Designing smart infographics for a digital world

Designing smart infographics for a digital world

We live in a world of numerous touch points—many online and mobile—that have forced companies and organizations to reconsider how to tell their stories. From infographics to email blasts to websites, even today’s nonprofit and business design landscapes depend on digital deliverables. The days are gone when marketing communication was distributed only through direct mail, a printed newsletter, and the occasional email. So how do we design for a whole new world?

Clients often approach us with what seems to them a simple request to spread their message. However, that can be a shortsighted solution to a communications strategy. A plan designed to utilize multiple platforms effectively usually calls for a more robust and carefully planned solution. Without it, you’re missing a huge opportunity to target your message effectively using today’s technologies. Each campaign is different, but the thoughtful approach to the messaging, the visuals, and their distribution is key to every successful communications campaign.

A case study

Recently, Pride Foundation—a regional community foundation that supports LGBTQ equality—asked us to create a “simple yet stunning visual graphic” that captured the significant impact of their scholarship program. The intention was to share this graphic at six events celebrating the 2013 scholarship recipients and the foundation’s twenty years of funding. The graphic would also be distributed via email afterwards. Their ultimate goal was to cultivate a deeper understanding and awareness of the foundation and to encourage individuals to donate.

The challenges

Our first challenge was to sift through two pages of data from the client to find the key facts that could be made into a succinct and compelling infographic highlighting the impact of their scholarship funding.

Pride Foundation has awarded more scholarships to LGBTQ student leaders and allies than any other organization in the country. To support the idea that their scholarship program is making higher education more accessible (and that continued support from donors and prospective donors is vital to continuing the program), we incorporated a chart to show the rise in college tuition and fees compared to the rise in cost of consumer items over the past 20 years.

We then added data points pertaining to their funding to enhance and round out the infographic.

Beyond the initial request

We chose a double-sided, 8.5×11 format to create a printed handout for each event. Since the front side provided enough space for the event details and a list of scholarship recipients, the back was free to display the entire infographic. We then provided the infographic in a format suitable for emailing to attendees as a follow-up, fulfilling the client’s request.

The solution, of course, wasn’t that simple.

Enabling infographics for today

Celebrating Pride Foundation’s 20-year milestone turned out to be too important to share with only attendees of the six events. Such limited distribution would mean missing a wider constituency, a shorter shelf life for the message, and not fully taking advantage of an additional opportunity for gaining or increasing donor support.

For an organization to speak its truth (and be heard) once and in one manner only is not sufficient—a reality that allowed Orange Square to strategically plan other ways to share one of the foundation’s most key messages.

The foundation’s website, including the section dedicated to scholarship funding, were obvious places for sharing the infographic. We also recommended that the foundation utilize their blog as a worthwhile place to showcase the image, with the added benefit that they could write in greater detail about its significance.

With these recommendations came the challenge of making supporters and potential supporters aware of the infographic’s existence online. The truth is that individuals, even supporters, don’t typically visit a website without specific purpose—an organization has to push out to them what’s new and why it’s relevant.

Enter social media.

Facebook and Twitter have proven to be powerful tools for this very scenario and were a viable means for the foundation to increase awarenenss of its scholarship funding.

Pointing constituents to the blog

The challenge here resided in directing supporters and others to the blog post through the website as well as from the foundation’s Facebook and Twitter pages. For reasons of size and proportion, posting the full infographic in those social media spaces was not an option. Plus, context meant that anything other than a single directive message and graphic would potentially get lost among the “visual noise” on the website and Facebook page.

Our approach was to create a “teaser” graphic and message (with the same styling as the original) enticing viewers to learn how Pride Foundation is “moving from limitations to possibilities.” When viewers clicked on it they were taken to the full infographic on the foundation’s blog and given the option to share it. Twitter posts didn’t include a graphic but allowed for multiple mentions of the events, the scholarship itself, the blog, and the infographic.


The lesson here is to understand the importance of the client’s message alongside the goal of sharing it. The strategy that works best may not be as simple as the client originally imagines.

Reaching a target audience should not be attempted with only a single point of contact. Each means of delivery necessitates multiple considerations. Marketing communication experts, designers, and clients must understand and plan for differences in size, proportion, interactivity, and context relative to the message, its significance, and the goal. When it comes to designing communications that work, one size (and one version) doesn’t fit all.