The surge of ‘big data’ over the past five years or so has lead to an overwhelming amount of information being sent to people and teams who were not necessarily skilled in reading, analyzing or presenting this data in an effective way. The result has been an explosion of ‘shiny object’ infographics put out mostly by marketing departments. The purpose of that infographic is to act as a form of ‘click-bait’ and get the reader to spend even a fraction more time on their content. The infographics that I refer to have probably inundated your social media feed. They are often created by software that help people turn statistics into branded charts and colourful graphs with little effort. As a marketer myself, I can appreciate the draw to any software that speeds process (who wouldn’t?)
The problem with this was the unfortunate flattening of the data and the selection of form over function. The design wasn’t crafted in a way that engaged the viewer in a story about the content, it simply used more graphics. With the speed of the process and simplification of data parameters are we losing the analytical input in the creation of this visual content? Does our visual miss the mark?
I did a quick search for “bad infographics” (try it) and it gave me some pretty great examples of what not to do. A few common questions that could have prevented some of this ugliness are:
- What do you want people to do with the information? E.g. Inspire an action?
- Who is the infographic intended for? E.g. Is there a target audience? Do they have bias?
- Have you provided context with your data?
- Does your visual form match the function? E.g. make a comparison? Growth over time?
Infographics are a way to communicate complex data quickly and clearly. And with today’s fast pace and shortening attention span I think we all appreciate a communication that is quick and clear. But if your infographic leaves people scratching their heads – it’s time to rethink your design.