How do you translate your nonprofit’s written story into an engaging infographic?
I’ll walk you through the creation of an informative infographic and nonprofit profile. The behind-the-scenes process comes first, and you can see the finished product at the end.
Our topic: DEATH FROM ABOVE!
As a child, my grandmother’s extensive collection of National Geographics captured my imagination. Mummies were easily my #1 topic of interest, but archaeological ruins, deep-sea wrecks, natural disasters, and outer space rounded out my top 5. For a nerdy 10-year-old with an overactive imagination, those magazines were just the ticket.
In particular, I remember one article from the mid-1990s about impending doom from asteroids. Among the overwrought pages, it featured stories of an asteroid that hit a woman in 1954, another that hit a parked car in 1992, and of course the asteroid that killed the dinosaurs.
Naturally, I became convinced that disaster could rain from the skies at any moment. I’ve since moved on to other threats of doom and destruction, but asteroids remain a constant menace (or something).
With UN International Asteroid Day hurtling toward us this June 30, I thought it appropriate to take time to raise awareness of the actual threat of asteroids, as well as a nonprofit working to keep us from going the way of the dinosaurs.
Step one: Get your facts in place
It’s time to do your homework. Nothing torpedoes a good infographic quite like bad data. So before you begin, be sure to get all your facts in order.
As you do so, be sure to track your citations. You’ll want to put them at the end of your infographic to avoid any plagiarism ickiness.
In my case, I’m using data straight from the horse’s mouth: NASA. They offer a large dataset on recorded meteorite strikes from around the world. I’m backing it up with a few other information sources from around the web, including Canada’s Planetary and Space Science Centre, which has a database of confirmed impact craters.
Step two: Map out your story
If you’ll recall my earlier piece on using the dramatic arc, you’ll want to guide your readers on a logical path through the topic at hand. Now that I know what I want to say, this is the path I’ll take:
- Exposition: Defining asteroid vs. meteor vs. meteorite vs. comet
- Rising action: How many of each size class hit Earth each year?
- Rising action: Where do they fall?
- Climax: What are the odds one will hit you?
- Falling action (get it?) + Resolution: Can we do something about it?
You’ll see that this takes a bit more time in the buildup, before reaching the climax at “What are the odds one will hit you?” I picked that question as the climax because let’s face it – at some point during this article, it has crossed your mind. The “what about me?” question affects my audience most directly (and is the most dramatic), so it takes the place of honor in the infographic.
Remember, the overall arc of your story doesn’t have to be symmetrical. Instead, it needs to guide your audience along a path and ensure they get all the information they need along the way.
A lot of stories are asymmetrical. If you think about your standard 1-hour TV drama, the climax hits around 5 minutes before the end: the bad guy gets caught, the malady is cured, or the hero saves the day. Shift your narrative arc so it makes the most sense for your story.
Step three: Plan your illustrations
Notice that we haven’t done any visuals yet. Like most of my work, I try to get my content in order before diving into design. That’s doubly true for something facts-based like an infographic. My preference is always to put substance before style.
Look through the pieces of your story and the facts you want to include. Decide which elements lend themselves best to visuals.
- Do you have data for a graph?
- Locations for a map?
- Should you illustrate an idea?
- Would another type of graphic be best?
Still, don’t be afraid of using text in your infographic. The best infographics find a balance between words and pictures.
If you’re crunched for time (I know that never happens), prioritize. Which elements absolutely must be illustrated? Which ones can skate by as text-only? See how many you can illustrate before the deadline forces you to finish up.
Step four: Put it all together
You have your content, its order, and graphics. Now it’s just a simple matter of arranging the pieces and putting on the finishing touches.
I’ll discuss infographic-making tools in a later article, but for now, use whatever graphic design tools with which you’re comfortable. They don’t have to be fancy; if you’re sneaky enough, you could probably get away with using Microsoft Paint (but I don’t recommend it).
Infographic design principles are also coming in a later article, but the gist is that your design should match your story. If you’re describing a linear story, consider a timeline. If you’re comparing two ideas, consider a side-by-side arrangement. What visual element will help your reader understand your story and guide them down the page?
Here’s how the infographic turned out. Enjoy!
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