Publish Your Infographic in Print
Your infographic can exist in one of two forms: print or electronic (published online). Each format has some common features as well as advantages and disadvantages. Web graphics let the reader scroll down through the information, but print graphics are usually designed in a single, wider block. (See the figure.)
In terms of width, a printed infographic may offer a little more space than a web graphic — or even a lot more if you’re working with a poster-sized print. Moreover, a printed graphic is more likely to be contained in a single page and therefore fully visible all at once compared to a web graphic where some information becomes visible only when the reader scrolls down.
The flow of a printed graphic functions differently as a result. You’re not restricted to a vertically oriented layout, which can be a great advantage, and controlling the flow of your narrative is mostly a matter of design.
You can direct the movement of your reader’s eye by thinking of the sizes of the elements on the page (larger ones tend to draw attention), their locations, and the colors you use.
A graphic showing how nuclear fusion works in the sun, for example, could be organized around a large, central image with information arranged around it. The flow of your graphic begins at the center and radiates outward. Some graphics — such as timelines — are better horizontally oriented, flowing from left to right (in Western cultures).
At least in the global West, readers are accustomed to reading top-to-bottom and left-to-right. That doesn’t mean that every graphic has to be structured that way. However, using a design approach that’s too unconventional — say, a graphic that begins in the bottom-right corner and directs the reader to the top left — can feel forced and unnatural.
Perhaps the greatest disadvantage of print graphics is a strictly defined size, which limits the amount of data you can include. This limitation becomes very noticeable when you have precious little space in which to explain the nuances of a complex topic. Creating a narrative flow under these conditions can be difficult with the temptation to squeeze in information wherever it fits.
With practice, you’ll get the hang of creating that flow. In the meantime, here are a few potential solutions:
Bulleted lists: Instead of writing large blocks of text, break out important elements into bullet points. Like this one.
Transitional elements: Use your visual design to create transitions instead of writing them out. For example, arrows are an obvious but effective way of guiding a reader through an infographic.
Focused, streamlined design: Edit relentlessly. Ask yourself whether every piece of your infographic is necessary and effective. If it’s not, cut it.