You must have had your head buried in the sand if you haven't noticed the infographic invasion across the design world! Infographics are enjoying a surge in popularity, and it’s easy to see why—they’re a colourful, engaging, and dynamic way of presenting large amounts of information, and they lend visual punch to otherwise dull statistics and data.
Infographic pros often use Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator to create their statistical concepts, but here we'll show how you can create a super simple and high-impact infographic using just the tools available to you in Adobe InDesign. In this tutorial you will create a reusable template for an infographic, and create interchangeable, flexible infographic elements for future projects.
Let’s get started!
1. Set up your InDesign Document
You can create your infographic template for print or online, but for now we’ll be setting it up as a large print document.
Open InDesign and select File > New Document. In the New Document window set the Intent to Print and set the No. of Pages to 1. Deselect Facing Pages.
Under Page Size select ‘Custom...’ from the drop-down menu to create a new Custom Page Size. Name this new size 'Infographic’ and set the Width to 297 mm and Height to 600 mm. Click Add and then OK.
Back in the New Document window, keep the Margins at their default value (12.7 mm) and set the Bleed to 3 mm on all sides. Click OK.
To give your infographic elements a unified and professional look and feel, we can give the document a colored background with a subtle gradient.
First, go to the Layers panel (Window > Layers, if not already open) and double‑click on the default ‘Layer 1’ name to open the Layer Options window. Rename this layer ‘Background’ and click OK.
Using the Rectangle Tool (M), drag to create a frame that extends across the whole page, and up to the edges of the bleed.
Open the Swatches panel (Window > Color > Swatches) and select New Color Swatch... from the drop-down menu in the panel. Create a new CMYK (selected from the Color Mode menu) Swatch, C=63 M=10 Y=10 K=0, and click OK. Set the Fill of your new frame to this new blue swatch, and Stroke to [None].
As a final touch, with the frame selected, go to Object > Effects > Gradient Feather and set the Type to Radial.
Return to the Layers panel and Lock the ‘Background’ layer by clicking in the empty box next to the eye icon. From the drop-down menu in the panel, select New Layer... Name this layer ‘Frame’ and click OK.
Select the Line Tool (\) and, holding Shift, drag from left to right to create a straight line extending from the left-hand bleed to the right-hand bleed.
With the line selected, open the Stroke panel (Window > Stroke) and set the Weight to 8 mm. Set the Stroke Color to C=63 M=10 Y=10 K=0, as before. Position the line at the top of the page.
Edit > Copy, and Edit > Paste the line and position at the bottom of the page.
Create a series of lines in different ice-cream shades by copying the line you created in Step 3 (Edit > Copy, Edit > Paste) five more times.
Place the other four pasted lines on top of each other in a block at Y position 56 mm. Add the following Swatches in the Swatches panel and apply to the series of lines in turn:
- C=8 M=41 Y=12 K=0
- C=8 M=5 Y=12 K=0
- C=58 M=10 Y=40 K=0
- C=49 M=41 Y=41 K=5
Introduce a title for your infographic document. Return to the Layers panel and Lock the ‘Frame’ layer. Create a New Layer and rename it ‘Title’.
Choose a font that is fresh and jaunty, but clear to read (clarity and legibility on infographics is especially important). Here, I’ve used Josefin Sans throughout the document.
Select the Type Tool (T) and drag to create a text frame 297 mm in Width and 26 mm in Height. Type the Title and (paragraph break) Sub-Title of your document, and place the frame centrally in the gap between the colored lines at the top of the page.
From the Character Formatting Controls panel running along the top of your screen, set the Font to Josefin Sans Regular, Size 35 pt, Leading 42 pt and Font Color to C=49 M=41 Y=41 K=5. Set the Orientation to Align Center. You can also introduce a different color into your sub-title if you’d like.
2. Create an Easy-Peasy Pie Chart
The first element in your infographic template will be a simple pie-chart diagram. You can use this to give an overview of the data being analysed, and pull out specific sections of the demographic for commentary.
Return to the Layers panel and Lock the ‘Title’ layer. Create a New Layer, name it ‘Pie Chart’, and click OK.
Go to the Tools panel and select the Ellipse Tool (L). Holding Shift, drag to create a perfect circle 100 mm in Diameter. Position this towards the top left of the page (below the coloured lines) and set the Fill to C=49 M=41 Y=41 K=5. Drag guides from the top and left-hand Rulers (View > Show Rulers) to mark the center of the circle.
With the circle selected, go to Edit > Copy and Edit > Paste in Place and change the Fill of this second circle to C=63 M=10 Y=10 K=0.
Select the Scissors Tool (C) and hover over the blue circle. Click once at the bottom edge of the circle and once again on the right-hand edge, to create a separate section. Click to select the larger part of the blue circle and Delete, so that the grey circle is once again visible.
Depending on how large you want to make the section of your pie chart, you could maintain the diameter of the section as it is, which is about a quarter of the whole. Or, as I’ve done here, you can divide it further into a section one-eighth of the whole. To do this, use the Scissors Tool (C) once again, and click once halfway along the outside edge of the cut section’s diameter, as shown below.
Discard one of the cut sections and, with the remaining section selected, select the Pen Tool (P). Click once in the center of the grey circle to create a pie-shaped section.
Create another pie section by selecting the blue section and Copy > Edit and Edit > Paste. Change the Fill to a different color, and position the sections into a position you’re happy with.
You can add a 3D effect by applying a subtle Drop Shadow to one of the pie sections. Go to Object > Effects > Drop Shadow and set the Opacity to 25%, and the Distance and Size to 2 mm.
Add commentary to your pie chart by introducing a couple of text frames using the Type Tool (T). Set the Font to Josefin Sans SemiBold, Size 20 pt, and use matching Font Colors to the corresponding sections.
Use the Line Tool (\), holding Shift, to create pointers. In the Stroke panel, set the Weight to 1 mm, Type to Japanese Dots and the End Value to CircleSolid.
3. Show Trends with a Directional Bar Chart
Navigate a little down the page, so you are looking at the section of the page below the pie chart. In the Layers panel, Lock all existing layers and create a New Layer, renaming it ‘Bar Chart’.
Select the Line Tool (\) and, holding Shift, drag vertically to create a line about 120 mm in Length. From the Stroke panel, set the Weight to 18 mm, End value to TriangleWide and Stroke Color to C=49 M=41 Y=41 K=5.
Edit > Copy and Edit > Paste this arrow several times, varying the Stroke Color and Length. Arrange the arrows exactly alongside each other to create a tight, layered look.
To give a 3D look to the chart, introduce a horizontal line using the Line Tool (\). Ensure the Stroke has some Color and a Weight of 1 mm, then apply a drop shadow by going to Object > Effects > Drop Shadow... and set the Opacity to 75%.
Send the line behind the arrows, making the line itself invisible, by Ctrl-Click (Mac) or Right-Click (PC ) > Arrange > Send to Back.
You can introduce a caption below the bar chart, as well as descriptions of percentages, etc., on the chart itself by applying individual text frames on top of the chart and entering your data values.
Set the Font in all instances to Josefin Sans to stay consistent.
4. Create People Icons Without Using Illustrator
Focus on getting the most out of the Shape Tools offered to you in InDesign. It’s amazing what you can create! Once you master creating a simple person silhouette, try to use the Shape Tools to create other simple infographic icons.
In the Layers panel, ensure all the existing layers are Locked, before creating a New Layer. Name this ‘Figures’.
Navigate to the Pasteboard, adjacent to the page on either the left or right side. You can use this area to experiment with creating your shapes.
Use the Rectangle Tool (M) to draw a frame about 24 mm in Width and 50 mm in Height. Set the Fill Color to C=49 M=41 Y=41 K=5 for now.
With the frame selected, go to Object > Corner Options to open the Corner Options window. Set the Size of all corners to 5 mm and Shape to Rounded. This frame will form the torso of the figure.
Now Edit > Copy and Edit > Paste this frame repeatedly and manipulate the Width and Height to create narrower frames for the arms, legs and shoulders. Ctrl-Click (Mac) or Right-Click (PC ) > Transform > Rotate... to adjust the orientation of the shapes. Hold Shift while using the Ellipse Tool (L) to create a head.
For ease of use, you can group the shapes together by Ctrl-Click (Mac) or Right-Click (PC ) > Group.
Create a female figure by selecting the male figure and making a copy (Edit > Copy and Edit > Paste). Set the Fill to C=8 M=5 Y=12 K=0. Rotate the left-side arm to -21 degrees (Ctrl-Click (Mac) or Right-Click (PC ) > Rotate...) and rotate the right-side arm to 21 degrees to mirror the left arm.
Use the Rectangle Tool (M) to create an additional square frame that extends across the torso. To create a skirt shape, use the Scissors Tool (C) to snip away the outer edges (get rid of two upside-down triangles on either side, then go to Object > Paths > Join, with the remaining paths of the frame selected, to create a trapezoid shape).
Now you have created your figures, you can use them in all sorts of infographic arrangements.
You can use them to show a gender demographic with simple arrows (similar to those we created earlier for the Bar Chart, simply Copy and Paste and vary the Stroke Color) and text captions stating the data (set in Josefin Sans SemiBold).
You can also reduce the Size of a figure (hold Shift while resizing to maintain the same proportions), and Copy and Paste, repeating in rows to give a sense of population data.
To replicate this effect, sit a number of repeated figures in a row along the same baseline (drag down a Guide from the top Ruler to get them all lined up exactly).
Introduce a horizontal line using the Line Tool (\), setting the Type to Dotted and the Weight to 1 mm, and sit the line between the edge of the figures and a text frame. In the text frame (Type Tool [T]) type the percentage/data number, and set the Font to Josefin Sans Bold, Size 80 pt.
To create a tear-drop shape at the start of a row of figures, use the Ellipse Tool (L) to create a perfect circle (hold Shift). Separately, create a Line at an approximately 45 degree angle and Edit > Copy > Paste to create a copy of the line.
Ctrl-Click (Mac) or Right-Click (PC ) > Transform > Flip Horizontal and position the second line below the first line, with their edges connecting. Go to Object > Paths > Join and set the Fill Color to the same swatch as the circle you just created. Place the triangle over the circle, with the triangle’s edge edging out from the right-hand side of the circle. Ctrl-Click (Mac) or Right-Click (PC ) > Group the two shapes together for easy manouvering.
5. Annotate a Simple Map Graphic
On occasion, you may need to introduce more detailed icons or images from Illustrator or Photoshop to your infographic, such as a map diagram. You can add annotations to these in InDesign.
File > Place a chosen EPS or Illustrator graphic into your document on a New Layer. Position this towards the top right of the page, beneath the Pie Chart graphic.
To add more dimension to your map, you can add circles of varying sizes to give a sense of the different proportion of data across a geographical area (e.g. the percentage of a population in a given region).
Use the Ellipse Tool (L), holding Shift, to create three or four circles of different sizes and colors, and position these over the map.
With the shapes selected, go to Object > Effects > Transparency and set the Opacity of the circles to 85%.
For a pop-out, 3D effect, add a drop shadow by checking the Drop Shadow box in the Effects panel. Set the Opacity to 30% and increase the Size to 4 mm.
Drop in text captions using the Type Tool (T) and create connecting pointers using the Line Tool (\), setting the Weight to 1 mm and the Type to Japanese Dots. In the Stroke panel (Window > Stroke) set the End value to CircleSolid to create a pointer effect.
And there you have it! Great work!
You’ve created a set of simple but super effective infographics, with a contemporary, fresh aesthetic.
You can edit this basic infographic template to accomodate all sorts of basic data about populations and demographics. You can also pull out elements from each infographic to create your own custom infographic document. Have fun finding your own ways of making information beautiful!