Good Stories Make Great Infographics

Florence Nightingale Infographic
Florence Nightingale Infographic, 1855. Click to enlarge.

In the 1850s, famed nurse Florence Nightingale was the first person to use and compare statistics and data by creating elaborate infographics, diagrams and color-coded flowcharts for her presentations to persuade hospitals of the need for change.

To this day, infographics are an important and effective tool to digest and make sense of the vast amounts of data we gather. They clearly and visually break down the information and offer an easy-to-understand overview or quick explanation of a complex topic or process. And they are the perfect merger of content + design.


Great infographics need good stories and a compelling narrative to make them informative and persuasive enough to engage. Here's how. Share on X


Nonprofits engage in storytelling to communicate and create effective outreach, awareness and donation campaigns for a cause. Infographics are especially suited for them to highlight their mission, tell their stories,  visualize complex data, explain research findings and show trends in their case studies. A good infographic shows why prospective donors should care and how their engagement can make an impact.

Great infographics, however, need good stories and a compelling narrative to make the infographic informative and persuasive enough to engage. And the stories behind the numbers must be stories that readers can relate to.

Book Infographic
Source: Delayed Gratification. Click to enlarge.

Here’s how to get it done right.


The steps involved in creating an infographic
  • Pick one issue, or one story, or one objective
  • Pick your target audience
  • Pick one call-to-action
  • Research, gather and verify the data, using different sources (see below for a list of databases you can use)
  • Decide, which of the 5 common kinds of infographics best fits your data display (illustrative, proportional, timeline, map, list. More on each below.)
  • Design and create the infographic. Canva offers a free infographic maker, as does Google Charts and Infogram, among many other online tools.


Types of Infographics
Types of Infographics. Click to enlarge. Source: Wired Impact.
There are five kinds of infographics to visualize your data
  • Illustrative: One number and one picture. Best for highlighting a single fact or statistic.
  • Proportional: Fact, data, or stats visualization. Best for numerical comparison to show highs, lows, average and provide context.
  • Timeline: Changes over time (history flow), a path, process, or projections.
  • Map: Highlights geographic patterns and good for telling global stories. Use sparingly because a map might skew proportionality.
  • List: Best for rankings and simple categorizations.


To create effective infographics you need to… 
  • have a clear target audience in mind and know what you want it to take away.
  • use strong characters to relate to or to learn from.
  • showcase a conflict with no obvious outcome. You need a real issue and relatability that draws others in.
  • find something unexpected; a plot twist. Find stories that readers won’t experience in their everyday life; something exciting, or emotional involvement.
  • create a scene-setting, a journey, or a direction.
  • share a point or a killer fact.
  • use humor that doesn’t undermine credibility.
  • find an aesthetically pleasing clear design; the right brand feel, colors, fonts and visuals (icons, symbols, images, drawings).


Make sure you…
  • don’t miss offering a clear point, direction or message.
  • don’t create a too confusing, or too cluttered visual.
  • don’t miss the storyline or create too many stories at once.
  • don’t mix opposing facts.
  • don’t offer opposing messages.
  • don’t show confusing, wrong, or random visual cues or images.
  • don’t miss to reveal your data sources, or forget to include essential sources.
  • don’t forget to be mindful of the differentiation between perception, projection and reality.


 Where to find the data: 


More on the topic:


Should You Use Image Carousels?

Donation Emails Done Right


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Copyright © Tekla Szymanski Content + Design LLC. All rights reserved. Please share/quote with attribution.


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