Infographics integrate graphic design, writing, and data analysis for the purpose of representing information in compact and accessible ways. Creating or curating infographics for your course can be a powerful strategy for refreshing learning materials and keeping students engaged. Infographics are often used to:
- Introduce or provide an overview for a module or session (advance organizer)
- Scaffold or chunk complex content
- Engage students who might find visual information more accessible or less intimidating than other approaches
- Show relationships or processes best understood through illustration
Confirm relevance and be explicit
As with other types of content, infographics should only be incorporated into course materials if they are meaningful and directly connected to learning objectives. When creating infographics for a course, ask yourself how they will enhance student learning and what you intend to convey. Including an accompanying introduction or explanation can make this intent more explicit to students.
As with any image used in an online course, you will need to consider how students with disabilities or nonvisual preferences will experience your infographic. The following practices can aid accessibility:
- Avoid small and stylized fonts, as well as light text on dark backgrounds.
- Avoid relying on color coding or low-contrast color combinations.
- Avoid image files when an infographic might be made more accessible through combinations of HTML and CSS.
- Use alt tags and alternative methods for providing a detailed explanation. These can be as simple as downloadable descriptions, but verbal explanations can benefit all learners.
Start with a story
Lay out the narrative of your infographic in a logical, compelling order, as you would for an article or presentation. Remember that the infographic will only be as useful as its content, so focus on the quality of your information.
Analyze your story
Consider how the information in your story is organized. According to Richard Saul Wurman’s LATCH principle, virtually all information can be organized by one or a combination of the following:
- Location: Convey differences in space through maps, coordinates, or cardinal directions.
- Alphabet: Organize information that will be accessed in random order alphabetically.
- Time: Convey meaningful changes over time through timelines, schedules, or calendars.
- Categories: Convey relationships by grouping information, such as in comparison columns.
- Hierarchy or continuums: Convey relationships on a spectrum from smallest to largest.
Create a wireframe
Next, sketch out the compartments of your infographic in a simple wireframe. This will enable you to see how segments of text and graphics relate to one another, without the distraction of fonts, colors, or images.
As you lay out the text and images, remember that the language and reading habits of your audience will affect how they interpret your infographic. Students who normally read from left to right will automatically scan for meaning from the upper-left corner to the lower-right corner, so placing titles and explanatory text on the left side of the page can facilitate better comprehension.
Choose your visual strategy
The purpose, content, and natural organizing factors of your story inform the structure of your infographic, but you will also need to choose a visual strategy. One common strategy lets the data do the talking, by focusing on data visualizations and constructing a narrative around those visualizations. (See Feltron Annual Reports, for example.) Another strategy involves using visual metaphors to guide the viewer through a narrative. (See The Carbon Budget by World Resources Institute, for example.)
Choose the right tools
There are many online tutorials, resources, and tools available to help you develop infographics. Select the following links to access tools and learn more: