6 Ways to Use Icons in Your Infographics [+ Where to Find Free Icons]

6 Ways to Use Icons in Your Infographics [+ Where to Find Free Icons]

Whether it’s an explainer on solar panels or the farm-to-cup process of making your favorite coffee, infographics compress a world of information into one simple, digestible format.

But designing an infographic that successfully communicates a lot of information in a simple visual format requires more than a quick idea and a template.

Fortunately, there’s one design element that the best infographics all have in common, and it can help you build a professional infographic that gets your point across and looks good doing it.

Icons are the secret tool that designers use to take your eye from one point to another so that all that information comes to you in just the right order.

Icons form the secret language of infographics, and once you learn how to speak it, yours will be more effective and (hopefully) widely shared by your audience.

→ Download Now: 15 Free Infographic Templates

Why Do You Need Infographic Icons?

Infographics can be a great source of information when you’re introducing a complex topic to an unfamiliar audience. People love sharing them because they can communicate a vast quantity of information in an elegant, easy-to-digest format.

However, it’s easy to create an infographic that is overwhelming or which simply falls flat. Icons streamline the process of creating the infographic and ensure that it effectively communicates the information it’s meant to share.

Infographic icons give structure to your infographic and can be used to highlight key pieces of information. They can also efficiently explain what happens at important junctures of the process without relying on words. You have a limited amount of space on an infographic, and icons help you say more with fewer words.

6 Reasons To Use Icons in an Infographic

1. They help your audience focus.

A good infographic is a buffet for the eyes, and your readers could have trouble focusing on just one part of it at a time. Icons provide a much-needed sense of structure to the information in your infographic and create a guided experience for the viewer. Good icon placement makes navigating your infographic a more intuitive experience for your audience.

In the excerpt of an infographic from Infographic Journal that covers the entire history of currency from 9000 BC to the present, the author uses icons to mark key events and add interest to what could have easily been a boring timeline. Small (but important) arrow icons along the timeline also keep the reader moving along in the right direction.

2. They make the words you use count more.

Want to make your text stand out on your infographic? Try pairing it with an icon. It’s easy for your words to get lost among the visuals of your infographic.

Icons can bring attention to specific words or charts, and help the viewer leave with clearer, more memorable takeaways. They can also tip off the reader what to expect from each section, allowing them to focus on the subjects that interest them first.

In this excerpt of an infographic from Futurism.com, complex concepts (that could have each required a lot of text to explain) are accompanied by custom icons that help reinforce the titles of each section with fewer words.

You might not immediately know what “ingestible robots” means, but when you see the image of the robot popping out of a pill capsule, you get a better grasp on it immediately.

3. They make data easier to understand.

Graphs displaying complex information can be challenging for many people to grasp at first, but a simple icon can prime your audience to understand the data it presents and why it matters to them.

For complex graphs, multiple icons can break down individual sections and allow the audience to derive more value from it, making it more likely they share it with their networks. You can also use icons to represent amounts in a graph instead of raw numbers to make them easier for your audience to grasp.

In this excerpted screenshot of an infographic from USC Marshall School of business, icons are used to convey data in place of a more traditional graph:

4. They can help you say more with less.

Icons are an ideal medium for telling a simple story that hits on the main theme of your infographic. This can form a unifying message that allows your target audience to connect with the information presented.

Your infographic’s data tells a story, and icons can show it to your audience immediately. From cave paintings to fire exit signs, icons can be used to create powerful, engaging stories with the simplest of shapes.

You can get a feel for how icons can effectively communicate complex pieces of information in the except of an infographic from USC Rossier on the science of classroom design. Describing each of these classroom formats would have been cumbersome and required a lot of text, but with icons, a lot of information can be condensed in a simple visual.

5. They tap into shared meanings.

The best thing about icons is they often mean the same thing in every context they’re used. This allows you to introduce meaning into your infographic without having to explain it to your audience directly (and take up valuable space on your design). This ultimately makes your infographic more accessible and easier for your audience to understand.

In the infographic excerpt from Daily Infographic below, the designer makes excellent use of two instantly recognizable symbols — money and people — to explain the evolution of crowdfunding.

6. They contribute to your brand’s personality and voice.

The icons you choose can add personality to your infographic and are an excellent opportunity to showcase your branding.

What do cute, fun, icons, or hand-drawn ones say about your brand or the information you’re providing? What about sleek, polished ones? The aesthetic you choose for your icons is just as important as any other piece of information you choose to include in our infographic.

In the example below from Printsome, a company that specializes in printing and design, it makes sense that the creator chose to use a clean, consistent icon aesthetic that fits in neatly with the branding of their website.

 

The Best Free (and Almost Free) Resources for Infographic Icons

There’s a wide variety of free and nearly-free sources for infographic icons and elements online. We’ve listed some of them here for your next project.

Flaticon

Looking for free vector icons created by a wide variety of designers? Flaticon is a great place to begin your search. With 3,641,000 (and growing) free vector icons available on the site, this site is a solid option if you have a specific design in mind and a limited budget.

Icons8

If you’re looking for a more curated selection of options, Icons8 offers free icons that are designed entirely by a single team. This is a great option if you have plans to create a series of infographics and want a consistent look between all of them, regardless of the subject matter.

Noun Project

Noun Project believes icons help create an important global language, and their unique (and extensive) collection includes more specific options — we’re talking everything from icons representing abstract artificial intelligence concepts to Beyoncé — that you likely won’t find anywhere else on the web.

DaFont

If you’ve ever sought out free fonts on the web, you’ve probably encountered DaFont — but did you know they also have a solid selection of icons? If you’d prefer to use icons in custom font format instead of downloading them as images, DaFont is a good free option.

Iconshock

Most of Iconshock’s library is free to use for noncommercial purposes. If your infographic is for commercial use, you’ll pay a one-time fee for most icons here, which is a budget-friendly option if you’re still testing out infographics as a marketing strategy.

Iconfinder

Iconfinder offers a nice balance of extensive options with some expert curation — which is a bonus if you’re not interested in filtering through hundreds of pages to find icons that fit your ideal aesthetic. Most icons featured here are available for free for personal use, while pricing plans are available if you plan on using any of the icons commercially.

Behance

Behance is a platform where designers around the world can showcase and sell their design work and connect with potential clients — but many generous designers also offer some design goodies for free. If you’re willing to spend some time searching, there are certainly some hidden gems on Behance that are worth the search.

Icons give your infographics shape.

Icons are vital tools that can bring meaning and structure to your infographic while enabling greater word economy in your overall design.

They can help to orient the viewer to the information and provide cues that indicate the flow of the infographic. Even if your viewer is completely unfamiliar with the information in your infographic, icons with a widely-recognized meaning can help to improve their understanding of it.

Ultimately, the icons you choose for your infographic and the way you use them can improve its overall utility for your viewer.

New Call-to-action

How to Design a Process Infographic (And Where to Find Templates)

How to Design a Process Infographic (And Where to Find Templates)

Have you ever wished you could just use a picture to explain a process instead of words (or your hands)?

A process infographic could be just what you need to show your audience how to do something or how a process works. A well-designed one can establish you as an authority on whatever subject you choose to cover — whether you’re trying to show how your business’s coffee is sourced or train the new hire remotely.

Even better, they’re easy to create using a template or from scratch, meaning you can get started on one today.

→ Download Now: 15 Free Infographic Templates

What is a process infographic?

A process infographic simplifies and explains the steps of a process in primarily visual terms. Generally, it illustrates what happens during each step or phase with an intuitive layout that’s easy for the viewer to follow from start to finish. A well-designed process infographic makes the concept you want to share more accessible and saves you and the audience time.

Chances are, you encounter process infographics in some form pretty regularly in your daily life. Just imagine how much (more) complicated it would be to build your new Ikea desk if the instructions only included words and no visuals. Pretty daunting, huh?

Process infographics allow us to visualize how a process works more quickly and with more clarity. This makes them excellent training and educational tools — but also a smart marketing strategy.

Here’s an example of a process infographic that explains mechanical recycling:

Image Source: bluevision

For marketers — particularly those of us who are trying to market products or services that require a bit of explanation — process infographics are extremely helpful for connecting with potential leads and communicating your company’s value. Explaining how your company’s offerings can provide value to customers with visuals can make your marketing materials more memorable and impactful than using copy alone.

Where to Find Process Infographic Templates

If you want to create your own process infographic with a template, here are a few offerings for every budget.

Venngage

Venngage has a wide variety of process-specific infographic templates for a number of different purposes. If you’re looking to essentially plug your process into a finalized design and go, you’ll likely find what you want on Venngage. Monthly and annual subscriptions are available that give you full access to their template library and the ability to create and download your own process infographics.

Template available on Venngage

Canva

Canva has ready-made infographic process templates ideal for fun activities, recipes, and the occasional life hack. You can also create a blank infographic process template on the site if you can’t find one that fits your project. Canva has a free and paid version depending on your needs.

Template available on Canva

Visme

Visme’s library of process-specific templates includes an extensive variety of different options, including more flowchart-style process templates than other infographic builder sites. If you’re looking to translate a particularly complex process into a visual medium, Visme is a smart place to start your search for the perfect template. You can set up an account for free or get access to the full library as a premium member.

Template available on Visme

HubSpot

We would be remiss if we didn’t mention that HubSpot offers free infographic templates, including a number of process-specific templates that are easy to customize. All of our templates are free to use and compatible with PowerPoint, so you don’t need to download any new programs or apps to use them.

Template available from HubSpot

DesignCap

DesignCap is an online graphic design tool with a curated selection of process infographic templates available to customize to your needs. While their selection is technically smaller than other template tools on this list, every template was created by a professional designer. They offer many templates for free and have paid plans starting at $4.99/month.

How to Create a Process Infographic Without a Template

If you can’t find a process infographic template that fits the process you want to visualize, you can always create your own from scratch.

For the mechanics of conceptualizing, structuring, and creating a cohesive design for your infographic, you can check out our step-by-step blog post here to develop your own infographic design in PowerPoint. Below, we’ll chat through a few tips specific to process infographics you can apply to any design.

Pick one process to explain.

Process infographics are good at breaking down complex subjects, but you still want to limit the scope of your design to one single topic that can be explained in a linear way — i.e., things that have a start and an end. Trying to explain too much in one visual can make your design confusing. Stick to one central idea per infographic.

Speak to your audience, not yourself.

This applies to most marketing strategies, but it’s always important to remember that you are — more often than not — not your target audience. Chances are, you know a lot more about the subject of your infographic than your audience, so it’s easy to fall back on that knowledge as you plan your design.

Because your audience knows less than you do about this subject, it’s important to approach any complexity from their perspective, taking the time to explain more elements than you would need yourself.

Map out each step with a clear start and end.

As you start outlining your infographic, identify where your audience will start (what they likely know about the process before reading the infographic) and where you want them to end (what you want them to know by the end). With those specifics in mind, map out the steps of

Experiment with the layout.

What’s the best way to structure the information of your process infographic? This will ultimately depend on the “shape” of your information.

For example, a supply chain infographic will likely benefit from a straightforward, linear way of displaying information, but a process like how your company recommends specific products for different needs would need more of a flowchart style design. Experiment with different ways to lay out each step of the process you’re describing until you find one that makes sense.

Edit for clarity.

Once you have a draft of your process infographic completed, give it a re-read and check for areas that might be unclear or confusing. Or even better, ask someone else to review your work with a fresh pair of eyes.

Don’t skip this final review — the goal of your infographic is to make something complex more accessible, and not everyone learns new information in the same way. Having someone else take a quick look can help you refine your infographic so it suits a wider audience.

Visuals succeed where words can fail.

We’ve avoided using this particularly relevant cliche for this entire article, but here it comes: a picture really is worth a thousand words. Using visuals to aid in your explanations of complex subjects or processes can help make your marketing materials more accessible and human.

The next time you’re tasked with breaking down a subject that seems to resist clear explanations, consider making a process infographic instead.

New Call-to-action

The Evolution of Content Marketing: How It’s Changed and Where It’s Going in the Next Decade

The Evolution of Content Marketing: How It’s Changed and Where It’s Going in the Next Decade

A sound content marketing strategy is one of the better ways a business can help shape its brand identity, garner interest from prospects, and retain an engaged audience. It lets you establish authority in your space, project legitimacy, and build trust between you and who you’re trying to reach.

Plan your content for every persona and stage of the buying cycle. [Free  Content Mapping Template]

As you can assume, it’s well worth understanding. But that’s easier said than done. Content marketing isn’t static. The landscape of the practice is constantly changing. It doesn’t look the same now as it did ten years ago, and in ten years it won’t look the same as it does now.

It’s a difficult topic to pin down — one with a fascinating past and an exciting future. Out of both genuine interest and forward-thinking practicality, it’s important to understand both where it’s been and where it’s going.

Here, we’ll get some perspective on both. We’re going to take a look at how content marketing has evolved in the past decade, and how it’s going to evolve in the next one.

How Content Marketing Evolved in the Past Decade

Google changed the game.

In 2011, Google conducted its landmark Zero Moment of Truth (ZMOT) study. It found that 88% of shoppers use what’s known as a Zero Moment of Truth — a discovery and awareness stage in a buying cycle where a consumer researches a product before buying it. Google’s research also indicated that word of mouth was a definitive factor in swaying that moment.

The study provides a unique point of reference in the context of content marketing’s evolution. It captures the essence of how and why businesses needed to focus on content marketing at the beginning of the 2010s.

It was tacit evidence that companies’ stories were being told online — well beyond the control of their marketing departments — and it was in their best interest to help shape those conversations.

The ZMOT study highlighted the need for sound Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Ranking for relevant keywords on search engines became all but essential to bolstering a company’s online presence and holding up during consumers’ Zero Moments of Truth.

But that study wasn’t the only bombshell Google dropped in the early 2010s. Around the time the study came out, Google’s search ranking algorithm changed to discourage “keyword stuffing” — the practice of repetitively loading a webpage with specific keywords to try to sway search engine rankings.

The change represented what is still a continuous effort by Google to provide users with positive, helpful online experiences. And it did just that. The shift that set the stage for businesses to focus on producing more high-quality, meaningful content.

Social media rose.

But content marketing’s evolution wasn’t exclusively linked to search engines. Social media’s meteoric rise to prominence — one of the most disruptive trends in human history — also had a profound impact on the practice. As these platforms developed into mainstays of everyday life, they presented new challenges for content marketers.

As social media evolved, it popularized a different kind of content consumption than search engines. The difference boiled down to a matter of “pointed versus passive.”

Consumers use search engines to find content more pointedly. Generally speaking, when you use a search engine, you’re looking for a specific answer or a specific subject. Social media allowed users to consume content more passively on their preferred platforms. The content you see on your Facebook feed is finding its way to you — not the other way around.

That trend incentivized the creation of more shareable, attention-grabbing content that could easily be spread across social media channels.

How Content Marketing Evolved in the Past Decade social media

Image Source

Video made a push.

Video also emerged as one of the prevailing content marketing mediums as the decade progressed, particularly among younger consumers. By 2017, over 50% of consumers wanted to see videos from brands they supported — more than any other kind of content.

How Content Marketing Evolved in the Past Decade video

Image Source

Video is inherently engaging. Generally speaking, it’s easier to follow than blog posts, email newsletters, or ebooks. Gradually, audiences took to it more and more as the decade progressed. By the end of the 2010s, platforms like YouTube were central to the landscape of content marketing.

Obviously, content marketing underwent several shifts in the 2010s, but as I said at the beginning of this article, the practice isn’t — and will never be — static. There are still plenty of changes to come.

How Content Marketing Will Evolve in the Next Decade

Video content will continue to rule.

As I just mentioned, video was emerging as one of the most — if not the most — important mediums for content marketing at the end of this past decade. There’s no indication that that trend is stopping anytime soon.

As of 2020, 85% of businesses use video as a marketing tool — up 24% from 2016. And 92% of marketers who use it consider it an important part of their marketing strategy. It’s already a staple in several companies’ content marketing operations, and research indicates that base is going to expand.

According to a survey by Wyzowl, 59% of marketers who weren’t using video in 2019 expected to be using it throughout 2020.

How Content Marketing Will Evolve in the Next Decade video

 

Image Source

All told, it looks like the exploration and expansion of video as the preeminent medium for content marketing is going to continue. The priority for marketers is going to be a matter of standing out.

That could mean emphasizing the quality of the content you produce — ensuring it’s enriching, well-crafted, and relevant to viewers. You could also try looking to emerging platforms like TikTok.

No matter how individual producers and companies manage to innovate when it comes to video marketing, the medium is going to be a mainstay in the evolution of content marketing going forward.

Adjusting for mobile will be essential and present new opportunities.

According to Statista, global mobile data traffic in 2022 will be seven times larger than it was in 2017. Mobile device usage is increasing astronomically, and it’s in every content marketer’s best interest to keep pace with that trend.

In 2019, 61% of Google searches took place on a mobile device, and that trend is showing no signs of slowing down. Having a website optimized for mobile devices will be central to successful SEO efforts. And a lot of the content you create will need to fit that bill as well.

Blogs should be easily navigable on smartphones. Readily accessible video content that your audience can watch on mobile devices will be a big help as well. Prospects and customers will need to be able to get as much out of your mobile resources as your desktop ones.

This shift towards mobile will also present new opportunities through emerging kinds of media. More novel mobile technology — like virtual and augmented reality — will have a very real place in the future of content marketing.

As people continue to rely more on their mobile devices, content marketers will have to as well.

Successful content will be more empathetic, purposeful, and customer-first.

Google’s ranking algorithm aims to prioritize the content that will mean the most to searchers. Ideally, by Google’s standards, the first ranking search result for any keyword is the one that best addresses whatever users are searching for. And in all likelihood, they’ll keep tinkering with their process in pursuit of that interest.

While there’s no telling exactly how the algorithm might change going forward, one fact remains — marketers need to focus on high-quality content that will register with consumers. That means understanding your audience and putting considerable effort into how to reach them best.

As HubSpot Senior Content Strategist Amanda Zantal-Wiener puts it, “Where I’m starting to see content turning a corner is in the area of empathy. In the years to come, marketers are going to start creating more content that’s truly created in the mindset of putting themselves in the shoes of others — be it their customers, prospects, partners, or someone else within their audiences. They’ll ask questions like, ‘What does my audience need from me right now? What can I create that’s truly going to help them?’ That’s going to become a requirement for marketers when they begin brainstorming content.”

Research, outreach, and community engagement will become even more important in the context of content creation. Content marketing is trending towards audience enrichment as opposed to product promotion. If this shifting tide holds true, content marketing will continue to become more targeted, purposeful, and customer-centric as the practice evolves.

If there’s anything to take away from understanding the previous and upcoming evolutions of content marketing it’s this — don’t get too comfortable. New trends and challenges are always emerging, and it will always be in your best interest to stay abreast of them.

And above all else, focus on consistently creating high-quality content that your audience will always be able to get something out of.

Editor’s note: This post was originally published in May 2020 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.

Blog - Content Mapping Template