I really enjoy creating infographics as they can present unique design challenges. Here's an overview of the creative process that was involved with a recent project. The client requested a flow diagram detailing how they supply electricity and fuel to mining and manufacturing companies in Ghana.
The client supplied a rough sketch of the process they needed illustrated. The quality of input from a client can have a big effect on the amount of work and time an illustration will take, and in this case the sketch was pretty clear and easy to follow. My job would be to clarify the sketch and reduce the haphazard nature of the information involved, while rendering it all in a cohesive, eye-appealing design.
After developing a number of pencil roughs, I came up with a layout that I was happy with. It had a nice, cohesive shape to the flow of the various elements. I decided to employ an isometric view to the various icons, which would be stylized variations of their real-world counterparts.
When brainstorming ideas for this sort of job, nothing is faster than a pencil sketch, although sometimes I'll create a slightly more polished rough in Illustrator if the vision needs to be "sold" a bit. This can be tricky though. It's easy to start dwelling on details when drawing in the computer; this can slow you down and the client can ultimately squash your idea and along with it the time you've burned trying to communicate your brilliant vision. So there's a balancing act there.
The client approved the rough, so I brought the sketch into Illustrator to begin refining the overall design. I added some placeholder shapes for the basic structural icons, as well as some simple directional elements and color.
Using photo reference from the web, I started creating the structural icons. The "Transformer Substation" and "Mining Station" set the tone for the look and feel for the rest of the art. The idea was to create simple icons that captured the essence of the real-world structures. I wanted to make them interesting looking but without too much detail.
The remaining icons are added to complete the final diagram, (click the image to see a larger version). The client changed the "Mining Facility" on the right to a "Client Facility", so that was revised to make it look a little less imposing. Other process diagrams were subsequently developed using some of the same elements from this one. This "modular" approach allowed for shorter turnaround times on latter projects; another reason for the client to be happy!