!

Go beyond the written word. If you want to add some oomph to your healthcare marketing, an infographic may be just the trick. WriterGirl can help with the entire visual content marketing process — from generating ideas to drafting copy to designing. Drop us a line to learn more about how we can support your team.