Infographics are becoming an increasingly popular method of communicating information quickly and clearly. Great designs can reduce the complexity of information, making a process, product or service easily understandable and accessible to the general public. And a good infographic means that all of that information is presented in a way that is aesthetically pleasing to boot.
But have infographics become too good at streamlining information? Have they become the fast food of graphic design – quickly digestible, but lacking in substance?
Infographics: Guilty As Charged
The web has lots of criticisms levelled at infographics and it’s true that many are poorly created, failing to fulfil their purpose, using Papyrus or other crimes against design. The main complaints when it comes to infographics are:
1. Creates confusion: the data is presented in a manner that takes a long time to interpret, is difficult to follow and creates additional complexity instead of providing clarity.
2. Inaccurate information: in striving to make the information as short and sharp as possible, the headlines become inaccurate. Other flaws under this category include badly sourced statistics. Many companies don’t bother themselves about linking to actual sources because there’s so much inaccurate information on the internet anyway – who’s going to bother to check?
3. Too long: ever seen one of those infographics that goes on and on? It’s basically the full article that has been put into a few boxes with a couple of pictures thrown in, which is not the same thing as an infographic.
4. General ugliness: this includes using too many fonts, colours, graphs and pictures, especially when they don’t serve a purpose.
The problem with infographics is that so many people think it’s easy to create them, when in fact it’s a particular subset of skills in an already specialised profession. And let’s not forget the fact that designers also have learning curves; an infographic created by a first-year design student is probably not going to rock anyone’s world.
Data Visualisation Requires Thinking
That being said, there are truly great infographics out there that tick all the boxes: accurate information, presented in an effective visual manner that helps the audience interpret and understand quickly. And so we come to the point of this post: with complex information rendered so comprehensible, without the need to read long reports and with the ability to look at pictures and share it with all your friends – is there a danger that infographics cause the audience to stop thinking?
In short, the answer is no. In most cases where the audience needs to think, the data isn’t simple anyway. The mission of infographics is to reduce complexity but they still require processing, even if data visualisation is a different type of thinking to reading. The presence of an infographic enables that vital moment of first understanding the data, and they are often used in conjunction with further sources of information; a business report, a full study, a website.
So not only do infographics not cause us to think less, they can actually help people understand the data more clearly and inspire a search for further information. You’d be hard-pressed to say that a curious mind on a search for information has been ‘dumbed down’.
- License: CC Attribution work by Anton Egorov – source
Article by Kate Lee
Kate Lee writes for www.designerinfographics.com, a small but emerging leader in custom infographic design.