11 reasons your infographic isn’t an infographic
Ian Lurie May 30 2012
OK everyone. Take a deep, freaking breath. I can’t sneeze right now without spraying germs on someone’s attempt at a data-driven work of art.
Here’s why the poster you paid someone $400 to make isn’t an infographic:
- Lack of clarity. Infographics should ease and speed the consumption of information. If you take something you can express in 25 words and turn it into 1000 x 3000 pixels of eye-watering garbage, it’s not an infographic. It’s a waste of paper.
- Lack of data. Infographics used to communicate data. Like this. Now, apparently, I can turn a fax machine manual into a poster and get it posted to 55 different infographics directories. Retch.
- Low information density. An infographic is more effective than words describing the same subject. Otherwise it’s art. Which is cool and all. But it’s not an infographic.
- Lack of flow. An infographic should lead me from introduction to conclusion, somehow. It should help me solve or understand a problem. If it doesn’t, it’s a graphic, minus the info. This Visually piece is a great example of infographic flow.
- Flatland (read Edward Tufte’s work for the full description). It’s a two-dimensional drawing that describes two dimensions of data. Look at this chart showing Napoleon’s army as the Russian winter destroys it. How many different dimensions are there? I counted at least four.
- Chartjunk (again, read Tufte): Extra crap that doesn’t help me understand the data.
- Yeck. It’s as visually appealing as a spit wad.
- You stole your data. Infographics cite their sources. If you didn’t cite, it’s a stash, not an infographic.
- It’s pointless. Just go read Mark Mapstone’s post. You’ll see what he means.
- Terrible writing. ‘Graphic’ doesn’t mean ‘you have permission to write drivel.’ The writing has to be extraordinary. It can’t be awful.
- Someone who can’t even use Excel told a room full of people, “Let’s create an infographic!” and everyone nodded sagely. You might get lucky, I guess, and still create something worthwhile. It’s more likely, though, that the result will have all of the above problems.
A colored background, a few stick drawings and bizarre font choices don’t make something an infographic. You’re hunting the word into extinction. Please, stop.
Ian Lurie is CEO and founder of Portent Inc. He's recorded training for Lynda.com, writes regularly for the Portent Blog and has been published on AllThingsD, Forbes.com and TechCrunch. Ian speaks at conferences around the world, including SearchLove, MozCon, SIC and ad:Tech. Follow him on Twitter at portentint.He also just published a book about strategy for services businesses: One Trick Ponies Get Shot, available on Kindle. Read More