Beginning Infographics: Information Driven Storytelling

Liz Meyer & Gavin Potenza, Illustrators & Designers

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4 Lessons (32m)
    • 1. Trailer

    • 2. What are Infographics? A brief history lesson

    • 3. Sketching & Working with your data

    • 4. Finalizing your infographic!


Project Description

Create an Infographic using a visual timeline.

Finding your story & Collecting your data

  1. Pick the story you want to share

    To get started, we need to know what data we want to start collecting. So, let's pick out some interesting personal story that we'd like to share with people. A good way to do this, is to start with a title, for example, "What did I eat today?" or "Where did I travel today?" I like titles to be questions in the beginning, as generally it should be something we don't know & are interested in learning & that's hopefully what the data will show us.

  2. Which data will we need

    This all depends on your story. Try to think about which data might help answer the question that you have in mind. We find that the more data the better, and sometimes newer, more interesting stories emerge as your data presents itself.

  3. Start compiling data

    Now that you know your potential story - it's time to start collecting the data. There are several methods to go about documenting the data, most notably is the iPhone, which is an amazing device for this. We've made a list of some of our favorite tips + apps below, in the resources section.

    Also, please don't be afraid to jot down other notable bits of information, sometimes these can really help strengthen our graphic.

Getting into your sketches

  1. Taking a look at your data

    First, we want to make sure all of the data is organized in a nice way. Since this is a timeline based info graphic, let's organize it in order of events, by time. Don't forget to mark the time down, too. Here we want to make sure our data set looks complete, and that there's no major holes. Are you seeing your story emerge? Questions being answered? Great!

  2. The meat and the bones

    The bones are the framework for our graphic while the meat is the content. So in our case, the timeline is the framework and our collected data is the content. This is where we want to start sketching out some ideas. We're going to start with the framework - finding the best method in which our content can be set on top.


    Try to get creative with how time can be represented here, let's explore 2-3 possible solutions and see what's working best.

  3. Visualizing the content

    Now that we've got the bones, let's start trying to sketch out some ways in which our content can be visualized. Try to be as visual as possible, this is where things really start to come to life. Since we've got the framework already setup, we can just plot some visuals down within. But, looking back at our data, are there any notable moments we want to give more importance to? We can allow certain pieces to shine, and others sit in the background - using hierarchy allows us to communicate on several levels.


    It doesn't have to be perfect since we're just getting down some ideas, but exploring a few options here is great. Maybe even try working with another one of your frameworks to have something to compare to.

    Our initial sketches:




  4. Get feedback

    Feedback is crucial when it comes to infographics. If our audience doesn't understand what we're trying to communicate, then the whole infographic is pointless. Let's post our ideas and see what our peers think.


Making it final!

  1. Bringing your idea to life

    Now that we've got a solid idea of where we're going, we're going to start bringing it to life.

    Using whichever medium you'd like, let's begin taking our sketch from rough to final. Here's where we can add some stylization

  2. Add a title

    Put a big title up top. Let's let our audience know what this whole info graphic is about. Rather than framing it as a question (as we did in the first step), hopefully we've now learned something, so this is an opportunity to share what you learned without giving away the whole story - let's let the data do that.

  3. Supplemental information

    Was there any other interesting data that occurred that you might want to add in? Sometimes a little extra info can go a long way. 


    This is a great example of a cross-country journey over 5 days. The graphic was made by the amazing design duo, Always With Honor (yes! Check out their work). Very simple, and very effective. At the bottom, they've noted several additional facts that help add to the story, such as music listened to, and animal sightings. In fact, a whole alternate infographic could be based purely on animal sightings.


  4. Consider your hierarchy

    If you were to look at your project with fresh eyes, would everything read as it should?

    At this point, you should make sure that the first thing that pops out at the reader, is the title. Next, the main timeline and the data that you collected throughout your day.

    Figure out what should stand out next!

  5. Add some style

    Now you've got all your information in there, let's spice it up & start to add your own flare on it all. 

  6. Wrap it up & Give yourself credit

    Don't forget, you made this fine piece of work, so give yourself credit! These can spread all over the internet, so it's great to know who the author is. Normally, this is where we'd also list our sources for the data, but since this was a personal project and we were our own sources, we'll just put "By…" or "Infographic by…". And that's it! Now it's time to share it with the world.

Additional Resources

  • Moves App - Amazing for tracking where you go, it is also a great pedometer, and tracks your time spent moving whether walking, in a car or other.

    Camera - Take photos. There's a surprising amount of metadata encoded into your photos, including time and location. It's also a great way to capture a lot of details quickly incase you don't have time to jot them down on paper at that moment, or if it's a more visual thing (like food or a pet) that you want to remember later.

    Notepad - Yeah, we mean either a real life notepad or the iPhone one. Take notes!

    OpenPaths - Not totally relevant for this project and not always super accurate, but this is a great way to document your location over a longer period of time. It places a dot on a Google Map every time you move someplace new. Over time, it's really interesting to see, and you can even export the data and create your own custom map with the data later on.

    If you have any more tips or app recommendations, please let us know in the discussion!

  • If you are an absolute Illustrator beginner, take some time out of your day and watch this slow, but complete video on the basics of illustrator.

    Also, take a look through this list of beginner illustrator tutorials:

  • Take advantage of this great free class by the Noun Project, to get an overview on how to create icons:

  • Check out Muji, makers of our absolute favorite notebooks. Great for keeping track of your new love of data (& they're very cheap, too!)

  • Take a look a the references that we pulled together for the first video!

  • Make a mood board!

    • We love using Pinterest, since it's so easy to grab ideas and create a wall of inspiration. We've created one for you guys to use as a jumping off point. & as the class goes on, we'll be adding some cool pieces to the board.

    • Another option, if you like to work privately, is to create a folder on your desktop, or a photoshop file that combines a bunch of different images that inpspire you to work harder!
  • Here's an example on how to share your data with the world. Take a look at Nicholas Felton's Annual reports, which is an in depth journey through his daily decision making throughout each year.

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