Infographics are a remarkably effective way of conveying complex information in a simple, highly visual format. In a world full of complicated procedures, statistics and comparisons we need to find ways of presenting information a the simplest possible way without relying on lengthy text.
This is measurable stuff. Jakob Nielsen was one of the first people to talk about how little time people spend reading text on websites, for example. Readers will often merely ‘scan’ the text, quickly moving around and getting the gist of the information before moving on the something else.
You only need to look at the flatpack instructions you get from Ikea nowadays to figure out that pictures (albeit well-drawn ones), speak much louder than words:
Here are some Illustrator features that will help you create beautiful infographics:
World class drawing tools
Illustrator leads the field in terms of it’s drawing tools. Arguably, Illustrator pretty much invented the standard tools that we find in most drawing programs – the pen, shape and line drawing tools, ‘smart’ tools that let you interactively change the number of faces on a polygon or points on a star…
One of the things I like about Illustrator is the way it presents you with more than one way of doing things. You can rotate an element simply by grabbing a corner and rotating, or use the Rotate tool – now you can choose an alternative axis for the rotation, and even repeat the rotation on duplicate objects. If you need to be specific, you can dial in the exact rotation you want via a dialog box.
Draw a simple line with the Line Segment tool. Or, use the Pen to draw more complex lines and curves. You choose the method you want, based on what you want to do and on your level of expertise.
Illustrator is very accurate. Let’s face it, you don’t have to care about perfect alignment and spacing, but if you do, Illustrator has the features to make it so. Smart Guides are especially useful – they provide visual notification when you are in alignment with the key points of another object, making alignment and distribution child’s play.
Easy repetition using ‘Step and Repeat’
Actually Illustrator gives this feature the rather unexciting name ‘Transform Again’. However, learn a few keyboard shortcuts, and you’ll be creating multiple copies of objects, equally spaced and aligned, with one action. Great for grids, diagrams, and any situation where you want a sequence of objects.
Complex appearances are easy to create
By appearance, I mean anything from stroke and fill colours, through to gradients, patterns, filters, shadows and opacity. Once you have an object looking the way you want, you can easily turn that appearance into a Graphic Style, which can then be applied to any element. Just like text styles, graphic styles help to keep your design consistent, and avoid unnecessary repetition.
Objects can be reused as symbols
A cool but often underused feature – symbols are essentially reusable elements. When you create a symbol, it becomes available in the Symbols Library. You can then drag instances of your symbol into your illustration. These behave just like regular elements – they can be resized, rotated and so on, but like magic, if you go and edit the original symbol, all of the instances update immediately. You can also have a lot of fun with the Symbolism tools – but that’s a topic for another article.
Great 3D tools
Another feature that gets overlooked – Illustrator has been quietly doing 3D for years. Ok, it’s limited to basic 3D extrusions or revolves, but those are great for 3D charts, and you can create some pretty cool looking 3D elements without learning a complex 3D modelling application. And of course, pretty much anything you produce in Illustrator is a super-sharp looking vector graphic, and that goes for 3D objects too.
You can do whatever you like!
Let’s face it – template based systems are attractive – you see a great looking, well designed template, and it looks like you’ll just be able to slot in your own images and text, and job done. However, we all like to make things our own – choose fonts, colours, and change things around. Illustrator is all about being creative – take inspiration and even copy stuff from any source you like, but ultimately, create your own designs and make it your own. A little knowledge in Illustrator is a powerful thing!
– This has been a short list of just some of the features of Adobe Illustrator that can be used to create infographics, or any kind of artwork for that matter.
– By the way, the irony of writing a 700+ word blog post about the beauty of replacing words with graphics hasn’t escaped us!
We run great Adobe Illustrator courses, covering the application from essentials to advanced. All our courses are taught by industry professionals with proven teaching skills. You’ll be creating awesome infographics in no time!