The story of our online course – Infographics 101

This week (May 28, 2019) we reopened enrolment for our flagship course: Infographics 101 – How to design public health infographics with softwares you know & use, a course that was built with public health practitioners in mind.

The origin of this course and how it came to be has been a popular question, so what better time to tell it then during enrolment week!

If you haven’t already checked it out, I encourage you to visit to learn about the course.

Why I wanted to build this course

For almost 7 years now, I have been designing infographics, and have seen first hand its effectiveness in disseminating key messages to different audiences. Fun fact: prior to infographics, I was casually designing flyers and advertisements for people in my network – yup, I wanted to become a graphic designer, before discovering public health!

I didn’t receive formal training in graphic design, but I did do A LOT of learning on my own. I had to learn all of these new concepts like design principles, visualization techniques, colour palettes, and font pairing, all on my own – which was not easy.

…then, I had to apply it to my public health work.

During this steep learning curve, I charted my progress, documented what worked and didn’t work, and even picked up tips and tricks in order to design more efficiently. I even tested out numerous softwares, from free ones to expensive ones. And, eventually, I was “teaching” my peers…informally, of course. And they too began incorporating it in their work. It was extremely satisfying to watch them build that confidence to design infographics.

In the spring of 2018, having had a platform like PH SPOT, I decided that I wanted to teach infographic design more formally, specifically to public health practitioners.

I wanted to do this because, through PH SPOT, I wanted to deliver valuable solutions to the public health community. Specifically, I want to deliver tools and resources that currently are not available in this field. As we thought more about this at PH SPOT, we noticed that infographics were increasing in popularity within our field, but training directed to public health practitioners was not readily available.

Even though a part of me just wanted to jump in and start teaching infographic design, we needed to see if others felt the same – that there was a gap in this skill set, and that such a skill would be beneficial within the public health industry.

If you’ve been following PH SPOT for a while now, you already know what the answer to these questions were!

Yes, there was a need and we eventually did build the course!

So, here is the story behind the building of the Infographics101 course.

Phase 1: Is there a need?

In April of 2018, we turned to the PH SPOT community and asked them if they’d be interested (in the form of a survey) in an Infographics 101 course for public health. I knew I wanted to teach it, but I didn’t know if public health practitioners wanted to learn it. Essentially, we asked people if they’ve used infographics in their work and whether they’d like to learn how to design them. This is what the message looked like:

“PH SPOT is building a self-paced infographics 101 course for public health professionals and we would like to know if and when you use infographics in your work (or maybe you would like to at some point in the future); and learn a bit more about what you want in this course.” (see the survey)

In a SINGLE day, we received 50+ responses from the community! This told me that that there was interest.

  • Most respondents (72%) said that they had heard of infographics, and see its applicability to public health; and would like to create one in the future.
  • About 60% of individuals who responded to the survey were professionals working in public health, followed by graduate students in public health (23%).
  • More than 80% of respondents said they would also pay for such a course.
  • The last part of the questions asked them for topics they would like the course to focus on.

And so, based on this feedback, we put together an outline of what the course would include and launched a presale enrolment on May 28, 2018 to see if people actually wanted it.

Within the first 48 hours we SOLD OUT on the course enrolment! Amazing, right?

That itself was enough validation for me that I needed to build this course.

What I discovered from my informal teaching experience was that when it came to designing an infographic, a lot of people struggled with getting started. People often said to me: “How do I get started? What tools do I even need to start to build the actual infographic? Don’t I need that fancy software, like Photoshop or InDesign? I’m not good at this kind of stuff!”

When people think about starting anything new, the biggest barrier is the starting point. They have so many questions and assumptions about getting started that they don’t event take the first step TO START! I noticed that once people were given some guidance, they built up the confidence to get started. And of course, they then wondered why they didn’t start earlier!

In the wise words of Mark Twain, “The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and starting on the first one.”

…And that’s exactly what this course was going to be: step-by-step lessons to understand the most important and relevant concepts, specifically for infographic design within the context of public health, followed by small manageable actions.

Phase 2: Beta testers

Once the pre-sale closed, I was ecstatic. When I put together that initial outline of what I imagined the course to look like, I was hoping for 5 people to be interested….because I really wanted to teach infographic design to other public health professionals.

But, when I saw that over 20 people purchased the pre-sale within 48 hours, it sent a message that this was a real gap in the public health field.

These first 20 people became my beta testers. They had the opportunity to provide input into the course as I developed it. They received a more detailed outline to provide comments on, followed by the first version of the coursebook which eventually became the foundation of the course. I am grateful to a handful of these individuals who took the time to provide their thoughts to shape the topics that appear in this course.

With the input of over 50 members of our PH SPOT community through the survey, a handful of in-dept reviewers from the 20 beta testers, and the lessons I had learned over the years, I poured everything into this flagship course. The course was meant to provide students with strategies that truly worked from start to finish. With these guided lessons and strategies, I have witnessed people with very little design background jump into designing their own infographic…with confidence! And that’s exactly what I wanted each and every student to achieve.

Phase 3: Launching the course

Last year, on September 22, 2018, we officially launched the enrolment for the course. By the close of the first cohort of students (in December 2018), we had over 80 public health practitioners from across 6 countries (Canada, USA, UK, Japan, Trinidad & Tobago, New Zealand) become students of the Infographics 101 course. These individuals ranged from public health students to established practitioners. That’s the beauty of infographics – regardless of what phase of your career you are in, there is always a way to incorporate it into your work because we always have to communicate effectively in public health.

At the end of 2018, we decided to close up the enrolment in order to take the evaluations from the first cohort of students seriously. We revised the course and made some big changes accordingly.

We also made a decision to have cohort-based enrolment, which would give us more time to focus on the enrolled students and support them throughout the learning. This means that the course would only open periodically for a short time (~2 weeks). This is the first relaunch (cohort 2) since the course initially opened and it’s been a great first few days!

As I said previously, it’s amazing for me personally to be able to teach something that I strongly believe in to public health practitioners from around the world. And feedback like this one below makes it even more worth it…knowing that practitioners/professionals are building new skills to advance public health in today’s world:

“Being able to communicate public health messages is an essential skill for any public health professional, no matter the stream of practice. With this in mind, infographics have become an increasingly effective tool for communicating messages. Because of this, I felt it was extremely important to gain skills in building compelling infographics. PH SPOT’s Infographics 101 course presented the perfect opportunity to build this skill. Through readings, videos, examples and many resources, this course offered a unique chance to develop the infographics skills I was seeking at my own pace and on my own time. The greatest help is all of the resources provided throughout the course, which I now use on the regular for my own projects!”
-Leila Harrison, BScK, Master of Public Health Student, McMaster University


COURSE ENROLMENT IS OPEN FROM MAY 28 – JUNE 11, 2019 – click the image below for more details on the course page


About the author – Sujani Siva:

I enjoy seeing people around me grow and become the best version of themselves, and if I can be a part of helping them grow, that’s my small contribution to this world. After guiding a number of public health students and new grads over the past 7 years, I created PH SPOT to reach, inspire and support a larger number of public health professionals. I completed my undergraduate degree at the University of Toronto in Biology and Health Studies, and went on to complete a Masters of Public Health (MPH) degree at the University of Saskatchewan. I also currently work as an Epidemiologist at the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) and run the Tamil Health Association, a not-for-profit organization.


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