Infographics, my pet hate
The past few years has seen an explosion or rather pandemic of information graphics, most likely due to the popularity of Pinterest and the exponential growth and availability of data collected (big data).
Information graphics or infographics (don’t get me started on the trend of merging words such as Jedward or McBusted) is the visual representation of complex data and analytics into an easily digestible and clear format, containing eye catching typography, icons and graphs. Sounds great doesn’t it, especially when you’re being introduced to a complex topic and need to quickly understand and digest the facts. A picture is worth a thousand words, right?
Although there are software solutions such as Piktochart and Visual.ly to assist in their speedy creation, my personal experience is of designers painstakingly attempting to produce a master piece with Illustrator, focusing on form rather than substance.
My experience on the whole is wilfully inaccurate and misleading pieces of data visualisation. They’re either produced to deliberately give a one-sided argument on a topic or people forget or can’t be bothered with the difficult step of sorting and clarifying the story behind the information, and the best way to use that data to tell the story. Most of them dumb down the facts to the point where they’re no longer useful. Not only are they devoid of any alleged sources and conclusions but are usually already out of date before they’re even finished due to the lead-time on design.
Don’t get me wrong, my background is strongly rooted in design. I appreciate what infographics is trying to achieve, although the majority fall flat on their face. Maybe this is a trend that’s still in its infancy and will mature with time? But like most things in life, it has emerged through the need to achieve something new… simplification! We need to simplify the now overabundance of data for the none techie or mathematician and display it in a way that is visually stimulating and easy for the layman to understand and act upon.
Here is one good example of an infographic I stumbled across on KissMetrics. It clearly explains the benefits of their service over and above the likes of Google Analytics and helped me sell it into my directors for inclusion in next year’s budget.