Infographics: yes or no?

I’ve been vaguely aware of the growth in the use of infographics, but haven’t paid too much attention until recently when readers submitted some for possible uploading/linking. Apparently infographics has been a hot topic for a while, with opinion divided on their usefulness. The likely simple answer is that they can be useful (who doesn’t like a well-designed subway map?), but not so if overused or applied wrongly (weak data and/or weak message).

There’s plenty to read out there on the topic, with a recent sensible contribution from a designer/user being Dylan C. Lanthrop’s ‘We’ve Reached Peak Infographic, and We’re No Smarter for It‘. Though pretty damning of much current practice, he’s positive about the future:

“Infographics can evolve by transcending cold data-breakdown, and combining data visualization with more human narratives. Some publications have begun to present well-designed information in tandem with deeply reported pieces online, and the future it represents is thrilling.”

So it looks like any predictions of the death of infographics are wide of the mark. And those who sent me samples would no doubt agree, including a previous guest blogger, Tess Pajaron, who kindly passed on a couple of interesting articles and the following infographic:

What do you think of it? First, I like the message, because like many others in Australia I believe that the current levels of federal funding to private/independent schools are far too high. Secondly, there’s been a lot of thought and work gone into it, including loads of relevant data and supporting graphics. Weaknesses? Well, nothing’s perfect, and for this one the initial graphic with the heads is too large, and there is probably too much information, which tends to ‘muddy’ the message. In other words, it could/should be simpler.

Now Muhammad Saleem has contacted me with what I consider to be a good one, on pros and cons of the hyperconnected life:
The Hyperconnected Life


Isn’t it nice? Clear message with balanced debate on the pros and cons – would make a great handout for a class/online debate or similar. Weaknesses? I’m not sure, but I suspect that the data near the top on ‘today’s teens’ is US only, while the part below (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) is global – it isn’t clear.

So, ‘infographics: yes or no?’ I’m a qualified yes.


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