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.