How to Determine Your Infographic’s Focus

By Justin Beegel, MBA, The Infographic World Team

Every infographic needs a focus, or thesis, which is the point you’re trying to make with your infographic. It’s what your graphic, at its core, is about.

Generally speaking, infographics fall into the following camps:

  • Show how to do something or how something works: Visuals can be invaluable when demonstrating the steps of a process, whether it’s making a Caesar salad or showing how a combustion engine works. These graphics use images to help the reader understand complicated multistep processes. You can think of every instruction manual as an infographic.

    The point of the how-to type of infographic is fairly straightforward: to demonstrate a process. This type of infographic involves more questions and often more creative thinking.

  • Illustrate a point: Information and statistics form the foundation of these infographics. Their purpose is essentially to illustrate a point with facts.

  • Motivate you to act: A call to action urges the reader or viewer to do something.

Think of the thesis of your infographic as the argument it’s trying to make. For your infographic to argue effectively, it has to stay focused, or it won’t make an impact on the reader. To maintain focus, pin down your thesis as concretely as possible: You should be able to state it in a single sentence. Anything longer is likely overly complicated, which can quickly lead to an unfocused infographic.

Ideally, you know what your thesis is right from the start. But if you’re not sure, two simple tips can help you formulate your thesis:

  • Ask yourself the five W’s: Who, what, when, where, why. Answering how each relates to the point you’re trying to make can help you work out what’s important and what you need your infographic to convey.

  • Put your infographic’s purpose into words. Just because you’re working in a visual medium doesn’t mean you shouldn’t write things out. Try writing a headline or a one-sentence summary of your infographic. Doing so will force you to put your thoughts into concrete terms and define the relationships between the elements in your graphic.

The underlying assumption here is that you might truly not know exactly what your infographic is about — and that can happen more often than you might think, particularly if you’re creating a graphic for a client who has only a vague idea of what he wants.

Why spend so much time hammering out a thesis? Without one, your graphic may become convoluted and fail at its job of helping the reader understand — perhaps filling space with data that’s interesting but not directly relevant.

Here’s an example. Say you’re working on a graphic with this thesis:

Health issues caused by hospital mistakes are rising.

Say you find some interesting data showing that hospitals are closing in record numbers across the country. So, should you include that factoid? Well, unless you can also find a clear, proven link between hospital mistakes and hospital closures, the latter doesn’t belong in your infographic. Add too much unnecessary information, and your point becomes unclear.

After you define your thesis, the next step is to figure out how to put your data, visuals, and text together into an actual infographic that’s as informative and compelling as possible.