Many observers — both journalists and designers — are saying that contemporary infographics have exploded (or is it dissolved?) into art characteristic of the 1988 “desktop publishing” era, which embraced such atrocities as ransom-note typography. In other words, garbage.
Ryan Tandy has devoted an entire Pintrest page to “Terrible Infographics.”
Jesus Diaz at Gizmodo also seems peeved. “Over the last year, the explosion of these abominations called ‘infographics’ has gotten overwhelming. The number of design-deficient morons making these is so ridiculous that you can fill an island with them. I’d do that. And then nuke it,” he says.
Raconteur Media founder and CEO, Freddie Ossberg, blames over-eager marketers. “This medium of presenting data is reaching saturation point. I don’t mean that infographics are becoming redundant, but that the use has become so widespread and mainstream that marketers have jumped on the bandwagon without a discerning analysis of whether it is an engaging tactic for communicating information.” Ossberg then goes on to cite the problems:
• ugly design;
• failure to include sourcing and citation;
• a corporate tendency to star in your own infographic;
• an inability to make infographics actually clarify complex thoughts.
Erick Schonfeld at TechStream says we can do better, while pointing out what makes an infograhic suck:
• Underlying data is missing. [Note: Schonfeld says most sources of data in a chartable form are hidden in various silos and cannot be browsed visually … meaning it’s nearly impossible to find chartable data.]
• Marketing budgets– not editorial discretion — drive infographic development [Translate: Sell trumps truth.]
• Free distribution and a taste for viral marketing compromise quality.
• Well-designed infographics are tough to create, so — duh! — they are expensive.
• The best data visualizations are bespoke and almost hand-crafted. Ka-ching.
What can be done to cure infocontagion?
Best Infographics suggests:
1. Stay away from the type of charts and graphs used in office applications (e.g. Powerpoint). Opt, instead, for vector illustrations/ (Yes, you do need some design skills; no, maybe your nephew can’t do this.).
2. Keep the graphic clean and simple to understand. Control the number of icons and colors.
3. Understand that data is not information, so, if all you’ve got is data, don’t bother.
4. Recognize that a professional graphic designer with an eye for color and style can make all the difference.
5. And — this one is from me — especially in this new era of tablets and smart phones, don’t ask users to stick with a graphic that snakes so far down the page, you’ve forgotten where the head was by the time you hit the tail.
For more information on infographics, plus examples of what I hate and why, please refer to the rest of this rant at MarketingBrillo.