Infographics are a visual representation of engaging and enlightening statistics or facts – we’re talking turning data into information. Clarity and concision are always important, regardless of whether we want an infographic to go ‘viral’ or cover a difficult topic for a client, colleague or wider audience. So, what’s the best way to make a belter of an infographic?

We’ve collected the most viewed infographics on News by Design – so we can try to explain why they were so popular, and learn from what they did right.

The Periodic Table of National Pride

I love the fact that, among the beautiful and the stunningly produced, a rather simple looking graphic came out on top. We’re talking about the Periodic Table – restructured to exhibit the nation that discovered each element. The UK came out on top with 23, with Sweden and Germany close behind on 19 each. It’s wonderful.

This shows off exactly why concept and clarity are so important – a unique approach to intriguing data, presented in a way the viewer can instantly understand, will always do more than fancy graphics. Also worth remembering that all this information is in the world already – research can be as much about collecting as it is creating.

The Map of the Human Body

And now for an interesting contrast – something visually striking and incredibly creative. Although mapping things in the style of the London tube map has been something of a trend recently, this did it first – and frankly, did it best. Just stop, and stare at the beauty that is the human body, which each respective system mapped as a separate tube-line. Obviously, it’s beautiful. That’s the first thing. Take a step back and look at how intricately designed the piece is – overlapping the systems, linking up every point in the body and working through all the research necessary to make that happen is beyond impressive. It takes deep and clear understanding of the subject matter.

Crime doesn’t pay (very often)

The design doesn’t always have to be unique and in a world of its own – the typical infographic looks like it does because it works. Clearly though, this infographic was popular because of the story. Interesting real world tales always goes down well, and this infographic profiles the greatest heists in history – and whether or not they got away with it. Hey, if someone tells me the story of two thieves who got away with stealing $300m worth of paintings, I’m sure as hell going to listen to them.

So, what makes an infographic great?

Clarity and understanding of the subject are the basics – if you don’t know what you’re talking about and can’t communicate it clearly, what’s even the point?

A new and exciting concept is endlessly important – and it helps if you’re telling a story. Don’t be that guy that copies someone else’s content, hoping for different results – and similarly, don’t just throw reams and reams of statistics at the reader, hoping they’ll find them interesting. Chances are they won’t.

And then we come to the data – creating a new data set or bringing something new to the table is important, but collecting data that is interesting, but hasn’t been shared properly, can be just as effective.

There’s always a brilliant story behind any piece of information – and if it hasn’t been told yet, why aren’t you the one that’s telling it?

Finally (and frankly, I wouldn’t be doing my job properly if I left this out), try to make something that is beautiful and visually striking. Everybody loves something that is easy on the eye, and even the most ordinary pieces of information can be given a new lease of life if you show them off in a creative way.

There’s no reason that your infographic can’t be that one that you couldn’t resist sharing.