Amelia Kohm, Ph.D., is the founder of Data Viz for Nonprofits, a design consultancy that delivers high-quality visualizations that help organizations to quickly grasp their data, improve their work, and show their impact.

Seems nonprofit communications folks everywhere have jumped on the infographic bandwagon. The thinking goes something like this: if they won’t pay attention to what we have to say about climate change, homelessness, or education in written form, maybe they will if we say it in pictures.

So, they hire a graphic designer (if they have some extra change in their pockets) or they use DIY with programs like Canva or Adobe Express. But an infographic is no cure-all for your communication woes. Pictures don’t always beat words, particularly confusing pictures. In my experience, the most effective infographics have the following three characteristics:

1. Are simple.

Simple infographics employ just a few visual elements (pictures or charts), words, and numbers. I’ve seen many infographics which are a jumble of clip art or icons labeled with numbers. A few might work. Too many and you’ve lost your audience. The example below uses just two eye-catching visuals to tell a simple yet startling story about global carbon emissions.

Source: Daily Infographic

2. Have a clear point of entry.

A well-designed infographic will include visual signposts that tell the viewer where to look first and where to go from there. Some do this by making the infographic narrow and long creating a clear pathway from top to bottom. Some use numbers or arrows. Without a marked trail to follow, readers’ eyes will jump around an infographic. And because no clear message or story emerges, they give up. This infographic showing the history of communication is a souped-up timeline with a clear path and color cues telling you when you have entered a new era.

Source: Cool Infographics

3. Use just a few colors.

A good infographic will use color to direct attention to the most important elements of the message. Black and white and one accent color often works well as in this infographic on tall buildings in the U.S.

Source: Visual Capitalist

For additional data and infographic tips, see the 60-Second Data Tip Series which educates nonprofits on how to effectively visualize and make good use of your organization’s data.