The design process of my infographic about women cycling for Grinta!

24 Apr 2013

Sometimes I wish all job requests could be like this one. Then again, I'm the last person to complain as I get to do what I love on most days. What I want to say is that some projects just give me such a joy to work on. These favorites of mine usually have an illustration part. One of them was this infographic about women and cycling for Grinta!, a Belgian magazine all about cycling. Today I'll explain the steps I took during the design process, and also share some details on how I created some of the graphs…

An image says more than a thousand words

There is a first time for everything. Yes you read this right, this is the very first infographic I have ever created. Don't get me wrong, I have created many schematic illustrations over the years, but infographics weren't really around yet. These days, they are hot. I lost count on how many emails I receive these days asking me if I could share an infographic on my blog… After all, they are the perfect way to translate data into something comprehensible and visually attractive.

Fragment of the infographic

The briefing

The briefing for this was fairly straightforward: transform the data gathered from the questionnaire into something visually attractive and fun to look at, and readable on a spread. The result of the questionnaire was a 6 pages PDF file with 14 questions and their multiple choice answers. These were all I needed to get started. I was given carte blanche, but right from the start I already knew exactly which direction I should take in terms of design style.

The layout

The first thing I tried to figure out was the general layout of the page. I was thinking of dividing the spread up into boxes, using a box for each item. So I tried out a few different compositions. By combining different sizes of blocks I was able to create a more attractive layout. This way I give some results a bit more attention than others, and for some of the items more room was needed as well.

The basic layout of the infographic

I was also thinking about adding a big title, somewhere in the centre of the page, covering the total width of the spread seemed like a perfect spot. So I made sure to leave enough room for this. I decided to go with the last version, using 4 big boxes at the top, then the title below, and a combination of 5 boxes below on each side, including 3 small ones and 2 big ones. I thought it would be interesting to have the 5 boxes in mirrored version on the other side of the page. At this stage this was of course a bit of guessing work, but it was a good foundation.

Next was trying to figure out which data item goes into which box, by starting to add the ones that had a lot info to show into the big boxes, and the ones that had "yes/no" answers into the smaller ones. At this moment I just added a few keywords into the box, just to keep an overview of things. This was a fun exercise as it almost felt like I was finishing a puzzle.

The concept and illustrations

Once I got this figured out, I started thinking about the illustration and visualisation of each item. First I did some short brainstorming, writing down cycling related keywords, also gathering images from Google search results. Then I tried linking an idea to each data item. At this point I didn't cover all items, I figured I would also get fresh ideas while working on this, item per item. You see…

A design process is never like a straight line going from point A to point B.

There are a lot of curves along the way as you constantly experiment and change things. Sometimes I change so much that there is almost nothing left of the initial concept that I had in my head. There is a certain order in place of the mayor steps you take during this process, but there is a big part that isn't very logical, even chaotic. I guess it's part of the creative brain. It's like trying to explain how inspiration works, there is always a certain unexplainable mystery.

It usually happens that a lot of ideas come during the process itself. While working on one item, an new idea arises for the next item. This is something that happens a lot to me. Besides, I was also just so eager to get started on the first illustration. Just like a kid that is excited to play with his new toy :)

Choosing the color palette

While I was creating the first illustrations, I also tried to pick a suitable color palette. I wanted this vintage look, but I didn't want to use muted colors. So I thought of a combination of bright colors on a beige background.

Initial color palette

While the infographic was getting shape, I realised that the colors I chose weren't 100% to my liking. I wondered if the palette I chose was too narrow, or just not narrow enough. Something just felt wrong to me. Maybe it was in the way I apply the colors to my design. So I tried to figure out some sort of a system to fix this.

The first try

First I decided to give the titles and all other text the same color, going for the dark grey. Secondly, I thought it would be a good idea to use red for the highest result, blue for the second highest result and yellow for the other results. It was better already, but it still didn't feel quite right. So I explored other color options and decided to go for a new color palette using this same system of applying the colors. I ended up with the colors shown in the image below:

Final color palette

The graphs and graphics

Creating these illustrations was the most fun part of it all, but also the most challenging. There was this item that had a list of answers and since there was so much text to process these, I tried to find a way to present these in an attractive way by creating an icon for each one of them (see item 'Problemen met' witch is Dutch for 'Problems with'). Some where obvious to translate, others weren't, such as 'the position on the bike', 'riding with cleats' or 'riding on cobbles'.

The end result

Since each answer was given in percentages, it was easy to enter this data into a chart using Illustrator's Graph Tool. Some questions were answered with yes or no. For these data items I thought a pie graph would be perfect, maybe turning them into rings…

Illustrator pie chart

Then I ungrouped the pie so it becomes an editable drawing. This way I could transform them into a ring, then copy mirroring and re-coloring the 2nd ring for the other answer.

Transforming the pie chart into a ring…

The end result

Image of the complete infographic in Illustrator
Fragment of the infographic
infographic printed

Hope you enjoyed reading my process. This infographic was created for a special 'girls' edition of the Grinta! magazine. 180 pages with some very good articles like the girl reporters asking questions to Tom Boonen and Louis Talpe. A ride with World Champion Marianne Vos and practical stuff like woman's geometry or not. It's available at news stands from today. See the Grinta web site for more info.


  1. 1 Geert De Deckere 26 Apr 2013

    Stunning work! What’s not to like? Great colours, typography and illustrations. I especially like the “fietst het liefst” visualization.

  2. 2 Frank van der Burg 26 Apr 2013

    Like the picture, but I’m missing one thing in the article: the sort order.

    The order of ‘Problemen’ en ‘Fietst het liefst’ seems unorderd to me so as a reader you force me to read instead of getting the info direct.

    Am I overlooking something?

  3. 3 Jordan 26 Apr 2013

    Thanks for posting your process, Veerle! The results are fantastic.

  4. 4 Gabe Friedman 26 Apr 2013


  5. 5 Veerle Pieters 26 Apr 2013

    @Frank van der Burg

    The order of ‘Problemen’ en ‘Fietst het liefst’ seems unorderd to me so as a reader you force me to read instead of getting the info direct.

    Am I overlooking something?

    Yes, the fact that I need to put all this information into a spread and that the data is too technical to visualize it without the need to read. It’s needs to be there in text. I already left text out and what is there now is the best balance that was possible with the space available.

  6. 6 Frank van der Burg 28 Apr 2013

    I understand the problem with the text. That’s a challenge.
    My question was regarding the order of ‘Problemen’. On what criteria is the order based and for example why did you choose to make ‘hellingen’ no. 1 in the list and ‘onderhoud’ (the biggest problem) third?

  7. 7 Veerle Pieters 29 Apr 2013

    @Frank van der Burg

    My question was regarding the order of ‘Problemen’. On what criteria is the order based and for example why did you choose to make ‘hellingen’ no. 1 in the list and ‘onderhoud’ (the biggest problem) third?

    Ah right. I kept them in the order that questions where asked in the questionnaire. Maybe it would have been better if they where arrange from high to low but I’m assuming that any reader that is really interested will read it anyway to see if they identify themselves with the problems mentioned.

  8. 8 Jan De Wilde 30 Apr 2013

    Very, very nice work!
    It’s great to see your approach for this type of assignment.

  9. 9 Jackie 04 May 2013

    Love the drawings - especially of the cyclists and how they have different colored-hats.  Again, all the attention to detail is what makes your work so good, Veerle! Fun to look at, and I like the boxes and esp. the fourth layout you chose to work with.