Top tips on designing infographics (Danilo De Oliveira Silva)

Photo by Gareth Harper |

How many people are reading the research you publish?

Let’s make it a bit more interesting and ask: how many people outside academia are reading the research you publish?

We live in a world where most of our research articles are inaccessible for non-academics due to our jargon and the fact that much of it is behind paywalls. I always find myself asking if we are doing and sharing research only for researchers, or do we want to share with the general community as well? If we want to make our research more broadly available, we are doing it wrong!

But let’s stop the criticism for a moment and offer some solutions instead.

I want to introduce you to a model recently published by my mentor Dr Christian Barton. Researchers can summarise their jobs in two stages:

(1) research completion and
(2) journal publication.

Christian has outlined his approach in two editorials (the one linked above, and the second one is co-authored with M.A. Merolli), discussing how these steps are outdated and ineffective in facilitating knowledge translation in any discipline. He proposes the addition of two more steps to our research jobs:

(3) multimedia creation, and
(4) social media dissemination.

With the addition of these two steps, we can have our research travel much further by sharing our findings directly with the interested public (and bypass exclusionary journal paywalls) and presenting the work in a much more engaging form.

There’s also the potential for getting our research in front of industry partnerships in a way that makes it easier to understand. Do you think industries will be influenced to put their money into highly-visible research or highly-cited research? Moreover, a recent study indicated that articles with social media promotion had higher number of full-text downloads compared to those without social media promotion. I hope you are convinced that steps 3 and 4 are a good idea and highly beneficial for the profile of your research. If not, I invite you to read the editorials I mentioned earlier. Here’s an infographic we created to summarise the model (see Figure 1).

FIGURE 1: Steps to improve knowledge translation

The remainder of this post features my top tips on how to design engaging infographics to help your research gain visibility out there!


First of all, choose your preferred software. My preferences is always for software that offers me a good range of resources and is free to use. I’m listing a few options here, but you don’t need to be limited to these ones, there are many others: Canva, Piktochart and Snappa.

After choosing the software you’d like, you’re almost ready to start!

Before starting the design itself, I recommend you have a good, long think about what you want to create. This will avoid wasting time staring at your computer screen.

My top infographic tips:

Define the key message(s) of your research.
Look at your work and think: "What message from my research will benefit the general community or the specific population I am targeting?". Your infographic needs to highlight that message.

Write down short key sentences summarising the main messages.
Remember to use plain language as the infographic is not only for researchers. There is no room for long sections of text.

Choose the design.
Do you have a list of key points? A rectangle design might work well (see Figure 2a). Does your work involve a cycle? A square design with a circle inside would be super (see Figure 2b). What design you choose will depend on the message you want to convey.

The various platforms usually have many templates that may serve to inspire you about how you want to represent your messages.

FIGURE 2: Examples of infographic designs

On colours.
Don’t be too bright, but don’t be too greyscale either. The infographic should not be aggressively coloured, but you want it to be noticed. Another rule I like to follow is: negative information in Red, positive information in Green.

Another tip worth mentioning is being aware of those who are colourblind in your audience. The following colour combinations should be avoided: Green & Red; Green & Brown; Blue & Purple; Green & Blue; Light Green & Yellow; Blue & Grey; Green & Grey; Green & Black.

Choosing and using images, illustrations and graphs.
That common English adage "A picture is worth a thousand words" is what you need to keep in mind here. An engaging infographic needs to be well illustrated - try and always replace text with illustrations. You can find great examples on how to use illustrations well on in this this website (managed by Yann Le Meur).

Google can be a good way to find good illustrations, but always be aware of copyright issues. Here’s one way to ensure you stay on the right side of copyright:

Open Google’s webpage >> click on google images >> click on settings in the right bottom of the page >> click on advanced search >> on the field "usage rights", choose the following filter: "free to use, share or modify". Following these steps, you should be fine to use images that come up on a search. This post on finding the perfect image might also be helpful.

Take the short sentences you have written down, add them into colourful boxes and make them fit with the illustrations you've selected.

Don’t forget to give credit to yourself and all other sources from which you got your information and images!


Now, after you’ve created your infographic, what comes next is easy! You just need to share your infographic on social media. If you don’t have many followers, tag those who have and who might be interested in your research – these people or organisations in your network are amplifiers for your work.

You can always tag La Trobe University’s social media accounts; they are really supportive in helping to disseminate your research findings!

For more examples of engaging resources, access the Translating Research Evidence Knowledge (TREK) websites: exercise prescription and knee cap pain.


Danilo de Oliveira Silva is Brazilian, and has a Masters and PhD degree in Physiotherapy. He studied the biomechanics of people with knee pain.

Danilo is currently a Research Fellow at the La Trobe Sport & Exercise Medicine Centre (LASEM). He is passionate about translating research evidence into practice and sharing research findings with the general community. He is the Development Director of TREK Education.

Danilo tweets from @danilo110190