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Mixing Photography and Illustration: An Infographic 101 Series

Post Series: Infographics 101


Mixing photography into your infographics can bring a sense of immediacy and freshness to your designs. The first step, though, is deciding if photography will work for the piece you’re designing. Take care to ensure that you understand the audience you’re targeting with the infographic, as well as the organization’s branding and style guidelines. If you’re designing an infographic for a traditional accounting or law firm, for example, photography might be too playful for the “gravitas” of the brand. In our experience, combining photography and illustration has worked great for tech and telecom sectors, B2C companies, and any information that’s targeting a younger audience.
In this blog post we’ll look at several of our infographics that have mixed photography and illustration, discussing what we did—and why.

Photography that Supports a Theme

In this digital infographic for Comcast Business, the topic informed our entire design from the very beginning. Almost as soon as we learned that the title of the piece would be “Recruiting and Retention,” our design team pictured a carefree road trip with millennial-age hitchhikers. The hitchhikers would represent job seekers looking for a job (a ride) on the road of life. They’d remain in the car as long as the trip was fun and satisfying—this was the retention aspect.

From that first vision, the infographic eventually turned into a scrapbook of memories from the road trip: photographs, notes, and coasters, tacked to a bulletin board, that told the story of “recruiting and retention.” Then we created illustrations that fit in with the scrapbook theme, including sketch/chalk style charts and a coaster wtih money artwork. In this case, having a central theme made it easy to choose photographs and illustrations.

Black and White Photography

This infographic that we did for Lenovo, a manufacturer of computers and smartphones, is another example of using photography to carry a theme.

This time, a small business that was featured in the infographic became the inspiration for the design. After we interviewed Lee and Eva Kerfoot about their business, Kerfoot Canopy Tours (KCT), a Minnesota-based zip-line company, we knew that zip-lines would have to be a central part of this infographic.

A good infographic is a marriage between copy and design; we believe this so strongly that we’ve written an entire blog post about it. After conferring with our design team, our writer decided to use zip-line-inspired language throughout the piece—working to keep the copy fun without becoming too hokey. Then the copy in each section informed the images that were eventually chosen. So “Get Horizontal” featured a zip-line rider stretched out like Superman, while “Go Mobile, Go Global” featured a shot of a zip-line rider taking a selfie.

On top of integrating zip-line focused photography and illustration, our designer had a further challenge. Lenovo’s branding guidelines called for a spare color palette, relying heavily on black and red. By using black-and-white photographs, interspersed with blocks of red (featuring graphs), our designer was able to convey the bold sophistication of the brand while still carrying the zip-line metaphor through each header.

The result? A zip-tastic experience that pulled off a metaphor in both language and design.

Comcast: Getting Social with Customers

Using Photographs as Backgrounds

Another way we like to use photography in our infographics is to use a picture as a backdrop for text. The trick here is to find a photograph that complements, or relates to, the meaning of the text—without overwhelming the text or making it difficult to read.

This infographic that we did for Comcast Business is a great example.

In this infographic, there is no central theme that ties all of the images together. Instead, we used a photograph for each section header. Each photograph related directly to the copy that was written in the headline.

Thus, “Go Mobile” is written on a smartphone backdrop; “Don’t Leave Dollars on the Table” is laid out on top of a boardroom table; and “Be A Showoff” appears onstage at a rock concert.

Lacking a central theme, this infographic is held together visually by the consistency of its sections: each section features a header with a central photograph, two graphs illustrated in the same style, followed by concrete tips.


Pulling photography into your infographic designs can make your pieces feel fresh and dynamic—but don’t overdo it. Remember that the primary mission of the infographic is to tell a story using statistics and visuals. Photography should help enhance that story—without overwhelming or overshadowing it. Keep the story front and center, make sure that the brand supports this style, and watch your photography-mixed infographics come alive.

Want more info on creating infographics? Check out our introductory blog post in this Infographic 101 series, along with our post on how to create an infographic around one central image.

Emily Paterson

As CEO and creative director at Quatrain, I work with clients like Experian, EverFi, Inc. magazine, Virtru, and Liberty Mutual, helping them spread their message in the most compelling and creative ways possible. I also wrangle an amazing and rowdy team of writers, designers, coders, and videographers. We delight in creating really great stuff, getting it done quickly, and having a great time while we do it. What can we create for you?

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