It’s likely that you’ve seen an infographic online before. Maybe you’ve even shared one with your friends through social media. But have you ever wondered what goes into the creation of an infographic?
Muhammad Yasin, Director of Social Media at HCCMIS, and Sharlene Boodram, Viral Media Coordinator at Slingshot SEO, will walk you through the process from concept to completion.
Steven: Good morning. Thanks for joining us today for our webinar, The
Lifecycle of Infographic Creation. My name is Steven Shattuck.
I’m the Community Manager here at Slingshot SEO. I’ll be
moderating this morning’s conversation.
Joining me is Sharlene Boodram. She is our Viral Media
Coordinator here at Slingshot. Good morning, Sharlene.
Sharlene: Good morning, Steven.
Steven: With her is Muhammad Yasin, he is the man in charge of all
things social media over at HCC Medical Insurance Services. They
were actually Slingshot SEO’s Client of the Year last year. Good
Muhammad: Hello, Steven.
Steven: Thanks, both of you for joining us. Today, Sharlene and
Muhammad are actually going to walk us through the step-by-step
process for conceptualizing and creating an infographic. You may
remember about a couple months ago, we did a joint webinar with
our friends over at Kristian Andersen + Associates that kind of
gave sort of a really high level overview of infographics, from
creation to distribution, to reuse.
But today, for our purposes this morning, we’re just going to
concentrate on only the creation process, actually stop at
distribution. We feel we have enough to talk about for just the
creation process. So, we’re really going to deep dive into those
strategies about conceptualizing and research, and then the
nitty-gritty design itself.
Then at the end, we’re going to save some time for a Q&A
session. A lot of you submitted some really great questions
about creating an infographic. We’re going to cover all those at
the end. Without further ado, Muhammad, Sharlene, take it away.
Muhammad: All right. Well, infographics – Sharlene and I have been
working together to create infographics for HCC for probably a
year, a year and a half. We’ve done a lot along the way and kind
of refined the process. In total, there are about five steps,
from the process of ideation to the final launch and release of
For ideation, there are a couple of things that we’re looking
at, first of all, looking for opportunities that present the
need for an infographic period. The infographic we’re using for
this particular webinar is called Explorer Travel. It’s an
infographic about adventure travel, sports travel around the
We recently made an update to our primary product, which is a
travel medical insurance product. It’s a product for people that
are traveling abroad, just in case they happen to get injured,
sick, etc. while they’re traveling.
We added coverage for sports insurance. So, this is people that
are traveling, but for things like cliff diving, parachuting,
parasailing, extreme ironing, all these different types of vary
kind of crazy, out there types of sports.
Muhammad: It’s really kind of a new demographic for us, as an insurance
company that generally is a little bit more conservative.
Muhammad: One of the things we realized is we needed some great new
content that spoke to these particular people. An infographic
was kind of a perfect opportunity for us to create something
that really worked for them.
One of the things that I’m looking for when we start talking
about infographics is inspiration. I don’t generally look for
that inspiration online. Infographics, contrary to popular
belief, aren’t really new. They’ve been used in print media for
years, and years, and years, L.A. Times, GQ Magazine, all these
different magazines that use infographics as visual ways to
Muhammad: They are now really moving that concept towards how they
transition their content into modern technology, the internet,
iPads, and different tablets. They have some amazing ideas for
how they present their content. I look to them a lot to figure
The other thing is really kind of understanding who our
demographic audience was and getting lots of ideas for them,
which I could then take all that demographic data and give it to
Sharlene, and start chatting about how we were going to execute
Sharlene: Absolutely. In this ideation phase at the start, Muhammad
reached out to me and said, “Okay, the next infographic in queue
is coming up. Perhaps I’d like to do an interactive. This is our
new product and this is a demographic that we haven’t had the
pleasure of reaching out to prior. We can totally have a lot of
fun targeting this new demographic.”
We had to understand who they were, where they hang out, so
where they’re accessible, and do sort of a pre-planning on a
high level. Sometimes we will use social monitoring tools, once
we’ve identified the potential target audience and knocked
around a few general ideas.
Kind of do some ease dropping on Facebook and Twitter, or some
adventure travel industry sites, blogs, what have you. Just get
a sense of what these people are talking about, and who they are
so that we have clarity on what the right message would be for
Muhammad: Right, and kind of what the tone of that message, what
language are they using? What kind of slang are they using? Kind
of getting a feel for they who they are as people so that we can
create content that speaks to them as individuals.
Muhammad: The next thing is conceptualization and research. Here, we’re
looking for a couple of different things. I’m actually going to
hand off a lot of this to Sharlene. But at a very high level, we
have this idea. We know who the target is. I’ll usually just
sketch out a just a very high level mold of what this
infographic is going to look like from a storyboard perspective.
If you listen to some of my past webinars on infographics, I
talk a lot about making sure you’re composing a story with your
infographic. You don’t just have a static piece with data on it.
It needs to tell a story, and that story needs to kind of flow
as you continue through that experience. Usually I tell that
story in three parts, or three acts.
Here, if you look on the right side of this slide, were the
original three acts of this infographic. This was a very rough
sketch that was done in a gas station parking lot, actually. We
started thinking about, “Okay, if I’m going to do this, where
are kind of some cool ideas?”
Now, as we start transitioning through the rest of these slides,
you’ll see some of these ideas made it, some of them didn’t, and
some of them kind of changed a little bit as we went through.
Muhammad: But this was the basis of what I went to Sharlene with. This
rough sketch, the idea, and some demographic information that
she could then take and go into a lot of the research phases on.
Sharlene: Exactly. Once we have finalized what the idea is and I have all
the supporting material from Muhammad – any blogs and videos,
and things, perhaps that have already been published by HCC, or
are in queue for publication, that are related to adventure
travel or the concept that we’re building. All of that is sent
to me and shared with my design team or our Slingshots design
team, editorial team, and myself as the coordinator.
We’re very hands on. It’s a very collaborative effort, so I try
to make sure that the entire team is in-tune with every step of
the process. That they have access to Muhammad, Muhammad has
access to them. Everyone is CC’d so that no one’s left in
isolation. But now we have to find the details to make this
awesome story that we’ve decided upon.
We start off by doing keyword research, searching for co-
occurrence terms that are related perhaps to our initial ideas,
adventure travel. Also we do keyword research on any buzz words
that Muhammad suggests that he would be interested in using,
since he himself has already started building sort of a social
online community around this targeted demographic.
He has a Facebook page for adventure travelers, and so forth a
post that he would run through Twitter targeting that
demographic. He has a lot of words and co-occurrence terms that
he can share with us as well.
As we’re doing this sort of keyword research and general online
research around the topic, sometimes it’ll spark ideas for
different subsections of the graphic, or new component parts of
the story that we didn’t initially think of. So, the story of
course will continue to evolve.
Once we’ve decided on the subsections, we then have to go find
the details on credible sources like .edu’s, .gov’s, and so
forth. Compile an official research document. Obtain Muhammad’s
approval, or get his feedback. Then we can move to the next
Muhammad: Absolutely. The next step is actually, probably my favorite
step out of all three. This is the creative brief. This is
actually a meeting, where we take all that research data that
we’ve collected, kind of that very rough storyboard that we
outlined, and we sit down.
It’s myself as the client. It’s Sharlene from Slingshot. We have
the editorial people in there. We have the designer in there as
well, which is super critical. We sit down and actually start
looking through all this research and deciding how we’re going
This is one of those critical pieces to have a whiteboard
available, because usually what we’ll do, is we’ll actually
whiteboard what the wire frame for this particular infographic
is going to look like. That’s what you see here, where we still
have three sections, very much like the last kind of image you
saw. However, we had fleshed out a little bit more of what was
going to appear in here.
We decided we were going to keep section one, which was going to
be kind of the anatomy of this adventure traveler. What this
person looks like. What they need to care about. What they need
to do to prepare for an adventure sports trip, because it
carried itself very well through all that research
documentation. So, we kept it.
The second section switched a little bit. We decided we were
going to have more fun here. Do more entertainment, and do
something around a quiz related to these people instead.
Then, the last section, which was in the first piece, was a map.
We decided we were going to round up the most kind of epic,
extreme sports that we could find and tell people where they
could go around the world to do those sports. That’s what we
started talking about, banana boating, extreme ironing, swimming
with whales and sharks, and bridge swing and jumping, all the
types of really extreme things.
We found great data through the research phase. Then we were
able to actually create a whole section around it. We then also
took that data from those research documents, all the stuff the
editorial team had created, and said, “We’re going to take this,
put this here. Take this, put this here, etc.,” and really
spread it through the infographic, so it spoke well. Not
everything from that research phase made it into the final
Sharlene: No, there’s so much research that was supplied to Muhammad, and
always is, organized by sections. The nice thing is that as
Michael, our Internal Designer, is going through this creative
brief with everyone, and specifically with Muhammad, he’s able
to say, “This data, right here, can be translated visually in
such and such and such a manner. This would be awesome to put in
So, sometimes the visual appeal has an influence on what is
selected and what is not, as well as how identifiable the
information is with the target audience, like the anatomy of the
adventure travel. I mean, if a real adventure traveler lands on
the graphic, the idea is he’s like, [snaps] “That’s me.”
Sharlene: So, they can relate to the information.
Muhammad: Exactly, and sometimes you just find out as your whiteboarding,
you know what? We can’t fit all this stuff in here.
Muhammad: Or, in the case of this one, we actually found some areas where
we needed a little bit more information to flesh some things
out. This is where you kind of get a lot of that excitement. You
start really testing a lot of, does this concept hold up?
You’re simultaneously creating this, but you’re also pitching
that idea to everyone in the room. You kind of realize, hey, if
we can’t sell this infographic to ourselves, who are invested in
it, it probably isn’t a great idea. You start finding areas
where you need to improve and tighten things up.
Sharlene: Absolutely. After the creative brief, the graphic needs to be
developed. We go into digital wire frame and mood board. That
drawing that was hand-done is brought to digital design and sent
to the client.
A wire frame, for those of you that aren’t familiar, basically
shows the hierarchy of the information to be included, as well
as the amount of real estate that each of those sections will
occupy. Then, the mood board gives a sense of the topography,
the color, texture, treatment, and shading. What the pop-outs
will look like on an interactive and so forth.
That’s zipped up in a client-deliverable and sent over to
Muhammad for him to share with his team, and send his feedback
and approval. He may have changes like, “I need a better title,
or the guy looks to clean.” That was exactly what happened with
this one. He didn’t think he was grungy enough, given who we
were targeting and the mission of the story. So, we go back and
forth until we’ve come to a decision with the mood board and
Muhammad: Absolutely. The thing that I’m looking for when I first get
that wire frame and mood board is really referring back to those
notes that were taken during the creative brief meeting, where
we had all that excitement. We were kind of capturing that
actually in notes, which is super important for that meeting.
But looking back and comparing, do these colors, these font
choices, these illustration choices really match that excitement
that we had in the meeting? Does it match the story we were
trying to tell? Does it match kind of the mood we’re trying to
capture? Does it speak to the demographic?
A lot of times, what I’ll do at this stage is I’ll actually take
these kind of mock-ups, and I’ll even give kind of early
previews to people that fit the demographic. So, folks that I
may know, either through developing social communities or just
friends of mine that I know.
“You know what? You’re this type of person.” Just show them this
wire frame or this mood board type of mock-up and pitch them.
That’s, once again, another type of litmus test, where you can
say, “Okay, are we on the right track for this particular
demographic?” Because regardless of whether or not it speaks to
you as the creator, if it doesn’t speak to the end user you’ve
wasted your time.
This is one of those points, where we will go back. Yes, I did
come back and say, “You know what? This guy looks to clean. He
looks like he just jumped out of his Prius or something, and
he’s going to the grocery store.” So, I said, “Make him
dirtier,” and that’s something we did. We threw mud, grass
stains, band aids, etc. on him. It made him a little bit more
identifiable to the target audience that we were looking for.
Sharlene: Absolutely. Once the mood board and wire frame has been
approved by the client, we then move to complete design. This
takes the longest. I mean, design generally takes about three
weeks anyway, and then prior to that conceptualization and
research may take one to two weeks. Upon completion of design on
the tail-end, placement and promotion can be another week.
So, an infographic can take about six weeks for full
development. But, at this stage when we’re developing fully the
internal design, it needs about seven to ten business days for
building, because it’s a lot of code. Actually getting all of
the content into the graphic.
Putting it in a test environment online so that Muhammad can
visit the URL daily and see what progress is being made. Make
recommendations, suggestions, give feedback. So that we don’t
end up with a fully developed infographic that’s way off the
mark because our ideas weren’t in alignment for some odd reason,
despite us working so closely together.
Muhammad: Absolutely. Another thing with that is as I’m checking on this
infographic, seeing what the progress is and how we’re coming I
will generally also go back in the office. There’s always going
to be some other stakeholders around that have some view on this
particular piece of content you’re creating. I would generally
run it by them as well, from time to time, once it hits kind of
a well-fleshed out kind of point.
Muhammad: Something where they can see exactly what it looks like. A
screenshot like this would something I would show, where I
probably wouldn’t show those whiteboard drawings. Because you
haven’t really explained visually what it is you’re going for,
until you get at least that mood board together and you can
start showing people and making sure you’re on the right track.
This, like Sharlene said, is critical. You never want to spend
three weeks with a designer working on an infographic or any
other piece of visual content, and then come in at the last
minute, look at it, and realize, oh my goodness. I may have
described something incorrectly three weeks ago. We just lost
hours upon hours…
Muhammad: …of work and we have to back all the way up.
Muhammad: Do some checkpoints in the middle, even if it’s every couple of
days or once a week or something. At the very least, make sure
you’re looking at screenshots of what the progress looks like,
so you kind of have an idea where things are going. You can
redirect as you go through it.
A lot of times you may also, once again, see a point where, oh,
you know what? That actual text that we were going to have in
here doesn’t really fit to well.
Muhammad: We need to maybe edit some of that down, and make it a little
bit more succinct. Make it, also, visually fit in this
particular infographic. Or we’ve got a lot of extra empty space
here. We need to come up with some new content that you can then
provide to the designer and move on with it.
Sharlene: In addition to timely feedback, I think one of the reasons that
Muhammad and my pieces generally perform really well, and we
continue to do better and better work, is that he is my point of
contact for infographics. I am clear on that. He has the
authority to make the recommendations, give me the feedback.
He’s very, very good about getting everyone on his side
involved. Force them to spend the time to provide the feedback
that’s necessary along the way, so that as we’re building we are
100% positive that we’re building in the right direction. That
we can deliver what he’s expecting in good time.
Muhammad: Absolutely. So, I guess we’ll take some questions.
Steven: Yeah. That was great guys. Thanks a lot. It’s kind of
interesting to hear both the client side and the vendor side
going through this process. It seems like a lot of hard work,
but it sounds like you guys have a lot of fun along the way too.
Sharlene: Oh yeah.
Steven: Yeah. We’ve got a few questions that were submitted by some
registrants in the webinar. A lot of really interesting
questions, a couple of surprising ones. We’ll try to get to them
all. I know we’re approaching the lunch hour. Sharlene, you
touched on this really briefly in one of your slides. How long
does this all take? I think you said six weeks. Is that about
average from start to finish on creating one?
Sharlene: Correct. Give or take, six weeks. If there’s a rushed order, we
can spin straw into gold and do our best for you. But
comfortably to allow for any unforeseen interruptions,
especially with coding and so on for interactives, you really
have to allow yourself some buffer room.
When you have built this code on a test environment, and then
you’re importing it to WordPress, or what have you and
everything gets scrambled. You’re trying to hit a release
deadline because of your promotion plan. I mean, it’s imperative
that you give yourself enough breathing room, and that no one’s
Steven: Great. That makes sense. Muhammad, maybe you can speak to this
question. Obviously, you have a supervisor, or a boss, and you
work in a pretty heavily regulated industry, insurance. Who else
is involved on the client side in terms of approval, or sort of
the gatekeeper and make sure everything’s okay? Where are they
along each step? Who else is involved in this process on the
Muhammad: Well, I think this is something that’s going to differ, of
course, across different companies, different kind of business
verticals, etc. Since we are in insurance, it does mean that we
have a lot of hoops to jump through to get it a piece of content
out the door.
Even, for example, a Tweet or a Facebook post, there’s not only
the original creator of that piece of content, but also there’s
editorial review and there’s compliance review. Then we have
legal review. There are several phases of stakeholders that have
to kind of review this piece of content and get their stamp of
approval to make sure we’re falling in line with all the
appropriate guidelines for our market conduct.
For an infographic, there are also going to be, in addition to
those official approval levels… Any piece of rich content,
you’re usually going to have some other hands in the pot, as a
company of people that just want to be involved. Whether it be
your boss, whether it be other functional business departments
that maybe want to make sure that they know what’s going on.
For those areas, I will generally just keep them in the loop
throughout the creation process. Even sometimes from the
ideation, just giving them, “Hey, this is something we’re going
to be working on. I’m not going to have anything for you in a
couple of months, but just so you know, this is something that
we’re working on that you might be interested in down the road.”
Now, once we have that final piece of content that’s solid and
we know it works, critical we know it works, that’s when you
start going through the official approval channels. The last
thing you want to do is have a half-baked piece of content that
you’re trying to get approval on, and things are breaking.
Especially for an interactive piece, all the buttons need to
work, all the text needs to be there, all the scroll bars need
Sharlene: First impressions.
Muhammad: The first impression is critical. So, if you have some sort of
official approval process you have to go through, whether it’s
editorial or a legal process, make sure everything works, and
you do a thorough testing of it before you hand it over to those
channels. So, they can have a really smooth pathway through
their approval process and getting it done.
Sharlene: To add to that, I’d just like to say that Muhammad brings to me
ahead of starting anything, all of the things I need to consider
so that all or our pieces get through compliance on his end.
He’s able to brief me ahead of time on everything we need to
consider based on the idea, to make sure that we’re able to get
the approvals on the end.
Steven: Great. Great, makes a lot of sense. This next question is kind
of funny. Maybe the listener had, perhaps, a bad experience
previously. They want to know, what do you do about clash of
content teams between the agency and the client side? How do you
deal with sort of, maybe competing ideas or philosophies on
that? Have you guys ever faced that?
Sharlene: Boxing gloves. No.
Muhammad: No, absolutely. I think Sharlene and I both have had very
strong opinions when it comes to some of these content pieces.
They’re our babies. I think one of the things that really helps
get us through that is that creative brief meeting, where you
have everyone in the same room. Make sure you have enough time
to really talk through all the ideas and concepts, and come up
with a joint vision before you start that design phase.
That’s one of the reasons why we have that meeting together. It
usually lasts an hour. This one probably lasted us almost two
and a half hours, at least, probably.
Sharlene: Oh yeah.
Muhammad: Because it was such a big piece and we had so much to go
through. There was a lot of people in that room. But you know
what? In the end, it was worth spending that time to develop a
joint vision, instead of all working on independent visions on
our own. Then trying to come together and put them together in
That’s when you start getting a lot of that conflict because
people are so far down the path of selling themselves on piece
of content that it’s kind of hard to give things up at that
Sharlene: Correct. So, working together in real-time is definitely
important, but also the approach. I think when Muhammad comes
over here and we’re hanging out about to do this creative brief
or what have you, or the ideation, we know that we’re here to
complement each other towards an end result that we’ve
identified. Who are we reaching? How are we promoting? Yata,
With that in mind, we’re both able to contribute what’s
necessary to what’s a successful process, instead of competing
with each other so that his idea trumps mine or vice versa. You
have to be very open towards the end cause.
Steven: Great. We’ve probably got time for a couple more. This
next listener has a question about sourcing the infographic
creation. They talk about these online companies that have sort
of popped up where you just sort of enter data in. It spits out
an infographic maybe almost immediately with a canned template
that you can choose from. Do you guys have an opinion on those
Steven: I know, obviously, Slingshot is a full-service agency. Any sort
of philosophy on those?
Muhammad: I’m going to take that one first, [inaudible 00:24:43] because
I can speak to it from the client side, which is probably a
little bit, let’s a little slight bias on that.
Steven: Yeah, that’s good.
Muhammad: I will say that from the side of the client in content
creation. One of the things that you never want to do when
you’re developing a rich piece of content – whether its
infographics, or video, or whatever it may be – you never want
to have your template dictate your story and how you’re
presenting your content.
Although a lot of these service are very exciting even to me…
I would use them for very kind of low level, maybe an
infographic that you’re putting inside of a blog post maybe as a
chart. They make great charts. They really do.
I would never use them to create a piece of content that I was
going to have a promotion behind. Because on those, it’s
critical the story and the data come first, and the design
follows the story and the data. That’s not something you can
generally do with a lot of these services.
Sharlene: Correct. Customization is definitely necessary for maximum
performance of a final piece.
Steven: One last thing; Sharlene, in the research phase, this listener
wants to know what other kind of data points do you find
valuable in the research phase. I know you kind of talked a
little bit about key word research and co-occurrence or phrases.
Are there any other important data points that you can briefly
touch on that you think are important in the research phase?
Sharlene: Yeah. Basically, it’s filling in the blanks. After we’ve
identified the sections, we have to find the information. The
keyword research, of course, points us in the direction of the
subsections. Then we use the internet, or we’ll call government
agencies and try to get PDF’s sent to us of data bases that
we’re having trouble finding.
You have to be really creative with accessing the information
sometimes. You know, call the library of Congress and ask for
things? Then, when you’ve hit enough walls then you give up and
try to find different information. The good stuff is not always
easy to find, so persistence is key.
Research can take anywhere from four to nine hours…
Sharlene: …or more. It’s on-going, even in the creative brief. If we
get in there with all of this research kind of spread out on the
conference room table and none of its going to translate well to
design, then we need to go back to the drawing board.
Steven: Great. Great.