Infographics: Techniques – Tips & Tools

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Disclaimer: I have no connection with any of the organisations or companies offering the tools I mention on this page, nor do I receive any financial or other benefits from mentioning them here. The tools I mention are the ones I use and have been selected by me for my work after consideration, comparison and research into which best fit my intended purpose of use and my skill level. I have put the ones I use in bold.


General tools I use or have explored for creating infographics

MS Office

  • Very likely to be found on your company laptop – free for you to use
  • Familiar – learning curve is lower
  • Very limited functionality compared to other tools
  • Less creative potential

I have found out that tools such as MS Word etc… are excellent for their primary purpose but making anything with a lot of graphic content in them is often not easy. However, the latest versions allow a lot of easy to create creative content. In MS Word, if you go to the ‘Insert’ tab and then click on ‘SmartArt’ you’ll find some handy tools to quickly make flowcharts and a range of other infographics. I found this handy when I quickly had to add something bespoke to someone’s action plan but I haven’t yet found a good way for making more permanent infographics I use on a day to day basis. This requires something… erm… more creative and flexible.

Libre Office

  • Free and downloadable from a trustworthy source
  • Easy to learn
  • Limited in functionality

For those who don’t want to ascend the steep learning curve of a full graphic design programme, the drawing programme within Libre Office, conveniently called Libre Office Draw, may offer an easy way to make flow charts with full flexibility. As with all software, it takes some getting used to, but it’s something I’ve used for years, until I found something better (for me)… Libre Office is free to download and is so called ‘Open Source Software‘. This is very different from ‘Freeware’ you can download online in that it can generally be trusted to be virus/spywhere/adware free if downloaded from their official website.

Libre Office Draw offers basic functionality, compared to pure graphics software, for making flowcharts as well as slightly more sophisticated drawings. The functionality and possibilities are greater in my view than those within Microsoft Office applications and they are less ‘fiddly’. Especially cropping images is much easier to get right first time. You can then copy and paste this into a word document or stay within Libre Office and create a .pdf of your creation.

Exploring Adobe…

  • Monthly rental contract
  • Steep learning curve for some
  • Lots of creative freedom and potential

When I was looking for an app to make the graphics for this website I needed ‘a bit more’ than Libre Office could offer. I explored the Adobe Suite, which is excellent for graphic design professionals. Some would vehemently disagree however and you don’t have to look very far to find user views strongly for or strongly against. It’s also expensive. You basically rent the software from Adobe, which means you pay a fixed fee every month for the use of their software, for as long as you use it. This may mean for the rest of your career. If you are considering Adobe, it would be wise to look into the pros and cons of this system. At the time of writing this (08/2020) using Adobe Illustrator only would amount to £19.97 per month. There are combined packages available as well. There is a free trial, but here too, I would urge you to look at the implications by searching for comments on this opportunity.

My solution… Affinity Designer, Publisher and Photo

  • One off cost/keep for life
  • Steep learnig curve for some
  • Lots of creative freedom and potential
  • UK company

Adobe is way out of my budget and I am not sure how I feel about ‘renting software’ for the rest of my life… actually I am sure how I feel about this. So, while looking for alternatives, I noticed a lot of professionals are starting to swap to a fairly new software package (from an established company – Serif) that broadly does the same, and in some cases more, and is at the same time professional software: Affinity. I downloaded the free trial of the 3 packages (Photo, Designer and Publisher) and bought the full package the same day and have been using it since. It doesn’t have a subscription system and you buy the software for life, which you can then install on more than one computer/laptop. At the time of writing (08/2020) each of the three apps have a one off price of £48.99. There is a tablet version as well which is cheaper. These apps come with a fairly steep learning curve if you don’t have a background using graphic software but I found it worth it and I make lots of different projects (for fun and work) using these apps. There are lots of videos online and websites if you prefer text, to help you get to grips with both Affinity and Adobe. I would absolutely recommend Affinity Revolution is your first source for helping you develop your skills. The makers of these videos are a really nice couple and a great example of what youtube can be like. (I have no affiliation with Affinity Revolution I quickly add!)

Both the Adobe Suite and Affinity will allow you a lot of creative freedom to do what you want to do, rather than making what you have in mind fit certain templates (like MS Word) or have (albeit easier to use) more limited functionality (Libre Office).

Flaticon

  • No learning curve – icons are ready-made
  • It just offers icons, obviously. The rest is up to you using the tools above
  • It’s free to download and register (but you can upgrade as well)

If you would rather leave the drawing of icons to someone else, then I would recommend Flaticon. You can download a number of icons for free before you have to register (also free). There are ‘to pay for’ icons as well, but I found that the free ones are usually sufficient. Don’t forget to add an attribution on the infographic you’re making! It’s only fair. I have found the search facility on Flaticon excellent and it’s great for ‘quickly putting something together’, equally on PowerPoint.

Tools related to SEND

How long is a piece of string… I mean, there are so many different conditions that require our attention when making resources that it would lead me too far to mention, even most of them, here. I don’t need to say that it’s always important to listen to any client to find out if they have any needs which requires us to adapt the information we give to them. I will concentrate on some main points and main requirements related to information resources/infographics.

The first and most obvious one is the client with a visual impairment, in which most of the above may not even apply.

  • In the past I have found an A3 printer invaluable, ideally in colour, to be able to offer information support to clients. Given that these are quite rare in most offices, ICT can help.
  • I have a database of all the infographics I have on paper on my laptop as well. This means that I can blow up any part of any graphic to make it more visible to those who struggle. When making an infographic resource for someone with limited vision it’s also important to ask a lot of questions – don’t be afraid but do this with sensitivity. It’s better to ask than to offer something the client can’t use. Some clients may prefer coloured overlays or may prefer certain colours to be used or avoided. You could ask about font size and typeface as well for instance.
  • If you work with a lot of clients who have no vision, then it may be worth considering the purchase of an embossing machine, some of which work in a similar way to a printer allowing ‘free hand’ embossing. You can print a colour or black and white version of your infographic and emboss the content/icons/flowlines, etc… so your client can feel the information on the sheet. I haven’t used this myself but I can see it being used in this way if you have enough clients to justify the investment. It would be important to test out different paper thicknesses to find out which works best of course.

Clients with learning difficulties require a completely different approach, one which you can integrate into all infographics you make or one you use especially for them. This often comes down to breaking up information into smaller chunks and to taking care that any icons are clear and easy to understand, conveying a clear and one directional message. I have found the information on this .pfd on www.changepeople.org/blog/december-2016/free-easy-read-resources useful in trying to achieve this. Here too, it’s very important to reflect back and ask open questions to ensure information is fully understood by the client. This NHS website is also an invaluable resource as well as .

The creative way

As a last remark: I sometimes have found it useful to create an infographic, normally on paper, with a client there and then. This means they take full ownership of the process and the content and it’s often a good way of talking about different things. An obvious example of this could be a ‘career road map’ and of course this can be linked to and has overlap with Law’s 3 step story boarding model