The infographic revolution may have arrived a decade ago, but today’s brands are still using infographics to achieve their marketing and internal communications goals. In fact, much of the visual content we interact with today is inspired by the illustrations, data visualizations, and best practices that form the core of a great infographic design. But how do you know when an internally produced or DIY infographic is enough, and when it’s time to partner with an agency or studio?
Every organization is different. In fact, every marketing campaign is different, and that means your goals and/or content demands are probably shifting on a regular basis. This has perhaps never been more true than in the era of COVID-19, when many marketers are feeling pressure to produce high volumes of content quickly. That said, DIY solutions aren’t always the fastest solution — and they’re not always going to cast your brand in the best light.
So let’s take a look at 3 key signs that it’s time to partner with an infographic agency or design studio to produce your next piece of content.
1. Your visual content needs to align with your brand guidelines.
Most organizations have a clear set of brand guidelines or a brand book in place. However, their visual strategies in how they enact those guidelines can vary widely.
For instance, one organization might want every single piece of content it produces to align with the brand’s established color palette, fonts, design style, etc. Meanwhile, another company might only look to its brand book for guidance on certain types of content, and give its marketing or internal comms teams more leeway to branch out. And some marketing campaigns will establish an art direction, or visual language, that’s entirely unique to that campaign.
In short, when it comes to branding, there are a lot of factors you’ll need to weigh that are particular to your organization and your needs right now. So if you’re trying to decide whether your next infographic should follow your brand guidelines — and if so, how faithfully — here are a few reasons to stick to your branding:
- You want to build brand recognition.
- You want your infographic to have a look and feel that’s consistent with your other content.
- You feel that your brand successfully communicates who you are as a company.
- Your infographic will appear on branded channels and you want it to complement those channels.
If you want to channel your current branding, a DIY solution might not be the best fit. That’s because stock icons and illustrations were probably not a part of that branding. What’s more, when it comes to DIY tools, you can find that you’re limited on font and layout options. A custom infographic designed by an agency or studio ensures that you’re using your branding well, in a way that channels its original intent and represents your organization in a positive light. A poorly constructed infographic that just so happens to be in your brand colors might actually reflect negatively on you, and can even do more harm than good.
If you don’t feel that your current brand identity is suitable for most of your content efforts, ask yourself if it’s really designed to achieve your business goals. If not, it may be time to develop a rebranding strategy.
2. You want to include custom icons or illustrations.
As we’ve already mentioned, custom design simply isn’t an option when it comes to DIY tools. And if you’re working with an internal team, it might also be out of the picture, depending on whether your designers are experienced with custom illustration.
There are a number of reasons why you might opt for custom work in your infographic. For instance, you might have a specialized product or service that you don’t feel is really represented by the stock icons out there in the world. Or you may feel that those icons look all too familiar. After all, stock elements by their nature have probably appeared on the sites and marketing materials of countless businesses. So if you’re using them too, what’s going to make you stand out in the marketplace?
Stock illustrations and photographs work the same way: they might only approximate the image or message you’re really looking to express. And they might have already been used extensively.
When would you want a custom illustration? Illustrations are ideal for simplifying complex ideas or information into something that’s more easily digestible. For instance, a photograph of a scientist conducting genetic research might not be particularly exciting — perhaps a person sitting at a computer or a microscope. Even a photo of a strand of DNA at the microscopic level would probably be equally opaque to most audiences, who might not know exactly what they’re seeing.
The first-ever photo of DNA, taken in 2012. Courtesy of LiveScience.
But a labeled illustration of a strand of DNA not only cuts out all the static — it has the potential to deliver information in a much clearer way:
Source: Wikimedia Commons.
The thing is, if you want the branding and the design style to be consistent with the rest of your infographic — and the rest of your content — an image from Wikimedia Commons like the one above won’t do the trick. Moreover, it might not be highlighting the information that you want to highlight. So you’ll need something that’s custom-made for your unique needs.
3. You want content with a long shelf life and multiple uses.
A custom infographic designed by an agency or studio might sound either too expensive, or too time-consuming to produce. But when you build it as part of a larger content plan, it can ultimately be not only cost-effective, but can actually facilitate content production in the future. What’s more, a single custom-created infographic can increase the quality of multiple pieces of content you produce.
The key is to make a visual workbench a part of the plan. A visual workbench is a set of assets that you’ll use again and again. Maybe it’s a set of icons that represent your products or services — icons you’ll want to include on your homepage, in your brochures, and even in social media posts. It could be a custom illustration or a set of data visualizations that prove your value-add as an organization.
When you create a custom infographic with reusable elements in it — or, as is more often the case, create a visual workbench that you then use to build your infographic — you make your investment go a lot farther. Not only can you put together much more than just one infographic — you can produce all that content more quickly, often by simply rearranging some of the elements.
In the end, then, you could have not just a higher-quality infographic than you would have gotten with a DIY service, but a whole slew of future content at the ready. This, on top of the fact that custom content performs 7x better than stock, might mean the return on your investment is significantly better.
Finding the Right Infographic Agency or Design Studio
When it comes to finding the right agency partner for your organization, you’re sure to have your own list of priorities. But here are a few capabilities that every infographic design agency should have:
- A portfolio showcasing a broad variety of styles, mediums, deliverables, and campaigns.
- The capacity to work across a broad range of industries.
- The ability to develop a visual strategy designed to achieve your goals and reach your target audience.
- A fully in-house team of creatives who collaborate on every project.
- A dedicated project manager and account manager to assure your needs and goals are met.
Once you’ve found an agency that meets these 5 criteria, you’re well on your way to a high-quality, results-driven infographic.