Creating eye-popping infographics with Google Drawings

Infographics are visually stimulating and force us to summarize well. What if we did more infographics in schools and less research papers? (Graphic by Matt Miller)

Infographics are visually stimulating and force us to summarize well. What if we did more infographics in schools and less research papers? (Graphic by Matt Miller)

Infographics are everywhere. I first started noticing them on the front page of USA Today as a journalism major in college.

As Pinterest became more popular, the long, tall infographics have begun popping up everywhere.

There’s a reason you see infographics all over social media and beyond:

  • They’re eye-catching.
  • They summarize information succinctly.
  • They’re very visual, whether you’re viewing on a page or a printed version hung on a wall.
  • They’re easy to share.

If you think about it, infographics meet many of the same goals as our students’ writing assignments.

  • They investigate a specific topic.
  • To create one, you have to gather lots of information.
  • You summarize and pare down that information before presenting it.
  • You create with the reader in mind.

All of this leads me to ask …

What would learning be like if students created more infographics and less research papers?

We don’t have to abolish the research paper or formal essay entirely. However, I think many students would benefit from at least a change of pace, if not a fundamental shift in how they create academically.

So, how do we do it?

One of my favorite creation tools is Google Drawings.

  • It’s like a digital posterboard (or sheet of paper).
  • You can add text, images, lines and shapes to it.
  • Because it’s so simple, the learning curve isn’t huge.
  • You can save your creations as an image file or as a PDF, which makes sharing really easy.

Find Google Drawings by clicking the “New” button in Google Drive, using the “More …” button and choosing “Google Drawings.” Or, go to drawings.google.com.

(Note: Currently, Google does not offer a Google Drawings iPad app. However, you can create infographics like these by using Google Slides. Just create the infographic on one slide.)

Let’s make a plan.

A little planning goes a long way. Knowing what kind of information and data you have does, too.

Sketching out a very rough draft of the infographic on a sheet of paper can help you (and your students) see how the different elements of the infographic look together.

(Gasp! Paper?!?! Sure, why not? There’s nothing wrong with planning things out on paper. I do it all the time. There’s also nothing wrong with constructing the final product on paper. However, making a digital infographic gives us access to great visuals and makes sharing easier.)

Those summarization skills — summarizing and synthesizing all of your information and data — work best before the infographic creation process begins at all on the screen.

Graphic design tells us that there should be a dominant visual element to draw people’s eyes in. It could be a big title or a large photo or image. If everything is the same size, your eye doesn’t know where to start.

(PS: Color does the same thing. In a sea of black and white, a splash of color makes the eye take notice. This is something I’ve always struggled with …)

I really like this post: 10 steps to creating the perfect infographic. There are some more ideas in this post I wrote about using Piktochart in the classroom that could cross over nicely here.

Now, let’s get started.

Pick a couple of fonts that you’ll rely heavily on. It’s good to have big, bold main title font and a thinner font for body text. (If you use too many fonts, it’ll make your finished product look too scattered. The goal is to bring attention to the content, not to your fancy use of fonts.)

Make sure your infographic isn’t too text heavy. (As a recovering journalist and self-proclaimed word guy, the struggle is real for me. I have to force myself to use more visuals.)

Here are some great sources for visuals:

  • The Noun Project (thenounproject.com) — Lots of icons, which are awesome for infographics. Many are Creative Commons images and require attribution. Just make sure to include a line or paragraph somewhere in your infographic saying who and where they’re from.
  • Creative Commons images (search.creativecommons.org) — You can use the link I just provided, but you don’t have to … Google Drawings has this built in. Go to Insert > Image and use the “Search” tab. This will search several huge databases of images that are licensed Creative Commons (i.e. not copyright, all rights reserved). I wrote a post about 14 copyright essentials teachers and students must know that walks you through this.
    • PRO TIP: When you click on an image, it displays the source at the bottom. Including a little text box with the link to the image is a good way to provide attribution.
  • Pixabay (pixabay.com) — A huge database of Creative Commons/public domain images. (i.e. Images we have the rights to use in our work.) Note that this site isn’t always available through school Internet filters, so be prepared.
  • There are lots of other sources of images at the bottom of that post I mentioned earlier about copyright essentials.

If you’re like me, your infographic will morph as you add more content to it. I’m constantly rearranging to fit things just right in the space provided.

Oh, and about space … don’t get things too crowded. Leaving some space with nothing in it (they call this “white space”) is a good thing. It gives your eye a metaphorical breath of air and keeps your infographic from looking too busy.

When you’re done, click “File > Download as …” and save the image as a JPEG image or a PDF file. (And once you’ve downloaded it, open it to make sure it looks OK. In the example below, I saved the file and then had to go back and fix a mistake because I didn’t look it over before downloading. Oops.)

Here’s an example. I pulled this together based on #DitchBook Twitter chat co-moderator Rachel Marker’s blog post, “A Commitment to Change.” PS: She’s super awesome, and you might want to read her post and even sign up for email updates so you always catch her stuff.

Click for full-size image.

Click for full-size image.

And here’s a quick screencast video I did to show the infographic in progress and to show you some things you can do to make them look great …

NOTE: Google Drawings isn’t the only place to create great infographics. Another favorite of mine is Canva. If you’re not graphic design-inclined, Canva can get you started with pre-designed text and templates. It’s another option I love!

Great. I’m done!

So, what do students do with these infographics when you finish?

Well, you could have students just turn them in to you for a grade. But that’s no fun. Why would we work hard to create something amazing and then hide it from the world?

Students should share their infographics.

With each other. With the school community. On a class website. Through social media.

Whatever works.

If this sharing thing isn’t common in your class, you’ll be surprised at the surge in the level of effort students put forth. Plus, their work can inspire and educate others … and when we pursue something bigger than ourselves, that’s inherently motivating.

(Intrinsic motivation > Extrinsic motivation)

As a student, I know I would be much more motivated to create a cool infographic than I would an awesome research paper. (Not sure the words “awesome” and “research paper” can really go together …)

But also remember that not all students are visual people. They might want to take the information they gathered and create a radio show, a movie trailer or something else. Variety is the spice of life, and we should encourage kids to create using their God-given skills and talents.

OK, go out and give these Google Drawings infographics a shot!

Question: How could these infographics fit into your classroom? What other advice or suggestions do you have for teachers and students creating them? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

For notifications of new Ditch That Textbook content and helpful links:

Interested in having Matt present at your event or school? Contact him by e-mail!

Matt is scheduled to present at the following upcoming events:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

11 thoughts on “Creating eye-popping infographics with Google Drawings

  1. Love these ideas! Could I have your permission to make an editable copy of this Google drawing so that I can translate it to Spanish? I want to make a poster of it for my dual language classroom.