Infographic design

A free software platform for designing election infographics and other visuals

As an election office, your team produces tons of important information related to voter registration statistics, different voting methods, voter turnout, and more.

But are you able to use this information to easily create visuals that boost civic engagement or make the case for your new budget?

Whether your audience is new voters or your local government decision-makers, you can use your election office data to create infographics that are eye catching, educational, and easy to share.

What you'll need

  • Computer with internet access
  • Email or Facebook account
  • Communication goals that you can reach through infographics
  • Relevant election data or information to support your communication goal

Table of contents

  1. Before designing
  2. Introduction to Canva
  3. Set up your Canva account
  4. Tour Canva’s features
  5. Canva pro tips

Before designing

Before you begin designing a visual, it’s important to have a communication goal and election data or information to support that goal. Take time to think about your audience and your desired outcome. Consider these questions about your target audience:

  • What action do you want them to take?
  • What information do they need to take action?
  • Where are they looking for information? At the local library? On social media? In their email inbox or postal mailbox?

Then gather relevant election data and information that you will use to inform and engage your audience. Consider these questions about your information:

  • Where does the information or data exist? In a database? A spreadsheet? A filing cabinet?
  • What format is it in?
  • Do you need permission to access and use it?

For example, if your communication goal is to inform voters about the convenience of voting by mail, you can use the increasing number or percentage of people who voted by mail in the previous elections.

Once you have drafted a communication goal and collected supporting information, you are ready to design a visual. And some folks like to start their designs on paper before using their computer — it’s up to you!

Accessibility is critical when you are publishing government information. Infographics are no exception. When you are posting infographics on your website, via social media, or in an email newsletter, you must include alt text, just as you would include alt text for any image.

However, because infographics can communicate complex ideas, your alt text might be more appropriate as a long description.

Remember that you can include a paragraph or two of text with your infographic to help everyone understand the main take-aways of the visual. Think of this accompanying text as a way to both include the textual information from the graphic and also include highlights of the key relationships in your data.

You may also want to include a link to the table of your raw data that was used to make the infographic.

Elements to consider when making your infographics accessible:

  • Write a text description of the infographic.
  • Write in plain language whenever possible.
  • Use contrasting colors and easy-to-read fonts.

Making infographics accessible can be hard. The way to make it easier is to do simple things that might help everyone. Want to learn more about accessible graphics? Check out this article and short video on making complex images accessible.


Introduction to Canva

Canva is free, easy-to-use design software. You can use templates and design elements to create visuals for the web and for print, including social media posts and flyers for your election office.

Once you’ve created an account and acquainted yourself with Canva’s features, we will share election-related infographic templates that you can copy and edit to include your own election office brand and information.

If you already have a Canva account and are familiar with its features, feel free to move on to the next set of instructions, Using the tool.

Before you get started with Canva, know that you can create awesome and simple graphics for free. You will notice that some design elements cost $1. You are not required to use these elements and will only be charged if you decide to download a design that includes priced elements.
For example, using Canva you can make a compelling graphic by choosing a:

  • Solid color background
  • Civic icon or illustration
  • Bold, easy-to-read text style
Your vote is your voice. Register today.

This infographic delivers one simple message that can be understood at a glance

Set up your Canva account

  1. Create an account
    Go to the Canva website and create an account using your email or Facebook account. After you create an account, a short demonstration video will pop up.
    If you want to skip the video, click anywhere else on the screen.
  1. Take the Beginner’s Challenge
    This exercise isn’t required but will acquaint you with how Canva works. Use about 3 minutes of your time to complete the Beginner’s Challenge. When you are done, select the button Start your own design.
  1. Create a design
    After you complete the challenge, you land on the Your Designs screen with a prompt to Create a design. Click the + to see more options. By clicking, you will be able to see all the design formats that Canva offers.
    Canva is constantly saving your edits, so don’t bother hunting for a “Save” button. If you look in the top left corner, you can see the save status. You can also click Undo if you want to reverse an action.
  1. Select type of graphic
    Select the type of graphic based on where you want to publish it. Canva will size the graphic according to the specifications of the specific platform, e.g., Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. For this intro exercise we encourage you to make a Twitter graphic, so select Twitter Post.
    When you select the type of graphic, Canva will open a new tab. The menu will be on the left side of your screen. Your workspace or “canvas” will be on the right side of your screen. You can adjust the size of your workspace by using the + and in the bottom left of the screen.
    We like that Canva automagically sizes your graphic for Twitter. If you are interested in the image aspect ratio and size specifications for all the popular social media platforms, check out this blog post from Hubspot. Just remember that these specifications are known to change, so we recommend that you do a quick internet search to confirm.
  1. Give it a name
    Show your design some love by giving it a name. In the upper right corner, click on Twitter Post – Untitled Design. Type a title and click Done.

    User clicks on design title in Canva top menu to rename the design

    The title may not look like a button, but click on it anyway — a small window will open where you can give it a better name

To help you customize and share your design, the next steps will show you each feature that’s listed on the left menu in Canva.

Tour Canva’s features

Search

Some of the Canva images are free, others are not. We suggest that you upload your own images, including your election office logo and/or county seal.

User enters search term "vote" to find related Canva stock images

Canva’s library of graphic elements

We also encourage you to upload the civic icons to your Canva account. These are published by the Center for Civic Design and are part of the Civic Engagement Toolkit. The Upload feature is located at the bottom of the left menu in Canva.

Check out UnsplashPexels, and WomenOfColorInTech for beautiful and free stock images that you can use. 

Layouts

Canva features layouts, or templates, that are relevant to the time that you are creating a design. For example, in early February you will see templates for Valentine’s Day. You will notice the price of each layout in the bottom right corner of the image.

Click a layout from the left menu and it jumps over to your workspace on the right. If you change your mind, just click another one and it overrides the previously selected template.

Elements

Canva provides elements that you can add to your design. Elements include grids, shapes, lines, illustrations, icons, and more. Click on an element to add it to your design.

Resize the element by dragging the corner of the element. Otherwise, you will distort the image. And you can rotate elements by moving the “rotate” icon below the element.

Screenshot illustrates where the rotate icon appears below an element in Canva

You can edit any element that you add to your design

Text 

Canva has many text options for your design. Click on a style that you like and it will move to your workspace. If you want to remove text, highlight the text then tap Delete on your keyboard or click the trashcan icon in the menu. You may need to delete elements of the text separately.

You can change the color, size, and font of your text. In the menu across the top of your screen you can explore your options.

Screenshot illustrates the menu to choose different style options for Canva elements

Edit the font and explore other style options using the menu at the top of the screen

Background

There are plenty of background options in Canva. You can also select the color squares on the left menu to change the color of your graphic background.

By clicking the Background on the left menu, you can try different background colors and designs

Use contrasting colors and easy-to-read fonts in your designs

You can change the transparency of any element by clicking on the element, then clicking on the “checker board” icon on the far right of the top menu.

Uploads

The last item on Canva’s left menu is Uploads. This area is where you can upload your own files, like your election office logo, county seal, or civic icons. Once uploaded, you can add your files to any graphic by clicking on it.

Download

When you are ready to publish your design, in the upper right corner, click Download. Select the format based on the type of design you created. For this exercise, select PNG.

Screenshot shows dropdown menu to select file type to download

After downloading a design you can publish it on your website, in an email, or on social media

PDF is a large file that’s great for printing documents. Use either JPG or PNG files for graphics on the web. PNG is ideal if you have transparent elements, like your logo.

After you download your design, you can share it via your social media accounts. You will upload it like any other image. If you download a PDF, you can send it to your printer or attach it to an email.

Canva pro tips

  • Practice, practice, practice. Making mistakes is part of learning. The undo button will set you free.
  • Keep it simple. Demonstrate restraint by minimizing the number of fonts, colors, and shapes you use.
  • Continue learning. Check out Canva Design School for tutorials and learning materials.

Now that you are familiar with some of Canva’s basic features, we hope you are confidently exploring all that the software has to offer. For the next set of instructions we will walk you through the steps to copy and edit templates that are specifically designed for election offices.

Table of contents

  1. Sample templates
  2. How to request templates
  3. Resources

Sample templates

The following sample templates were created using Canva. The instructions below the images will walk you through the steps of how to receive editable versions of these templates.

Most of these templates were created by election officials like yourself, and we’re always looking to add more. Do you have an infographic to add to the Toolkit? Email hello@electiontools.org to share your ideas.

The process to vote for President in the California primary. Full text in description.
Infographics can help explain complex processes
1 of
Today is Election Day! Polls are open from 7am-8pm. Visit rcelections.org for more info.
You can combine reminders with portals to additional information
1 of
With the image of a bullhorn, graphic includes the text Your vote is your voice. Register today.
Infographics can make an argument about civic participation
1 of
Graphic reminds readers to double-check their voting location so they don't go to the wrong place
Give your voters simple, timely reminders
1 of
Background image is a person's hand dropping an envelope into a blue post office mail box. Text in front of the image lets readers know they can request an absentee ballot at mnvotes.org
Help people to vote by mail
1 of
Poll worker profile graphic includes photo and quotation
Inform the public about your staff or poll workers
1 of
Voting in Adams County is as easy as 1-2-3. Full text in description.
Infographics can help you illustrate a process
1 of
Community and convenience make Adams County a great place to live and vote. Full text in long description.
Create a compelling graphic with data from your election office
1 of

How to request templates

In this section we will walk you through the process of receiving and using templates that are designed for local election offices. If you do not have a Canva account, please refer to the previous section to create an account and learn the basics of the design software before moving forward.

The templates that you will receive are infographic templates with placeholder text and images that you can edit using Canva. Here’s the process to get the templates and begin editing them:

  1. Send an email
    Notify our team that you would like to receive the infographics templates. Email hello@electiontools.org and include this information in your email:
  • Your name
  • A short sentence on how you learned about the Toolkit
  1. Receive and open an email
    Once we receive your request, we will share the graphics with you with an email that will include links to the templates.
  1. Copy the template
    It’s a good idea to make a copy of each template so that, if you make a mistake, you’ll still have the original version to return to. Once you’re looking at the template on the Canva website, go to the upper left corner of the screen, click File, and select Make a copy.
User finds Make a Copy button by clicking on File in Canva's top menu

It’s a good idea to start by making a copy

  1. Rename the copied template
    In the upper middle of the screen, click the name of the file and then rename it. Click Done when finished.
User renames a Canva template

Be sure to give your new copy of the template a distinct name.

  1. Edit and publish your design
    In the upper left corner, click on Canva. You should see the copied template in the section labeled All your designs. You should see the original template in the Shared with you section.

Using your Canva skills you can now edit the template to include text, fonts, colors, and information that is specific to your election office and brand. Edit your new copy, and the original will still be there if you need it.

Once you refine the design to suit your needs, you can download and share the infographic with your audience.

Remember to include a text description with your infographic.

Below is the text description that would be included with the Community & Convenience infographic:

Community and convenience – Voting is easy in Adams County.

Set on the banks of the idyllic Washington River in the southern region of New Dakota, Adams County was originally settled by the Eno Native American tribe. Adams County is now home to nearly 10,000 diverse residents.

Adams County has enjoyed an economic rebirth, connecting its rich heritage with new initiatives in food, sustainable agriculture, art, and hospitality. Our election office values community and convenience in our service to the public.

With the most recent turnout of 5,796 voters, Adams County had 83% voter participation — the highest in the state!

73% of voters, 4,215 total, chose to vote by mail in the last election.

Of the total number of voters in the last election, 143 were first-time Adams County voters.

Traditional outreach – The election office mails all registered voters a sample ballot and information on how the voting process works.

Voting options – Adams County voters can vote in-person before Election Day, in-person on Election Day, or by mail.

Online information – Find information about elections in Adams County on your smartphone by visiting adamscountyvotes.org.

Did you know all voters are eligible to vote by mail? No excuse necessary! Join the 73% of Adams County voters and apply for your mail ballot today at adamscountyvotes.org

Remember to choose the appropriate format based on if you are publishing the design online (JPG or PNG) or printing the design (PDF).

Resources

Making effective infographics for everyone in your audience requires continued learning and practice. Check out the following resources to advance your design skills: