What sort of impact do you want your B2B content marketing to make? You want it to be striking and memorable; the ideal is content that lifts your company above the competition, marks you as a thought leader in your industry, and entices people to investigate the path back to your door.

Infographics are a great way to do this. They might seem like the recent darlings of the digital marketing revolution, but their origins go way, way back. Kind of back to the dawn of consciousness, actually. Cave paintings and hieroglyphics are infographics. Maps are infographics, too. The weather forecast is an infographic.

Southerly blog image - Hieroglyphics are Infographics

In fact, one of my favourite examples of a simply brilliant infographic is one some of you guys will use all day, every day: the Tube map. London Underground’s intricate and iconic map is so well designed that it’s the inspiration for pretty much all other underground and metro system maps worldwide. You can literally plot the Central Line in your head, including all the stations between your work and your home. It catches the eye and grabs your attention, while making complicated data simple and digestible.

Infographics should speak to your personas

Before I started at Southerly I designed this infographic, back home in Canada, about how much Canadian people were earning and what their various expenditures were. As you can imagine, that was quite a lot of data for me to sift through.

Planning an infographic that spoke to the whole audience was quite a challenge. So, like all good and diligent content creatives, what my team did was to create our audience personas, based on the categories – those who spent money most on the household, those who spent most on entertainment, etc. – and we could actually visualise what sort of person was spending their money and where.

Using iconography to engage your audience

So then I simplified those categories. You have to think creatively about assigning icons to things in a way that makes them a visual cue. It’s an image that simplifies the words on the page into something that sparks the brain. So in the above example you might use a red cross to signify spending on healthcare, as that’s a pretty standard way to make people think of health. Meanwhile a full glass might make you think of going out, and so in this case you’d associate that icon with people’s spending on entertainment.

It’s hard to give you a definitive guide to that seeing as every situation is different, but the best way to think of it is first to interpret what the dataset is actually telling you – what point is it making? Then you can think about the iconography you can use to represent that point.

This might seem daunting to the untrained eye, but don’t fret, it doesn’t need to be complicated. Actually, scratch that, it shouldn’t be complicated. Period. Which, by the way, is an uncomplicated, Canadian way of saying ‘full stop’. Which, by the way, is a joke.

Don’t forget, also, that data can be a beautiful thing when you express it visually, even end of year reports or company statistics – an infographic can give data an unexpected new dimension. Look at this very simple and stunningly beautiful infographic that charts where people go running in New York, by Nathan Yau of Flowing Data, using data from fitness tracker app Runkeeper.

Map of where people go running in New York - Nathan Yau

How a designer can tell your business’ story

As a designer, the mental process I go through when I make an infographic is essentially one of a storyteller or journalist.

First things first, I need to sift through the information and make sure I understand the story it’s telling me so that I can re-tell it to someone else – but instead of ‘telling’ the story, I’m ‘showing’ the story. Just like any good story I need a beginning (introduction, headline, breakdown of what the reader can expect); a middle (the data and information), and an end (what can I conclude?). Check out this infographic which charts the story of how Steve Jobs started, by Anna Vital.

I know that all sounds kind of obvious, but I can’t tell you how many infographics I see that don’t actually say anything. It’s always abundantly clear to me when the person that designed the infographic couldn’t actually interpret the information in it. A bad infographic is one when it fails to make the data coherent.

Furthermore, it helps to have a consistent ‘voice’ running through your infographic. Remember that simplicity is key and if the tone of your infographic is confused, chances are the person looking at it will be too.

The simple reason for doing an infographic is that the information in front of you is dry and a bit boring, the data is confusing, or both. If you’re operating in a B2B space that can be particularly pronounced as often you’re dealing with very industry-specific information. All the more reason to simplify and make it visually amazing.

The goal is to create a unique visual piece that people will remember and share with each other. Suddenly, you find your content is on the radar of potential customers you hadn’t even considered previously. It gives your creative B2B content a whole new dimension.