When is an infographic really an infographic?

25 02 2011

I’ve probably been spending more time reading ‘stuff’ online than is healthy. Consuming ‘The Internet’ in such a wide and general way does leave you somewhat frustrated – issues with identifying authorative writers, the inability for the masses to make specific statements rather than speculate (of which I’m guilty), and now – the latest soap box on which I can stand.

Pimping up day-to-day data and calling it an ‘infographic’.

An infographic is data visualisation, taken to new levels by communications specialists like Xplane and vastly awe-inspiring people like Hans Rosling. Thanks to Sébastien Pierre’s fabulous infographic explaining data visualisation we know that a table is still just a table – pure data, no knowledge.

There are some really interesting debates about what an infographic is, and some excellent points made about bad infographics.  But what is not an infographic? People around me rhapsodise about infographics – and why wouldn’t they? When they are real and well designed, infographics bring Real Insight. Knowledge – not information. But so many graphics are called (sometimes pompously) ‘Infographics’ when they don’t give the viewer immediate insight – only a prettier access point to get the insight out of. So, I’m not going to speculate, I’m going to state (look at me, all forceful and um, authoratative):

An infographic is not*:

All of these hover around data, information architecture, dashboards – all at least 2 steps away from actual data visualisation according to Sébastien Pierre.

So I appeal to culprits. Let’s call a table a table, not a supportive work implement.

*No offense intended to the people who made these graphics. Some of them are awesome, they’re just not quite infographics. Also, not all of them are in fact called an infographic, but are just included in a vague pimping brushstroke.



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