Don’t get me wrong, I love infographics as much as the next person. No, actually that’s a lie. Probably way more than the next person.
A good infographic can be amazing. It can reveal the most interesting correlations of data and add context and perspective that you might never have been able to see, had you not looked at it in the right way.
To me the gold standard for this is Christopher McCandles’ Billiondollar O’gram, (above), or his “Snake Oil” infograph. It does everything an infographic is supposed to do. It uses imagery, which we are pre-programmed to understand, relative context, size, shapes, and combines it with text, to cram the most amount of information about previously incomprehensible sums of money into something that can be understood in a fraction of the time it would have previously taken to wrap your head around even one of the figures before.
This recognition of the power of combining shapes and pictures and imagery with text is also a good thing. Recognizing that we don’t just learn through text, but spatially and visually as well can help teach people.
The problem, is that everyone thinks all of a sudden that they can just build an infographic. And they can’t. The whole point of an infographic is to take complex information and present it in a way that adds new perspective, or relative context. At least in my book anyway. Not to add a picture to a number, and call it an infographic.
Adding a picture of the Apple logo to a stat that 78% of the Apple logo user are white doesn’t make it an infographic, It just makes it a pictogram. (I also made that stat up)
It seems like every day more and more infographics are being produced to help companies push out their latest thought leadership research on a particular issue, in a way that is mainstream and palatable for the consumer.
The problem, is that if we keep doing this, no one is going to want to bother looking at them anymore. I’d rather just read the stats, instead of get distracted by pictures that add nothing of value to the information.
Pretty soon, the really valuable ones, that do provide added context or perspective will be lost in a sea of infographic clutter – and there will be no one left to design an infographic on that.